guisada: a latin-thai pork stew

DSC03215I haven’t cooked in six weeks!

But I’ve been indulging my inner gourmande. I have been discovering and savoring new flavors in and around Salaya where I now work. So far, my favorite place is Vietnam Hut; their specialty is pizza on a cracker. The cracker is made of rice that puffs up wonderfully light and crispy in hot oil. The cracker is then overlaid with a rice pancake, thin slivers of meat sausage, herbs, lots of crisp slivers of fried garlic, and sprinkled with vinegar dressing.  That’s the Vietnamese version of pizza. It’s crunchy, salty, tangy, sour– I just love blended cuisines!

Now that I am off for the Songkran or Thai New Year holiday, I intend to cook as much as I can.  This first recipe of my vacation is a guisada. It refers to a Portuguese stew that somehow in its translation to Jamaica the gizzada became a shortbread cup filled with a sweet coconut mixture. It went from a stew to a dessert. But I’m not making either traditional guisada or gizzada here. I found this recipe on Skinnytaste and of course, it went through some necessary transformations, not all of it cultural. Much of the changes were dictated by what was available at Tops Supermarket.

First of all, I couldn’t find beef stew so this became a pork stew. I used Chang beer–so that makes it Thai in my estimation! I also added the Chinese celery (คื่นฉ่าย), a piquant herb that’s used to add flavor to Thai soups and salads. I added sweet soy sauce, which is thicker and sweeter than regular soy sauce, and is available only in Asian grocery stores– in New York, that is. I used it to color the sauce and the meat and to add a little sweetness to balance the salty earthy flavors of the herbs and the seasonings.

Guisada

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30-45 minutes

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
3 stalks scallion, chopped
2 stalks Chinese celery, stripped of leaves and chopped
4 fat cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin trimmed of fat and silver and cut into 2 inch chunks
10 oz small potatoes, halved and then quartered
1/3 cup Chang beer
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch pot, heat a teaspoon oil. Cook the scallions, celery, garlic and cilantro until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the mixture. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute. In a large skillet, heat the other teaspoon oil and cook the meat until it is seared on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side.

Add the seared meat to the vegetables in the Dutch pot. Add the potatoes, beer, water, seasoning salt, paprika, cumin, and soy sauce. Mix well. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook on low heat for about 30 minutes to 45 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings.

You can also cook this in a crock pot; it will take 6-8 hours to cook though.

Serve the stew hot with hot cooked rice. To reduce calories even further, serve it with riced cauliflower instead of rice, or my favorite, slices of fresh Jamaican hard dough bread to soak up the gravy.

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@ sra bua: exploring molecular gastronomy in bangkok

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At Sra Bua (pronounced sah BOO-ah) we discovered the magic of food meticulously and scientifically prepared. This was a marathon of eating that began at 7 p.m. and ended three hours later. I wanted to try the full tasting menu and Andy didn’t, a difference of 3 dishes. And when Andy and I finally got up from the table, we felt sated but not uncomfortably stuffed. It was a time to enjoy eating, all my senses were on alert, and I became aware of each sensation, the taste, the sight, the smell, and even how food sounded in my mouth. Familiar tastes, I learned, can be rediscovered in different combinations.

In the beginning, we sat at small tables with comfortable chairs and cushions to  enjoy the nibblings and street food, in other words, the hors d’oevres. The fun began with a cool refreshing lemongrass-and-pandan tea that was lightly sweetened. We proceeded to enjoy a soy roasted cashew nut meringue, prawn cracker with chili-tomato dip, and kaffir-lime scented lotus root. The meringue was an unexpected take on the Japanese soy-sauce flavored crackers. Prawn crackers, so ubiquitous in Asia,was freshly paired with a chili-tomato dip. The lotus root was a disappointment, however, lacking a strong flavor identity. After these nibbles we moved on  to the street food offerings. Bangkok’s street food is hard to top so I wondered what we would see next. Each course was eagerly anticipated!

Up next was smoked sausage served on traditional bamboo skewers. It was paired with prawn bread with sesame, which wasn’t much of a stretch from its original Chinese incarnation, shrimp toast. Thais love Japanese food, so the umami flan’s arrival was a fresh idea. Nestled in a wonderfully delicate but flavorful miso soup, the tofu-like flan was a new way to present something traditional. It was paired with a sashimi-style tuna wrapped around a pork bone, a great serving idea but the spiciness of the seasoning drowned out the delicate taste of the fresh tuna. The next course was both hot and cool. The hot was the tom yam, a spicy Thai soup. It was paired with a cool foamy galangal with fresh baby lobster. Andy loved the soup; he said he broke out in a sweat, his own personal Scoville Scale. I couldn’t taste anything but chili so I gave him my soup to finish.

Andy decided to try an Argentinian Malbec from the wine list. Like the courses on the tasting menu, it seemed to be a sampler too. Moderation rather than excess seemed to be the theme of the evening; leave room for the next course and the next…By this time, we were invited to move to a booth for the main courses. It was intimate, and covered with silk and cotton embroidered cushions, but I was three feet away from Andy at the other end of a silk table runner. Too formal. I wanted to sit beside him, not opposite him,  so the server simply set a place mat for me next to Andy. Everything in its place!

The first entree was scallops with a tamarind and lemongrass sauce drizzled over it. Scattered on the plate were five or six tiny shrimp like creatures that were amazingly crunchy and tasty. Now I know how a whale feels when it eats krill! The scallops were grilled and served with orange-colored purees dotted on the plate like an archipelago of islands. You couldn’t see what they were originally, but the taste was unmistakably carrot and pumpkin. Then I had marinated codfish with tiny red disks of beetroot on top and little gray-green pearls of kaeng khio wan or green curry on the side.  The beetroot was slightly sour and tart, like pickles. The green curry was amazingly good with the beets and the codfish. It was a surprising combination but it worked. Because Andy’s tasting menu was not the complete one, he did not get these last two courses.

No Thai meal would be complete without the services of a kroke or a mortar and pestle. At tableside, the server pounded the ingredients for a sauce and drizzled it all over the larb  duck or duck salad. It came in two little onion cups joined by a savory meringue that connected the two cups of ground duck flavored with lime juice and fish sauce. It was the traditional paired with the new, meringue instead of a bed of lettuce. Next up: Kiin Kiin Egg with wild mushrooms and holy basil served in the egg-shell on top of a bed of salt. It didn’t need the salt so I presume it was there just to hold up the egg on the plate!  The last entree was the braised beef. It had the delicate flavor of palo powder; the Chinese call it Five Spice Powder. It was reminiscent of braised pork leg or khao khaa moo. The beef was served with sweetbread, a papadum on top, and a spoonful of sweet and sour pineapple sorbet on the side. The sweetbread’s flavor was somewhat nondescript, but the coolness and tartness of the sorbet was a nice contrast with the strong flavor of anise seed.

Though I savored each course, I felt finishing each one would bring me closer to my true joy: dessert. I looked forward to The Snowball. It arrived at table, a spun sugar confection on a white plate. The server poured coconut cream on it and my snowball vanished on the plate, dissolved into the coconut cream. It was like magic. Then I ate a spoonful of  the dessert–and tasted the gritty sugar of the snowball at the bottom of the spoon. This was a variation on two Thai desserts: roti sai mai or pancake with spun sugar, and ruammit literally “little bit of everything.”

The servers were well trained, courteous, and professional. They were very well-informed about the restaurant and its history and could answer our questions about the menu. Our server told us that  the menu is changed every three months. Chef Nielsen flies in from Denmark to create a new menu. The servers are then invited to taste the new menu, which is what makes them so knowledgeable about its preparation. The management did offer Andy a complimentary dessert–The Snowball–because we complained about the slow service. It did take three hours to eat the entire meal.

We went to Sra Bua for an early celebration of Valentine’s Day. I would go back to try a new menu, but only for another very special occasion. And if we have the stamina to eat for another three hours.  In any case, this is the place to go to enjoy a leisurely meal, European fashion, with home-grown Thai ingredients. Another thought is that it would be great if the Chef could make recommendations from the wine list.

I wish I could say that the second dessert, the banana cake, transported me to gastro-heaven, but it was a dense disappointment. It tasted like convenience-store banana cupcake in a cellophane wrapper. There was too much coconut (coconut again!) and not enough salted ice cream and caramelized milk. Perhaps I was full by then, but I found the petit fours with tea (me) and coffee (Andy) not worth the picture. The petit fours arrived at table in dramatic fashion, inside a large lacquered binto box. But inside each layer were just two macarons, two marshmallows (covered in that ghastly coconut again), and two chocolate pepper cookies each the size of a US cent. Over dramatization. Not a worthy end to the meal that was, in retrospect, uneven in quality, preparation, and presentation.

company’s coming: lemon-garlic-rosemary chicken with potatoes

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This is a dish that cooks up in one pan but I used three! First you brown the chicken and potatoes on the stovetop then put them in the oven for finishing. At first I was dubious about the method. Yahoo Shine said to put a roasting pan on two burners for the stovetop part, but I used two pans to brown up the chicken and potatoes, then transferred the lot to the roasting pan. So even if you use just one pan or three, the result is chicken that’s crisp on the outside but juicy and tender on the inside with a delicious lemony flavor boosted by the capers.  I didn’t get any sauce from this dish after baking, but my guests raved about the chicken’s flavor. Using seasoning salt to season the chicken is a little trick I learned from my mother, and I believe it really adds flavor to the chicken. I added brown sugar to the sauce for a little sweetness.

Lemon-Garlic-Rosemary Chicken with Potatoes (adapted from Yahoo Shine)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 50 minutes

For the chicken:
4 pounds chicken drumsticks
Seasoning salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

For the sauce:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 lemons, sliced into thin rounds about 1/4 inch thick, discard the thick ends
10 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons coarse salt or sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 pounds potatoes, preferably red russet sliced in half (I used Yukon gold, halved then chopped into chunks)

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Put the chicken drumsticks in a large bowl. Trim the excess fat from under the skin. Season the chicken drums liberally with seasoning salt. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil (either in two skillets or in a roasting pan resting on two burners). Brown the chicken pieces about 5 minutes, then add the potatoes and brown for another 5 minutes.

Transfer the chicken and potatoes to a roasting pan (if using the 3 pan method!) and place in the preheated oven. Bake 50 minutes. The original recipe said 45-50 minutes. Test a chicken leg to see if it is done. It should reach an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer. Serve hot with slices of buttered French bread.

 

turkey, leek, and winter melon shepherd’s pie with mashed cauliflower

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You could say I actually started cooking this dish the day after Christmas when I put the turkey carcass in the pressure cooker to make a broth. This recipe uses 2 cups of the broth and it is based on an Eating Well recipe. Since a shepherd’s pie is basically meat and vegetables,  you can use just about any meat and vegetable you have on hand. I used turkey and ham, fresh corn, frozen peas, a large fat carrot, and half of a winter melon. Instead of the traditional mashed potato topping for a shepherd’s pie, I used mashed cauliflower which is lower in carbs. And I added umami to flavor the pie. I made my own umami in New York from dried porcini mushrooms which I ground up in the food processor. Umami is sometimes called the fifth taste which simply means savory.

Turkey Leek and Winter Melon Shepherd’s Pie with Mashed Cauliflower (adapted from Eating Well)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes

Filling
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, well washed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 cup corn kernels (1 ear, fresh)
1 1/2 cups winter melon, peeled, seeded, and chopped
4 large cloves garlic,minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon ground porcini mushrooms (umami)
2 cups reduced-sodium turkey broth
1 1/2 cups diced cooked turkey
1 cup diced cooked ham
1 cup frozen peas
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Mashed Cauliflower
1 large head cauliflower, florets only
1/2-3/4 tablespoon nonfat milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°F/220˚C.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, corn, and winter melon and cook, stirring, until the leeks soften, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds more.

Pour in wine and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add flour, thyme, and umami, and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour starts to turn light brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and the carrots are barely tender, about 5 minutes.

Add turkey, ham, and peas and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a deep 10-inch pie pan or other 2-quart baking dish and set aside.

To mash cauliflower and bake pie: Place florets in a large saucepan and add cold salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, until the florets are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and process in a food processor until smooth. Add milk if the florets are too dry. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the cauliflower on top of the turkey mixture. With the back of a spoon, smooth the top. Set the dish on a baking sheet and bake until the cauliflower and filling are heated through and the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

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roasted asian vegetable mac & cheese with chorizo and garlic-panko topping

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This is a multicultural mac and cheese! I love it. The great thing about mac and cheese is that it is adaptable and open to creative permutations. I adapted this recipe from howsweeteats.com, and though it took nearly two hours to make, it was well worth the wait. I made the following substitutions: I  used winter melon instead of zucchini, pumpkin instead of summer squash, red wine vinegar instead of balsamic, and chorizo instead of ham. As it is very difficult to get havarti cheese in Bangkok, I used ordinary white supermarket cheese.

Roasted Asian Vegetable Mac and Cheese with Chorizo and Garlic-Panko Topping

Prep time: 40 minutes (includes roasting vegetables)
Bake time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

For Roasting Vegetables
4 cups fresh corn kernels (4 ears)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups winter melon, peeled, seeded, chopped (1/2 small winter melon)
2 cups pumpkin, peeled, seeded, chopped (1/2 small pumpkin)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon palm sugar dissolved in water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

For mac and cheese
2 cups chorizo sliced into 1/8 inch thick rounds
1 pound penne or small shell pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk (2% or whole)
8 oz Havarti cheese
8 oz cheddar cheese
2 oz Parmesan cheese
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
pinch of salt
avocado slices for serving, optional
Maldon’s sea salt, optional

Preheat the oven to 400˚F/225˚C. Spray a 9×13 inch glass baking dish with cooking oil. Set aside. Cover a baking tray with foil. Set aside.

Remove the corn kernels from the cob and put in a large bowl with the pepper, onion, winter melon, and pumpkin. In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, palm sugar solution, and salt and pepper. Spread the corn mixture evenly on the baking tray. Bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350˚F/180˚C. Don’t wash out the bowl. Add the chorizo slices to the bowl, and when the vegetables are roasted add them to the sausage too.

Cook’s Note: I used the palm sugar solution to add a little sweetness to the dressing. And I also wanted it to caramelize the vegetables.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta. One to two minutes before the pasta is cooked, remove from heat. Drain and rinse the pasta. Add the undercooked pasta to the bowl with the chorizo and vegetables. In a small bowl, put the breadcrumbs and mix with the minced/pressed garlic and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. When it bubbles, add the flour and whisk continuously for 2 minutes until the mixture thickens and browns. This is called roux. Slowly pour the milk into the roux, stirring constantly. Heat until the milk thickens slightly. Add all except 1/2 cup of the grated Havarti/cheddar cheeses and all of the Parmesan. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Add the cheese sauce to the bowl with the sausage, vegetables, and pasta. Toss to coat thoroughly. Pour the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Smooth the top. Sprinkle  remaining cheese on top, then the garlic-panko breadcrumb mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Let the mac and cheese rest 10 minutes before serving. If desired, top with a slice of avocado sprinkled with a little sea salt. My husband prefers red pepper flakes on his mac and cheese.

cho-cho with scrambled egg, baby bokchoy, and crunchy baked pork chops

When I was growing up in Jamaica we had these green pear like vegetables we called cho-cho. It’s more commonly known as chayote in North America and choko in Australia. In Thailand it’s called fak miao which is really embarrassing to say as an English-speaker because it sounds like I’m swearing.  Cho-cho has a bland taste, and it cooks up soft, turning from a pale greenish white to a delicate jade green when fully cooked–which doesn’t take long at all.

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Cho-Cho with Scrambled Egg

1 cho-cho, peeled, seed scooped out,  and sliced thin crosswise
2 large eggs
1-2 teaspoons oyster sauce
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the oyster sauce. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, whisk the eggs one more time and pour all at once into the hot oil. Use a spatula to break up the curds. When the egg is cooked, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Using the same skillet, add the cho-cho slices and cook, stirring all the time until the vegetable starts to wilt and the slices turn jade green. Add the salt. Return the cooked eggs to the skillet and combine. Serve hot.

I had signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November so I wasn’t able to cook as often as I should have, especially when it got closer to the 30th and I was writing 3000 to 4000 words a day. Crunch time! I had bought baby bokchoy and winter melon (fak khiao or green melon in Thai) intending to cook them. Fortunately winter melon can keep in the fridge if it is uncut but the baby bokchoy’s outer leaves started to yellow after a week. So I plucked off the yellow leaves and washed the stems carefully. Dirt collects in the stems so I pulled the bunches apart to wash them. I had a sweet pepper too so I tossed that in too.

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Baby Bokchoy with Winter Melon and Sweet Pepper

1 pound baby bokchoy, stems washed and leaves separated from the bunch
1/2 winter melon, peeled, seeded, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/2 sweet bell pepper, seeded, thinly sliced and cut in half
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
salt and pepper
nampla (fish sauce)
1 tablespoon oil

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the sweet bell pepper and cook for thirty seconds. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the winter melon and cook 2-3 minutes or until softened but still firm. Season with a little salt and pepper, not too much to finish, but just enough to flavor the vegetables. Add the baby bokchoy and cook until the leaves turn bright green. The stems should be crunchy, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle fish sauce over all, about 1 teaspoon. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve at once.

I served these two veggie dishes and mashed cauliflower as sides for these pork chops. They are so crunchy and garlicky, tender and moist.

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Crunchy Baked Pork Chops (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
Serves 4

Table salt
4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (I used whole wheat bread)
1/2 onion, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (I used 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves (I used cilantro)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I substituted Coleman’s mustard)
Lemon wedges, optional

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 1 quart water in a medium bowl. Submerge chops, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse chops under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley. Set aside.

3. Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard until combined.

4. Increase oven temperature to 400˚F. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Don’t forge to do the edges, too. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.

5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 135˚F, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges, if desired. The temperature at resting should rise to 150˚F.

cauliflower tots

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Cauliflower is becoming my favorite vegetable. It is so versatile to cook with, and its health benefits are undeniable. It is low in fat and carbs. There are different ways to serve it. Puréed, it becomes a low-cal substitute for mashed potatoes. Grated, it takes on the texture of rice or couscous as a vegetable–and vegetarian–side dish. Here’s yet another way to serve it: cauliflower “tots.” When my kids were little, their favorite vegetable finger food was Tater Tots. These tots are so tasty it’s a surprise to realize that cauliflower is the main ingredient. I found that the addition of the Chinese celery, cilantro, and scallion added a wonderful herbal flavor to the tots. If you haven’t got Chinese celery, chop up some celery instead. It will add a nice crunch to the tots.

Cauliflower Tots

Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 18 minutes
Servings: 18-20 tots

2 cups grated cauliflower, florets only, discard stem
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup chopped Chinese celery, stems only, discard leaves
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped scallion
3 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup grated white cheese (e.g. Cheddar, Mozzarella)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs or 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Spray a baking tray with olive oil. Set aside.

Pulse the cauliflower florets 5-6 times in the food processor. Transfer to an oven-proof bowl and microwave on high power 2 1/2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat the egg. Add the cooked cauliflower, Chinese celery stems, cilantro, scallion, garlic, cheese, and panko. Add salt and pepper to taste. I added a teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper. Mix well.

Scoop a tablespoonful of the cauliflower mixture into your hands and shape it into a fat oval. Place on the prepared baking tray. Bake 16-18 minutes or until browned, turning once during baking.

Cook’s Note: I found that the cauliflower tots stuck to the baking tray. My solution is to add more oil to the tray, but I remember when I did this to the black bean veggie burgers, it didn’t solve the problem entirely. The next time I make these I am going to fry them on the stove top in a skillet sprayed with cooking oil over medium to medium-high heat. This way I can turn them more frequently thus preventing sticking, and control the heat better.

Cook’s Note(added December 2, 2013): The cauliflower mixture should hold together when shaped. If it is too dry, add one large egg white.

asian vegetable paella

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This recipe is based on the Catalan Vegetable Paella in the Essential New York Times Cookbook. I made some changes to it in my quest to substitute local ingredients wherever possible. Instead of zucchini, I used winter melon or wax gourd in the paella. Its flesh can stand up to steaming with the rice so that it still has a firmness to it even when it is cooked. Winter melon turns translucent when it is cooked, by the way, and like zucchini, it is bland and takes on the flavors of whatever it is cooked with. Using sushi rice, a short grain rice that is slightly sticky when cooked, is comparable to arborio, and a lot cheaper in this part of the world. This paella turned out to be quite delicious! I went back for seconds, and even my husband did not once complain about the absence of meat.

Asian Vegetable Paella

prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 55 minutes
servings: 4

1/4 cup rice bran oil
1 small green chile pepper, finely minced, optional
1 large Bermuda onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 medium orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, thinly sliced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium winter melon (wax gourd), peeled seeded, and cut into 1″ pieces
1 1/4 cups sushi rice
2 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I used 1/2 vegetable bouillon to 2 cups water)
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot with a tight fitting lid, such as a Dutch oven. Add the chile pepper, if using; onion, bell peppers, and reduce the heat to medium –low to cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the onion is lightly browned.

Add the garlic, paprika, thyme, and tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer 5 minutes.

Add the winter melon and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice and broth and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender.

Cook’s Note: Resist the temptation to check the rice during this period! Test the rice after 20 minutes. If some of the grains taste hard, stir the pot, then let the paella cook for 5 more minutes.

Taste and correct the seasoning. Garnish with minced cilantro. Serve hot directly from the pan.

fried cauliflower rice with chinese sausage and seasoned shiitake mushrooms

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Today I walked-jogged 18 laps around the jogging track; that’s 6k! So, not wanting to spoil the good feeling, I made a healthy fried rice for dinner. I used grated cauliflower instead of rice for a low carb option. Since I married an unreformed meat lover, I put slivers of Chinese sausage in it, but they can easily be left out to make this a vegetarian dish. The seasoned mushrooms are meaty and so full of flavor they really make this dish satisfying, I think.

Fried Cauliflower Rice with Chinese Sausage and Seasoned Shiitake Mushrooms

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish

1 small head cauliflower, florets only, discard stem (yield: 2 1/2 cups grated)
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into slices
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon dark thick soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 large Chinese sausage or 2 small, cut into 2” sticks
1/2 onion, sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
2 tablespoons oil

Cut all the florets into even pieces and put them in the workbowl of the food processor. Pulse 6-7 times until the cauliflower is the texture of couscous.  Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. When it is hot, add the sliced mushrooms, soy sauces, and sugar. Cook until the sauces are absorbed. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Clean out the skillet.

Heat another tablespoon oil in the skillet. Cook the Chinese sausage until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

To the oil remaining in the skillet, add the onion and cook until it is wilted, then add the garlic. Cook until just fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower rice. Cook until it softens and turns brown, about 5-6 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms and the Chinese sausage. Mix well.

chinese frittata with chinese sausage and chives

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Big Mac joke! No kidding. McDonald’s in Thailand serves Chinese rice porridge or joke for breakfast. It comes with bits of shredded chicken that reminds me of a crispy fried chicken nugget. It’s not bad, though. It’s hardly a culinary triumph but I like trying East-West Fusion food, some of it is not bad, like the time I put krapow gai (Thai basil chicken) in a shepherd’s pie! But some of my experiments need more work, like the penne with Chinese sausage and flowering chives. Well, I tried again, this time in a frittata, an Italian style omelet. The Thais have an omelet called kai jio which is absolutely delicious but I hate to use the cupful of oil it requires to make this. In this frittata, the eggs are salty but not oily, the sausage is sweet and crisp, and the chives are mellow. Yum.

Ingredients
1 cup Chinese sausage sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup Chinese chives, diced
5 eggs, well beaten
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
Sriracha sauce, for serving

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage in a single layer and cook until the bottom is browned. Flip once to brown the second side, about 1 minute per side. Remove from heat and put in a small bowl. Set aside.

In the pan, stir fry the chives until wilted and bright green. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a medium bowl, and add a teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the eggs. Blend well. Mix in the cooked chives.

Heat oil in the pan over medium heat. When it is hot, pour in the beaten egg mixture and layer the sausage on top. Cover the skillet and cook, covered, five minutes or until the eggs are set and the bottom is golden brown. When you take off the lid, you will see the eggs are puffy and they will immediately deflate. Flip the eggs over to brown the top. You can do this with a wide spatula or you can flip the eggs out onto a large plate then slide them back in the pan with the white side down. Brown for 1-2 minutes. Slide the frittata out onto the plate, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice into wedges and serve with Sriracha sauce.

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