green skillet pizza

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I used the electric pan as a pizza maker and this is what I found out: the top griddle does not brown the top of the crust when it is closed, so I will have to flip the crust over to brown the top. Basically, the pan fries the bread, and in the absence of clear instructions of how to cook a pizza in the electric pan, I had to experiment. To those of you who have the Homemate brand Double Electric Pans/Pizza Maker, this is what you will have to do: roll out or pat the pizza as thin as possible–about 1/4 inch thickness. Put about 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet part to heat up (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes) on maximum. Put the crust in and let it fry about 5 minutes. Flip it and let the top brown slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Then flip it back over, add the toppings and close the lid and cook for another 5 minutes on 180˚C. Pizza in ten!

Pizza Crust (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Proofing: 30 minutes

2 1/2 cups (312g) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package instant yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup (200ml) skim milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat the oven to 200˚F. Once it reaches the desired temperature, turn it off but do not open the door.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, salt, and yeast in the mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, add the milk, oil, and sugar. Combine the flour, salt, and yeast on low speed, while it is mixing, add the milk mixture. Continue beating until just incorporated. Turn the speed up to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny and comes together in a ball.

Baker’s note: I used a handmixer fitted with dough hooks. It takes longer to make pizza dough with a handmixer because it’s not as powerful. So when the recipe says low speed, use medium low speed, and so medium low becomes medium high. My arm got tired holding the motor so I had to use both hands to hold it!

Lightly flour a board and knead the dough two times and form into a ball. Put dough ball in a large greased glass bowl, turning it several times to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the warm oven to proof for 30 minutes.

By now the dough should have doubled in bulk. Take it out of the oven and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it in half with a bench scraper.

Baker’s note: I wrapped both dough balls in plastic and refrigerated them to stop the rising process. This is because I didn’t want to make the pizza right away. If you refrigerate the dough, use it within 24 hours. If you want a thick crust you will have to make the pizza right away when the yeast is fresh. For a thin crust pizza, where very little rising is involved, cooking the crust later is no problem.

To make the crust, roll out one dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Or use your fingers to stretch and tamp the dough into a roughly 10 inch round. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet and add the pizza dough.  Prick the dough with a fork. Fry 5 minutes on one side, flip and fry 2-3 minutes on the other.

Green Skillet Pizza:
Prep time: 15 minutes (includes sauteeing the toppings)
Cook time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
6 cups spinach, chopped
5 ounces arugula,any tough stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1/2 cup prepared pesto (I used basil pesto, recipe to follow)
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, lightly saute the mushrooms and garlic in oil. Add the spinach and arugula. Saute until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. In the pan add the water and heat to boiling. Add the peas and cook until bright green. Drain the peas and discard the water. Add peas to the cooked vegetables.

Baker’s note: Prepare the pizza toppings ahead of time and refrigerate.

When the top of the pizza crust is browned, spread half the pesto. Add half the toppings and half the cheese. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second crust.

Andy complained that the pizza was slightly bitter. I think the arugula and the spinach were not a good combination. I should have used broccoli with either arugula or the spinach, not both. He said the crust was excellent–it was fresh, slightly crisp on the bottom but soft on the inside.

Basil Pesto (adapted from Skinnytaste)
Prep time: 10 minutes

1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

The easiest thing to do is to process all ingredients in a food processor. Since I’m in Salaya and not in my kitchen at home, I had to make the pesto by hand. For this, I needed one sharp santoku knife.

tomato ratatouille

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This vegetable stew is hearty and filling, and it comes with the added feeling of virtuousness because it is made entirely of fresh vegetables.  There is nothing in it to feel guilty about. I used salsa to season it, but a tomato paste or puree with some wine would be wonderful.

Tomato Ratatouille (adapted from The Photo Cookbook-Quick and Easy)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion cut into thin wedges
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I used two tablespoons salsa for flavor and bite)
3 tablespoons water
2/3 cup sliced mushrooms (I used fresh shiitakes)
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
pepper
1 tablespoon shredded fresh basil, to serve, optional
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve, optional

1. Heat the oil in a Dutch pot. Add the onion, garlic, and eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.
2. Add the bell peppers and zucchini.
3. Mix together the tomato paste and water in a small bowl and stir into the pan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes, with pepper to taste, and continue to simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
5. Garnish with shredded basil and serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

green banana with escovitch sauce

DSC03887In Jamaica, probably the next most popular dish after rice and peas is escovitch fish. This improbable dish is of Latin origin where it is called escabeche. In Jamaica escovitch fish is a fried fish, all salty and crisp,  served with a spicy hot vinegar, onion, tomato, and chili sauce. I made this vegan version of escovitch with boiled green bananas. It’s simple really, a simple vegan meal. The green bananas are actually bland like a potato, but the escovitch sauce adds interest–sour, salty, sweet.  I served it with a colorful basmati rice salad made with corn, sweet red peppers, and golden raisins with a handful of scallions sprinkled on top.

6 green bananas

Cut off the tips of each banana and make a shallow slit from end to end. Place in a pot of boiling water, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, remove the bananas to a plate and let them cool slightly. Remove the skins. Meanwhile, wash out the pot and put in about 8 cups water with 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil and return the peeled bananas to the pot. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Add a cup of cold water and boil for 5 more minutes. Drain the bananas and let cool. Slice into chunks and set aside.

For the sauce (from WikiHow)
4 large cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup ripe tomatoes, chopped (I used grape tomatoes)
1/2 cup onion, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon mixed peppercorns, optional
2 Thai chilies or 1 scotch bonnet pepper, optional (I recommend the scotch bonnet!)
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 large pinches of sugar
Salt

Saute the garlic, tomatoes, onions and peppercorns. When the vegetables are wilted and fragrant with pepper, add the chilies, lime juice vinegar, sugar, and salt to taste. Heat through. Pour over the boiled green bananas.

To tell you the truth, I just used tomatoes and onions, vinegar and sugar.

vegetarian lasagna with thai spinach and chinese chives

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Well, this is the reason why I made my own ricotta cheese.

I adapted this recipe from Misty’s vegetarian lasagna recipe adding the zucchini and bell pepper and using fresh Thai vegetables instead of the frozen Western spinach. By fortunate happenstance, Tops supermarket had fresh lasagna sheets. I split the recipe into two 9-inch square dishes, otherwise use one 9×13 inch dish.

Lasagna with Thai Spinach and Chinese Chives

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients
2 large eggs
2 cups home-made ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon pesto Genovese
2 small zucchini, peeled and sliced into quarter inch rounds
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups skim milk
1 bunch fresh spinach or Pak Khom (about 6 cups), coarsely chopped, tender leaves & stems
1 bunch Chinese chives (no flowers), leaves only, chopped into 1-inch lengths
1 medium carrot, grated
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
8 fresh lasagna noodle sheets, trimmed to fit
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Edam)
1 cup marinara sauce (I used diced tomatoes processed fine and seasoned with 1 teaspoon pesto)

Preparation
Heat oven to 350˚F or 175˚C.

Beat the eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Fold in ricotta cheese and pesto.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and pepper. Add the milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, carrot,  chives, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and salt.

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish or two 9 inch baking dishes. Layer the zucchini rounds on the bottom. Slice some to fit.

Make layers in this way: spinach mixture; noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses; noodles. End with noodles.

Spread the marinara sauce on top to cover the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

rice bowl

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I got tired of eating street food. I know people who would say, I could never get tired of it. The fact is: I missed my kitchen. But for most of the week, I live in Salaya in a tiny studio that has no kitchen. I decided to buy a small 3 cup rice cooker and experiment with rice bowls. A rice bowl is a dish that includes meat, veggies, and rice all in one. I made this vegetarian version out of just a few ingredients: rice, a handful of cashews, golden raisins, sweet bell pepper, and scallion. The only thing I cooked was the rice. The rest I added when the rice was steaming hot. It’s  so simple it doesn’t need a recipe!

rice ruam mit

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This dish has everything all mixed up together–ruam mit. Well almost everything.  The base for it is Thai jasmine rice, of course. Then I tossed in raisins, green peas, lime zest,  the juice of a lime, scallions, salt, pepper, and the chiffonade of a few leaves of basil. Should have been mint but all we had was basil.  The raisins added a touch of sweetness to a rice dish that was also salty and tangy. A-roy.

ginger-hazelnut cream icebox cake. how easy is that!

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The cream is a little shiny and droopy from the heat! I should have put it in the freezer to firm it up before serving.

Ina Garten’s Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake recipe inspired this creamy cake. It looks like I made a lot of fuss but I really didn’t! The only hard part about this cake is waiting overnight for it to chill and harden. Since IKEA opened in Bangkok, it’s become the go-to place for inexpensive well-designed furniture, cheap farang cafeteria food (frozen veg, urgh), and inexpensive cookies and chocolate. A one-pound box of Pepparkakor (Ginger Thins) cookies cost only Baht 165 (approximately $4.99) and the chocolate bar (slightly less than 1/4 pound)  was  Baht 39 (approximately $1.20). And I only used half the box of cookies to make this cake. I plan to make ice cream sandwiches with the leftovers. How easy is that!

Ginger-Hazelnut Cream Icebox Cake
Inspired by the Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? (2010)

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 12 hr 0 min
Cook Time: none
Level: Easy
Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients
2 cups (470g) cold heavy cream
12 ounces (340g) Italian mascarpone cheese (see Cake Baker’s Notes below)
1/2 cup (112.5g) superfine sugar
1/4 cup (79g) hazelnut syrup (can substitute Frangelico or hazelnut liqueur)
2 tablespoons (1 oz square or 30g) white chocolate, grated fine
1 teaspoon almond extract (can substitute hazelnut extract)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
24-36 thin and crisp ginger cookies (I used IKEA’s Pepparkakor thin ginger cookies)
Shaved semisweet white chocolate, for garnish (I used IKEA’s hazelnut chocolate bar)

Directions
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, liqueur or syrup, white chocolate, hazelnut extract, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks, about 3 minutes. Put the entire bowl in the refrigerator/freezer to chill while you make the first cookie layer in the next step.

Cake Baker’s Note: When the air temperature is hot and humid, as it often is in Bangkok, I find that it’s difficult to make whipped cream. Unless your kitchen is air conditioned, it’s best to chill the bowl and beaters beforehand, and to try and make the whipped topping in the cooler hours of the day or evening.

To assemble the cake, arrange cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. Break some cookies to fill in the spaces. Spread a fifth of the hazelnut whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut cake in wedges, and serve cold.

Cake Baker’s Notes:

  • Make your own Mascarpone Cheese – An Italian cream cheese, Mascarpone is expensive and difficult to find in Bangkok but it turns up in unexpected places, like Max Value, a mini-mart.  You can make this substitute from allrecipes.com:

o 1x8oz (250g) package cream cheese, room temperature
o 2 tablespoons (28.4g) unsalted butter, room temperature
o 1/4 cup cold heavy cream

Mix together all ingredients until well blended. Use instead of mascarpone cheese in recipes. Makes 337g of mascarpone cheese substitute.

  • Thin and Crisp Cookies – You can substitute vanilla or chocolate wafer cookies. Not Nilla Wafers, though.

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.