coconut kale with filipino garlic fried rice

Taranee pointed out this recipe to me because it’s quick and easy to make for a weeknight supper. I jazzed it up by adding her coconut kale to it, not that it needed it, but I’m not cooking as much and I need to move some of those vegetables before they spoil! The kale added just the right color to complement the eggs, and were satisfyingly chewy, coconut-flavored, and spicy. I also used up some leftover rice. Fried rice is good for that. This recipe was lightly garlicky, chewy;  a nice contrast between the slightly bitter kale, the bland eggs, crunchy green onions,  and al dente rice.

Coconut Kale with Filipino Garlic Fried Rice (adapted from The Kitchn)

Serves 4

2 teaspoons butter (optional; can also use vegetable oil)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper
12 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 whole head of garlic, depending on the size)
4 cups cooked long­ grain brown-and-white rice (ratio 2:1)
4 cups kale, trimmed and chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon coconut oil
red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon soy sauce or fish sauce, to taste
2 green onions, chopped

Heat 2 teaspoons of butter or oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Beat the eggs with a dash of salt and pepper. Pour them into the pan and cook until the center is set. Roll up the omelet with a spatula. Turn the omelet out onto a plate and set aside. When it is cool enough to handle, cut it into strips about 1/4­inch wide x 2­ or 3­inches long.

Using the same pan or a separate wok, if you prefer, heat a tablespoon of oil over moderate heat and add the minced garlic. Fry the garlic, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. When the garlic is crispy and golden, remove it from the pan (leaving the garlicky oil in the pan) and set aside.

In the same wok or skillet, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil until it just becomes fragrant. Add the kale and stir fry until it becomes wilted and turns a bright green. Sprinkle a little red pepper flakes all over and toss.

Stir in the rice. Make sure all the rice is coated with oil and then spread it across the pan in an even layer. Cook for a couple of minutes, then stir and repeat this process until the rice is heated through.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of soy sauce or fish sauce into the rice, toss and taste, adding more if needed. Remove from heat. Serve the rice garnished with egg strips, scallions, a little more red pepper flakes, if desired, and the fried garlic.

chicken sausage with kale and white beans

My cousin Karen sent me this recipe. With my busy schedule, is it ever quick and easy to put together! Dinner was ready in less than half an hour.

Ingredients
4-5 links of chicken sausage (I used Trade Joe’s red and green pepper chicken sausage)
2 cups canned Cannellini or white beans (can be dried and cooked instead of canned), rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 bunch of kale, washed, dried and chopped (enough to fill one colander)
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved) or 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil

Directions

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat; add the chicken sausage.
2. Cook for two to three minutes per side and remove from pan; slice each link one-inch thick. Reduce heat to medium high and add the chicken sausage back to the pan with the remaining olive oil and kale. Cook for two to three minutes to wilt the kale.
3. Add garlic, chili flakes, white beans and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook two to three minutes until chicken sausage is cooked through and flavors incorporate.
5. Toss with fresh basil and serve.

Nutrition
Calories: 282 Protein: 24 g Carbohydrates: 15 g Total fat: 15 g Saturated fat: 4 g

beef broccoli with sichuan pepper and japanese zucchini stir fry

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Sichuan pepper is actually not a pepper at all nor is it related to black pepper. If it smells and tastes familiar that’s because it is a common ingredient in Asian cooking, particularly  in Five-Spice Powder. To me it has a sweet smell, almost like cinnamon, and like cinnamon, it is somewhat bitter. Use it in small quantities because although it does not have the heat of the more familiar peppers, it does have a numbing effect on the tongue. To me, water tastes salty after eating too much Sichuan peppercorns!

Beef Broccoli with Sichuan Pepper

This is a variation on the popular dish in Chinese restaurant menus. The beef is tender and the broccoli is crisp tender, with a hint of sesame. In Chinese cooking, sesame oil is used to flavor food after it is cooked. It is too delicate to stand up to heat in cooking. A little bit, like a teaspoon, is  enough. I serve this beef broccoli with Sichuan pepper with brown-white rice mix because AJ thinks brown rice alone is too dry. The ratio is 2:1 brown rice to white rice.

3/4 pound lean boneless beef steak, sliced across the grain into thin strips
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon red Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground
3 tablespoons soy sauce or soy-ginger sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons garlic, peeled and minced
3 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Blanch broccoli florets in a pot of boiling water until bright green, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, put the beef strips, peppercorns, soy sauce or soy-ginger sauce, add cornstarch. Mix well and set aside.

Put canola oil in a large wok or skillet, and turn up the heat to medium-high. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry until it begins to brown, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli and toss to heat through. The beef should have pink streaks. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sesame oil. Taste and adjust seasoning; adding a little soy sauce, if desired. Serve immediately with steamed brown rice and Japanese Zucchini Stir Fry.

Japanese Zucchini Stir Fry

I found this recipe in Real Food Real Easy (2010) by George Stella. The recipes in this book use just a few ingredients (not more than nine) and the method is simple and straightforward. I really needed this cookbook since I started a new job this week, and I haven’t had much time for anything complicated. So this marks a return to my roots–simple stir fries with fresh ingredients.

2 medium zucchini
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

  1. To toast sesame seeds, put them in a skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside. Slice ends off zucchini and discard. Cut each zucchini in half crosswise then split each half vertically in two. Slice each quarter into thick sticks. Cut quartered onion into 1/4 inch thick strips
  2. Heat oil in a large work or skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add zucchini and onions and cook without stirring 2-4 minutes or until browned on the undersides. Stir once and continue cooking 2-3 minutes to continue browning.
  3. Add soy sauce and black pepper, tossing to combine. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil and sesame seeds.

gai yang roulade with corn grits

Sometimes food gets boring. Every night it becomes the same old, same old. So I tried spicing up a chicken fillet by rolling it. So revolutionary. Here’s a chicken breast fillet rolled up in a gai yang marinade adapted from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe.

First  brine 3 boneless skinless chicken breast fillets in 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons sugar dissolved in 4 cups water 30-60 minutes. Slice each breast in half horizontally and pat dry. Place each fillet between two sheets of plastic and pound each one to 1/4 inch thickness. In a large bowl combine

  • 12 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (1/4 cup)
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (about 2 inches), minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Marinate the fillets in the garlic-ginger mixture for at least 30 minutes. Scrape most of the marinade from one side and paste in the center. Roll up around the garlic-ginger paste and place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until the inside of each roulade measures 160˚F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from oven and slice into pinwheels.

Serve with yellow corn grits. So simple! This recipe is from Zea Rotisserie and Brewery.

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup yellow corn grits
  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1/2-1  tablespoon salt or to taste (use more or less salt depending on whether the butter was salted)
  • 1 ear grilled corn, kernels removed

Strip off most of the husk and silk. Soak in water to cover 15 minutes. If you don’t have a grill, broil the corn in the broiler for 15 minutes or until the kernels turn brown. Set aside to cool

Bring liquids to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in the grits. Add butter and salt. Cook at simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Cut the corn off the cooled cob, and crumble in your fingers. At the end of cooking, stir in the corn.

with the wildman in central park

This is Steve Brill aka The Wildman, a self taught botanist and forager. For three hours on Saturday, he taught me and 34 other people to appreciate the plant diversity in Central Park here in New York as delicious dinner accompaniments or herbal remedies for ailments. We learned to pick out sassafras and juneberries, jewelweed and field garlic, among others, from a green blur of trees, hedges, and undergrowth. Steve is a storehouse of plant lore, a storyteller, joke teller, painful punster, and as if all that isn’t enough, he is a human beatbox. While we were there, Yahoo’s Blue Ribbon Hunter  Chef Alison Fishman  was filming Steve for an upcoming show.

I’m not terribly adventurous when it comes to food. I am no Anthony Bourdain though I like to watch him and experience the tastes vicariously. I once accidentally ordered sweetbreads in a restaurant, and it wasn’t what I thought it was. My husband has teased me about it ever since. Normally I stick to more conventional cuts of meat–what I know. So that I should go on a foraging expedition for food is truly adventurous. I timidly tried the tender cattail stalk–it tastes like cucumber–and though I love garlic, I rejected the field garlic because it was too pungent. But I did savor the sharp mustard taste of Poor Man’s Pepper and the Sour Kids’ lemon flavor of sheep sorrel. However, I was reluctant to dig up any of these plants, though Steve insists they are sustainable so it’s okay to take them out of the Park. No, my reason for not taking them was more pragmatic–how would I use them in my cooking? So rather than waste them, I nibbled and crushed leaves and smelled them, then I decided the only one I’d try at home was the Northern Bayberry. I will put the leaves in a Jamaican pepperpot soup.

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cookbook review: Real Food Real Easy

I’ve been taking a couple days off from cooking because I cut my finger. (It also makes it hard to touch type!) But then I borrowed this book from the NYPL Real Food Real Easy (2010) by George Stella. It’s got low carb  recipes in it and each recipe has a “handful” of ingredients (no more than nine, actually) and an uncomplicated method–3 or 4 steps. So in the next few weeks until the book is due, I’ll be sampling recipes. Here are some interesting ones:

Table of Contents

Starters and Snacks–cabbage wrapped pot stickers sound like a winner, so does tempura asparagus

Breakfast and Brunch–how about blue coconut parfaits?

Lunchtime Favorites–I think  southwestern chicken salad in avocado bowls sounded delicious

Poultry–I want to try all of the chicken recipes, especially spinach and feta chicken breast roulades

Meats–Szechuan beef and broccoli, oh my!

Seafood–salmon with a creamy dill sauce!

Slow Cooker Cookery–ground sirloin chili wonder how hot it really is… But I’ll never know. No slow cooker!

Vegetables and Sides–spaghetti squash with ricotta blush sauce. YUM.

Wholesome Whole Grains and Legumes–quinoa pilaf!

Desserts–flourless fudge brownies? I’m dreaming…

buckwheat noodles with beef and sweet ginger scallion sauce

Okay, okay, it’s not vegetarian! That is beef sitting on top of the noodles.

Buckwheat noodles, also called soba, are delicious, as I discovered last week when I added them to the Thai beef soup kao lao. Since I had an extra packet, I decided to try this recipe from a1dente.wordpress.com. I made two tiny adjustments. Instead of chili oil, I substituted vegetable oil and added 1/4 teaspoon chili paste, and I used maple syrup instead of honey.

I also made up my own beef marinade, but you can substitute soy sauce or teriyaki sauce for my marinade, and you can use chicken instead of beef, and firm tofu instead of any kind of meat at all. I spooned the noodles on top of chopped romaine lettuce. It’s delicious, trust me!

Buckwheat Noodles (Soba) with Beef and Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce

8-9 oz. dry soba/buckwheat noodles
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cup scallions, chopped fine
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons chili oil (I used 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 1/4 teaspoon chili paste)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey (I used organic maple syrup)
Coarse salt
Fresh ground black pepper

2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

For meat lovers:
1 lb beef sirloin steak sliced into 3 inch strips across the grain
1 tablespoon hoi sin sauce
1 tablespoon soy-ginger sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  1. Mix all the scallions, ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and honey in a bowl. Set it aside for 10 -15 minutes to let the flavors meld.
  2. For Meat Lovers: Skip this step if you want the vegetarian version. Season the steak strips with hoi sin and soy-ginger sauces and the cornstarch. Chinese cooks often use cornstarch as a binder and thickener. According to America’s Test Kitchen, a little cornstarch seals the marinade to the meat during cooking. Chinese cooks have known this all along! Let sit 10-15 minutes while the noodle sauce flavors are developing. Heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium high heat and stir fry the beef until it just turns brown. Even though a little red streaks remain, stop. Do not overcook the beef.
  3. Boil the soba noodles per the package’s instructions and drain. Toss the noodles with the sauce and sesame seeds. Serve noodles hot on a bed of romaine lettuce. Spoon beef strips on top of noodles.

misty’s vegetarian lasagna

I’m not a vegetarian. I’m an unabashed omnivore. On a sliding scale from meat lover on one end to veggie nibbler on the other I’m probably a seven. A little more than half way. But I do enjoy a hearty vegetarian meal–if it makes me forget it’s meatless. Taranee’s friend Misty has this recipe for vegetarian lasagna that does that. It’s satisfying without being heavy. I had a Senior Moment while I was assembling the pie and now I have leftover lasagna noodles! Oh well. I’ll just cut them up and put them in some chicken vegetable soup.

You’ll note as you gather your mis en place for the lasagna that you must use Italian seasoning. You can use store-bought but even better, make your own. Here is a great recipe for Italian seasoning. It is by Dean Ornish and it’s called

A Little Italian

2 tablespoons each of:
dried basil
dried marjoram
dried oregano
ground coriander
dried thyme
dried rosemary
dried savory
1-2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes, optional
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

The method is very simple. Process all the spices and herbs until well blended. Store in a jar in a cool dry place and use as needed in pasta sauces and salad dressings.

Vegetarian Lasagna (serves 10-12)

Ingredients:
2 eggs
2 cups reduced fat cream style cottage cheese
15 ounces reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons butter or margarine (I substituted olive oil for 1 tablespoon)
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups skim milk
2 (10 oz) packages frozen chopped spinach or broccoli, thawed and drained thoroughly (I used 2 x 7 oz bags fresh baby spinach. If you use fresh spinach, increase the flour to 3 tablespoons.)
1 medium carrot, shredded
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
salt to taste
9 oven ready lasagna noodles (I used cooked noodles and they tasted better)
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (oops. Forgot it, but didn’t miss it)
1 cup marinara sauce 1 18oz jar marinara sauce

Preparation
Beat the eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Stir in the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and Italian seasoning. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender. Stir in the flour and pepper. Add the milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, carrot, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and salt. [Cook’s Note: If the sauce starts to thicken too quickly, remove it from the heat.]

Now here’s the part where I got mixed up:
1. Layer 1/3 of the spinach mixture and 1/3 of the noodles into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.

2. Layer half the cottage cheese mixture, half of the remaining spinach mixture, half the mozzarella cheese, half the cheddar cheese, and half of the remaining noodles.

3. Layer the remaining half of the cottage cheese mixture, the remainder of the spinach mixture, the cottage cheese, the cheddar cheese, and the last of the noodles.

4. Spread the marinara sauce on top. sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

5. I recommend putting the lasagna on a baking tray to catch the spills. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Cook’s Note: you may assemble the lasagna, cover with foil and chill for up to 48 hours before baking. To freeze, wrap the unbaked lasagna tightly with foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. To serve, bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 35 to 40 minutes longer or until hot and bubbly. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

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thai beef soup with buckwheat noodles

I was walking through the courtyard earlier this week, taking a shortcut through the basement, when I smelled star anise and cinnamon. I thought instantly of Thai beef soup or kao lao. I knew I had to make it this week, even though it’s been years since I last tried. From my years living in Thailand, I know that when it is served with noodles then it’s called kway tieow. I decided to cook it, kway tieow style with Japanese soba or buckwheat noodles, which are higher in fiber and protein, iron and calcium than the traditional rice noodles. Soba like rice noodles is gluten free.  There is  a nutrition comparison of soba and rice noodles on skipthepie.org. If you’re simply watching the calories, as I am, then it’s important to consider that a half cup soba has twice as many calories as rice noodles.

Thai Beef Soup (Kao Lao) with Buckwheat Noodles (Soba)

Makes 4 servings

For Cooking

7 cups water
1 lb stewing beef, boneless, trimmed of visible fat, and cut into chunks
1 whole star anise or 4 cloves star anise
2 whole sticks cinnamon
3-4 whole peeled large garlic cloves
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons molasses or thick dark soy sauce

For Serving

1 cup fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and picked over
2 cups buckwheat noodles, cooked al dente
Fish sauce
Sugar
Sambal or chili paste
1 lime, quartered
2 scallions, finely sliced on the diagonal
1/3-1/2 cup cilantro, minced

Combine the beef, star anise, cinnamon, and garlic in 7 cups water. Cover loosely. Put two wooden chopsticks across the top of the pot and rest the lid on top of the chopsticks. Bring to a simmer on the stove. After 1 hour, stir the soup and skim the broth of large floating particles. You want a clear broth with tiny particles suspended in the soup when it is stirred. Remove the chopsticks and cover the pot. Once covered, the pot will boil vigorously and some water will boil out. Continue cooking on low heat for 1/2 hour.

Add the fish sauce, salt, sugar, soy sauce, and molasses. Taste. It should be slightly salty and sweet. Adjust seasonings, if you wish. Continue cooking on low heat to develop the flavors, until beef is tender and falls apart easily with a fork, about 2 hours. Discard the cinnamon sticks, garlic, and star anise.  Serve.

To serve, divide bean sprouts and noodles among 4 large bowls. Ladle beef soup over. Serve with little saucers of fish sauce, sugar, sambal, lime, scallions, and cilantro at the table, to season each individual bowl according to taste.