pictures of pretty (delicious) things to eat

I had such a busy week wrestling with the dissertation that I didn’t have time to post something, but I did have time to cook! What can I say? It’s therapy. So I made this Smilebox collage, and I  set it to Joni Mitchell because Chelsea Morning is all about food. What we’ve got here (clockwise from the top) is: black bean veggie burger on an iceberg lettuce “bun,” roasted sweet potato wedges, and cilantro dipping sauce; zucchini pie with chopped turkey ham; brown rice sautéed in coconut oil; chicken with vegetables; and finally, a simple spinach sauté with a poached egg hat.

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Taranee’s golden tofu and stir-fried kale in coconut oil

One warm night in Jamaica when I was a little girl, my Dad and I couldn’t sleep. So we went quietly to the kitchen. He didn’t turn on the kitchen light. Instead, he turned on the gas burner. In the blue light, I watched him  pour two inches of coconut oil into a heavy skillet and when it was hot, he tossed in a handful of colorful plastic-like disks that immediately puffed up into pale pink, white, and green chips that smelled vaguely of shrimp. They were warm and crunchy and salty. When I was growing up in Jamaica, coconut oil was not marketed for its health benefits. It was cheap and we bought it in huge cans.  Coconut oil eventually fell into disrepute but it is now enjoying an expensive comeback as a healthy fat. At Whole Foods in New York City it is sold by the jar, the cheapest being  $7.99. Instead of the oil that I remembered,  it is a solid resembling Crisco all vegetable shortening, and has a light coconut aroma.

Taranee’s Golden Tofu and Stir-Fried Kale in Coconut Oil

INGREDIENTS           

1 package (14 1/2 ounces) firm tofu, drained, cut crosswise into 6 slabs 3/4 inch wide), each slab halved horizontally and cut into triangles
1 1/2 pounds kale
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
2-4 teaspoons canola oil
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)

Dipping Sauce:

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon wasabi paste (optional)

Preparation

1. To prepare the kale, fold each leaf in half and using a sharp knife, remove the main rib and stem and discard. Arrange tofu in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with several layers of paper towels. Top with more paper towels and another baking sheet; weight with canned goods. Let tofu drain, about 20 minutes.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a skillet. Fry tofu triangles in a single layer. You may need to do this in batches. Fry until golden brown on one side; flip and fry. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, melt coconut oil in a large skillet. Toss kale in oil until just wilted and bright green. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add red pepper flakes, if desired.

4. Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar (if using) and wasabi paste (if using); set aside.

5. Serve tofu and kale with hot cooked brown rice and the dipping sauce on the side.

jerk beef and beans

My cousin Anne Marie is a wonderful cook. Because of our Chinese-Jamaican heritage we both share this obsession with food and its preparation. Anne Marie also loves animals. At last count she has five dogs (mostly pugs) and two cats. Anne Marie lives in South Carolina with her husband Sam, affectionately called Sweetie Pie. She shared this recipe with us, her cousins, and I am sharing it with you.  Anne Marie notes: “Because Sweetie watches his carb intake, lots of times I do not serve this with white rice but with raw [ripe] bananas and roasted veggies.  Tonight’s roasted veggies were carrots and turnips.”  Cut the veggies into 1/4 inch rounds. Roll the veggies in olive oil and season with garlic powder, black pepper, and dill.  Spread on a baking tray and bake until browned and caramelized. I think 30 minutes on the upper rack of the oven ought to do it while the casserole is bubbling beneath it. This is a hearty dish, very filling, and a tad spicy if you aren’t used to jerk seasoning. A note about jerk seasoning:  jerk seasoning is available from West Indian markets but some supermarkets in urban areas do carry it. I am partial to the Walkers Wood brand. Jerk seasoning key ingredients are  allspice (called pimento in Jamaica) and  Scotch Bonnet pepper, a relative of the better known habeñero pepper. If you love the strong earthy flavors of Jamaican cooking, try this. You’ll love it!

Ingredients

3 lb beef shin with bone in, trimmed of excess fat
2 tins black beans with liquid
1 can butter beans, drained
1 large onion, chopped
1 scant teaspoon Walkers Wood Jerk Seasoning plus 1-2 teaspoons more for seasoning meat
2 sprigs thyme, fresh or dried
Salt and pepper

Preparation

Wipe meat clean with a paper towel.  Set aside.  In a large casserole pot with a lid, add two tins of black beans with liquid, chopped onions,  and a scant teaspoon of Walkers Wood Jerk Seasoning.  Sprinkle moderately with salt, black pepper and thyme.  Mix it up.  With rubber gloves on, smear meat on both sides with additional jerk seasoning.  Push down into the black bean mixture.  Cover and place in 350 degree oven for two hours.  Remove casserole from oven when the two hours are up and add drained butter beans. Gently stir into and over the meat.  Cover again and cook another hour. [Cook’s Tip: if you prefer a thinner sauce, add a 1/4 cup of water to the bean mixture and stir.]

curried cashew shrimp with garlic cilantro rice

I’m in the mood for curries this week! From coconut curried chicken to curried cashew shrimp with garlic cilantro rice, these two recipes demonstrate that curries are savory and versatile accompaniments to just about any meat and vegetable.

INGREDIENTS

For rice
4 teaspoons canola oil,
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1 1/4 cups chicken broth or water or enough water to come up to your first knuckle
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using chicken broth)
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

For shrimp
1/4 cup cashew nuts, whole or in pieces
Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled
4 teaspoons mild curry powder, such as Madras
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large red or orange sweet pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (e.g. Aroy-D, Chaokoh)
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce

PREPARATION

For rice

Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a 10-inch skillet and add the garlic. Cook 30 seconds until garlic becomes fragrant and golden brown. Add uncooked rice and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a rice cooker. Add salt, if using, and 1 1/2 cups water. Press the button and cook. When the rice is cooked, stir in cilantro just before serving. Set aside on the keep warm feature of the rice cooker.

For shrimp

In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with curry powder, ginger and salt. If cashews are raw, toast nuts in a large skillet over high heat, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes. Spray a light layer of cooking spray over the cashews. Raise heat to high; add 2 teaspoons canola oil. When the oil is hot, add shrimp, peppers and zucchini. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until shrimp begins to turn pink. Reduce heat to medium; add coconut milk and bring to a slow boil. Cover and simmer until vegetables are soft and shrimp is cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes; remove from heat. Slowly incorporate yogurt until a smooth creamy sauce forms. Stir in sugar, and season to taste with fish sauce. Serve with garlic cilantro rice.

coconut curried chicken

I’ve made this recipe from the South Beach Diet cookbook many times and each time it always surprises me because it’s so flavorful. It’s sweet, sour, salty, nutty, and a little bit spicy. To season it, I’ve added fish sauce (in Thai: nam pla) instead of salt  and it really makes a difference. Instead of brown rice,  I served the coconut curried chicken tonight with cooked pearled barley, steamed broccoli drizzled with lemon juice, and steamed green beans with kosher salt.

Coconut Curried Chicken

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chicken tenders
1 tablespoon chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon powdered coriander or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons almonds, ground
1 teaspoon sugar substitute
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 teaspoons water
Scallions sliced diagonally for garnish
2-4 teaspoons fish sauce, to taste, if desired

Preparation

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, heat the broth. Add onion, garlic, cilantro, ginger, lemon peel, cumin and turmeric, and cook 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in the coconut milk, almonds, sugar substitute, and red pepper. Return chicken to the skillet, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken to a plate. Reserve the sauce. To the sauce in the pan, add the tamarind paste mixed with 2 teaspoons water. Stir into the sauce and gently boil until thickened. Add the fish sauce, if desired, to taste. Pour sauce over the chicken.
  4. Serve with brown rice, if desired, and sugar snap peas with red peppers.

Chinese-Trinidadian stir-fried shrimp with rum

I found this rather unique dish on epicurious.com and decided to try it for Sunday dinner. It’s really a variation on Chinese sour-and-sweet dishes except that it is made with dark rum instead of rice vinegar. As a result, it has a mild rather than a pronounced sour flavor. Using a dark rum instead of vinegar is really an inspired idea. It shows how the Chinese adapted their cuisine to include what is locally available, as they did in  Trinidad and Tobago, where they have lived since the early 19th century.

Chinese-Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum

Ingredients
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined with the tails on
Juice of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt 1 medium ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges
1 large bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Preparation
1. In a medium bowl toss the shrimp with the lime juice for a few seconds. Rinse the shrimp, drain, and set on a plate lined with paper towels. With more paper towels pat the shrimp dry. In a small bowl combine the ketchup, rum, soy sauce, and ground white pepper. [Cook’s Note: I didn’t have a piece of fresh ginger so I added 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger to the sauce.]

2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the oil, add the garlic and ginger, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the aromatics to the sides of the wok, carefully add the shrimp and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear. Sprinkle on the salt and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the shrimp begin to turn orange. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp have turned almost totally orange. Swirl the ketchup mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp are just cooked through and the sauce coats the shrimp. Stir in the cilantro.

3. Serve with hot cooked rice and vegetable sides. I recommend steamed green beans lightly sprinkled with kosher salt and pan-roasted asparagus drizzled with lime juice and almond slivers.  And if you can get it, ripe plantains baked in the skin for 15 minutes.

blackened whitefish with sautéed corn with cherry tomatoes

Another Friday in Lent and today’s menu included: blackened whitefish with sautéed corn with cherry tomatoes, roasted vegetables, and steamed broccoli. I adapted this fish recipe from a recipe for blackened catfish in the Cooking Light Eat Smart Guide: 200-Calorie cookbook. The fish was just cooked and the spice added a delicious burned texture that contrasted with the delicate flakes of fish. What more can I say? I love burned toast too…

Blackened Whitefish

Ingredients

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground red pepper
¼  teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 (6 oz) white fish fillets, e.g. catfish, tilapia, basa

Preparation

  1. Combine thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, red pepper and salt in a small bowl. Cook’s Tip: This will only be enough spice to rub onto one side of each fillet. If the spice mixture isn’t dry because of the fresh thyme, heat it up in a dry skillet. The spices may darken.
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Brush both sides of the fillets with remaining teaspoon olive oil. Rub one side of the fillets with spice mixture. Add to pan and cook 3 minutes on each side or until fillets flake easily with a fork. Cook’s Tip: For a low calorie alternative I grilled the fish in the George Foreman grill, about 2 minutes per fillet.
  3. Serve with sautéed corn with cherry tomatoes.

Sautéed Corn with Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
2 cups fresh corn kernels (can be frozen or tinned)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
salt and pepper

Preparation

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add corn and tomatoes then cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat. Stir in the scallions, vinegar, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or at room temperature with blackened white fish or as a condiment for steak tacos.

veggie hash with poached egg

What’s for breakfast? I had a little bit of roasted zucchini, a little bit of snow peas and peppers, and a handful of green beans. I put it together in a saucepan with some frozen corn, lima beans, and peas, added some thyme and rosemary, salt and pepper and a couple tablespoons of water et voila! Vegetable hash. I topped it off with a poached egg. A poached egg is easy to do and if you want a step by step, fool-proof how-to, then go to this Smitten Kitchen page for some great pictures on how to poach an egg. To sum up, the steps are:

  1. Crack an egg into a small dish. Set aside.
  2. Heat  3 inches of water in a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Add a bit of white vinegar. When the water gets to the “fish eye” stage (bubbles all over but not bubbling), stir the pot. Into the center of the whirlpool, pour the egg. The swirling water will keep the egg white into a ball. Let simmer about 1-3 minutes depending on how runny you like the yolk. It’s cooked when the egg white is no longer transparent but has turned white all over.  I like the yolk thickened so I let it sit in the water until it looks solid but still a deep yellow, like the picture above. Use a slotted spoon to remove the egg to top off the veggie hash.

when life gives you lemons, make spaghetti al limone

Meatless Fridays in Lent tend to be challenging, so I was pleased to find this recipe in this week’s e-mail from America’s Test Kitchen. Spaghetti al limone or spaghetti with lemons is light and delicately flavored with lemon juice and lemon zest. For a Friday night supper before going to Anna’s dance recital at NYU, this was so simple and easy to make.  I served it with steamed broccoli and a sprinkling of fresh oregano on top.

INGREDIENTS
Table salt
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus more for serving
1 medium shallot , minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated zest (about 1 lemon)
1/4 cup juice from 2-3 lemons
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves or oregano

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water; cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1 3⁄4 cups cooking water, drain pasta into colander, and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1 1/2 cups of reserved pasta cooking water and cream into pot; bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat, return pasta, and stir until coated. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
3. Cover and let pasta stand 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adjusting consistency with remaining 1/4 cup reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling individual portions with extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese.