pan-fried asparagus with tomatoes and black olives (and bacon bits)

Pan-fried Asparagus with Tomatoes and Black Olives (and bacon bits)
2 pounds thick asparagus spears, ends trimmed
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup black olives, chopped
2 -4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon bacon, chopped and fried until crisp, drained (optional)
4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Trim the asparagus. Hold up one spear and snap off the end. Cut all the other spears to the same length.

Make the tomato-black olive dressing. Use the pan drippings from the pork chops to make the dressing. Over medium heat, fry the garlic in the pan drippings until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and olives. Cook until the tomatoes “spring” water and become wilted. Pour the dressing into a bowl, cover with foil, and reserve.

Cook the asparagus. Rinse out the skillet and dry it with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Lay half the spears in the pan in one direction. Lay the other half in the opposite direction. Cover and cook over medium heat until the asparagus turns a bright green, about 2-4 minutes. Remove to a serving dish and pour the dressing on top. Top with cheese, basil, or bacon bits.

soy ginger rice with tofu, edamame, and mixed vegetables

Soy Ginger Rice with Tofu, Edamame, and Mixed Vegetables (adapted from Shape.com)
Tonight is Election Night and it’s a nail-biter, so naturally, I am cooking something vegan! This is a tasty and hearty dish–even my meat lover allows  “it’s all right.” You can use just about any frozen mixed vegetables that you have in the freezer. I had peas and carrots so I used that. And since the ancestor of this dish is fried rice, that’s a sign to use up leftover vegetables too! Don’t be tempted to cook the ginger-garlic-onions in sesame oil. Sesame oil is delicate and is mainly used for flavoring in Chinese cooking, so a little bit goes a long way. 

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

2 cups dry brown basmati rice (rice cup measure)
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth (rice cup measure)
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 square inch of ginger, minced (or more if you love ginger!)
1⁄2 yellow onion, chopped
12-oz package of firm tofu, chopped
10-oz package frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1⁄2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 cup chopped peppers (red or green for color)
4 tablespoons organic soy sauce (can substitute tamari)
1⁄4 cup of chopped cilantro
1/4 cup scallion, sliced fine
1 small head of kale, deveined and chopped
1⁄4 cup sunflower seeds, optional
1-2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

Preparation:

Cook brown basmati rice in a rice cooker, using vegetable broth instead of water. When it has finished cooking, it can be left on the stay-warm setting.

Cook’s Note: I’ve always cooked rice the way my mother taught me and it works for rice cookers too. I simply put the rice in the rice cooker liner and fill it with liquid until it comes up to the level of my first finger joint (about 1 inch).

In a large Dutch oven,  heat the canola oil on medium-high heat. Then  add the garlic, ginger, and onion. Sauté for 2 minutes, and then add the tofu, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula so as not to break up the tofu, until browned, about 15-20 minutes. Next, add mixed vegetables, edamame, peppers, soy sauce,  and stir.

Cook’s Note: If you forgot to thaw the frozen vegetables, as I did, just put a small saucepan of water on the stove to boil. Add the frozen vegetable until heated through. Drain and add to the pot!

Once the rice is cooked, add it to the vegetable mixture, turn the heat to low, add salt, pepper, and extra soy sauce or tamari if desired. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons sesame oil and toss gently. Turn off the heat but do not cover, since the heat will cook the vegetables.

Meanwhile, steam the kale and then toss with sunflower seeds, if desired. Divide into four or six portions. Serve the rice with the kale on the side, and scallions and cilantro for garnish.

Cook’s Note: I love the fragrance of coconut oil. So instead of steaming, I stir-fried the kale in a tablespoon of coconut oil until it turned bright green–no more than 30 seconds. Then I seasoned the kale with Fleur de Sel (sea salt) and red chili flakes.

casuyon chicken menudo pie

Casuyon Chicken Menudo Pie (adapted from a recipe by Claire Casuyon’s Mom)
If you subtract the pie crust, bacon and leeks you have Menudo, Filipino style. Either one is a great dish, very easy to make for a Sunday supper with an accompaniment of a simple salad of fresh greens and grape tomatoes.

2 slices smoked bacon, chopped
3 cups leeks, sliced thin (about 2 leeks)
1 smashed garlic clove
1 tablespoon canola oil, optional
4 inch ginger root, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
4 boneless skinless thighs, trimmed of visible fat and chopped into 2 inch chunks
2 boneless skinless breasts, halved into 1 inch thick fillets and sliced into 2 inch chunks
1 1/2 cups red potato, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
1 cups baby carrots (1/2 bag of baby carrots), sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
2 cans of tomato sauce (preferably Hunts)
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Menudo Seasoning, or to taste

Menudo Seasoning (from The Cook’s Thesaurus)
Combine two parts oregano, two parts onion flakes or powder, one part crushed coriander seed, one part cumin, and one part crushed red chili pepper. Store in a jar.

Pie
1/2 package of frozen puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator
1 tablespoon fat free milk
1 large egg white

  1. In a dutch oven, cook bacon over medium high heat until brown and crisp. Then sauté leeks and garlic with the bacon and fat until slightly soft; if necessary add more oil. Add ginger and sauté for 2 more minutes.
    Add chicken thighs and stirfry. Reduce heat to medium. Let the meat cook until the outside turns white, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper for taste.
  2. Stir in two cans of tomato sauce and the bay leaf. Add water if the sauce seems too thick, then let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add menudo seasoning. If a stronger, thicker tomato sauce is desired, add the tomato paste.
    Preheat oven to 450˚F.
  3. Add chicken breasts, carrots, potatoes and bay leaf. Cover and let simmer until chicken is cooked and veggies are soft, about 20-25 minutes. Stir every 2-3 minutes. Add the peas. Adjust seasoning.
    Pour meat and vegetables into a 9.5 inch pie plate.
  4. Roll out pie crust onto a well-floured board so that there is an inch overhang. Loosely roll up the pie crust onto the rolling pin and roll it out on top of the meat and vegetables. Tuck the edges under on the rim of the pie plate. Either pinch the edges between thumb and forefinger or crimp with a fork. Mix water and egg white together and brush the top with the mixture. Poke the top with a knife to make slits or use the tines of a  fork to make vents. Bake 20-30 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove the pie from the oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.
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pan-fried fish fillets with mediterranean tomato sauce

I’ve been cooking a lot with tomatoes lately!  Tomatoes are so versatile raw or cooked, so naturally, I had to try this new fish recipe. According to myrecipes.com, this recipe, if made with 6 ounce yellowtail snapper fillets with the skin on, amounts to 282 calories per serving. I used tilapia because it was available (and cheaper) but I think any white fish will do. The sauce has a nice light taste; not overpoweringly tomato-y. In fact,  all the flavors of the herbs come through, so be sure to use fresh as directed in the recipe.

Pan-Fried Fish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce (adapted from myrecipes.com)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (flat-leaf parsley in original recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds tilapia fillets (approximately 2 large fillets)

1. In a medium skillet heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add tomato to the pan and cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the capers, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, chives, and tarragon. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste. Cover the skillet to keep warm.

2. In a large nonstick skillet heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper per side. Add fish to the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Turn the fish over; cook 3 minutes or until the fish turns white and flakes easily with a fork. Serve fish with the warmed sauce.

pressed tofu with garlic mint sauce

After all my dietary sins this week, I atoned for it with this meal. I felt quite virtuous about it, too; a good Catholic enjoys doing penance. The tofu was quite tasty–slightly lemon-y, mint-y, and garlic-y.  It’s a tad redder than it should be because I got over-enthusiastic with the paprika. Nevertheless,  I enjoyed the garlic mint sauce, but I would ramp up the flavors, as I have noted in the recipe. I like to follow a recipe exactly the first time I try it, but I was a bit alarmed by the directions in the original. It said to press the tofu  while it was cooking by weighting it down with another skillet and a large can of tomatoes. My top skillet got hot and I worried about heating an unopened can of tomatoes. It’s far safer to press the tofu before cooking, so I’ve given directions how to do this.

Pressed Tofu with Garlic Mint Sauce

Ingredients:

2 packs firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch slices
4-6 cloves garlic
1 1/2 -2 teaspoons salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
lemon zest from 1 lemon
3 tbs lemon juice (half a lemon)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 cup vegetable broth

Directions:

1. In a large bowl or dish, make the marinade. First, mash garlic and salt together into a paste. Combine with mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, paprika, and 1/2 cup vegetable broth and mix. Set aside.

2. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 layers of paper towels and place tofu in a single layer on top. Cover the tofu with more paper towels. Place another large rimmed baking sheet on top of the paper towels. Weight down the baking sheet with canned goods or books or both. Let sit for 20 minutes until tofu slices are flattened and the paper towels are soaked.

3. Place tofu slices into marinade, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

4. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Heat skillet on medium.  Gently shake tofu slices to shake off excess marinade, and place them in the pan to brown, about 4 minutes per side. You may need to do this in batches. Save the marinade.

5. After you remove the last batch of tofu, add the reserved marinade and the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Simmer until the sauce is reduced by one third. Pour garlic-mint sauce over the tofu slices. Serve with hot rice and eat Chinese-style with chopsticks!

chickpea cakes with tzatziki sauce

It was one of those nights where I had leftover sides but no main course. For a healthy dinner tonight I made this chickpea cake with tzatziki or cucumber sauce. I served it with the green apple-corn slaw left over from the grilled fish tacos, and some cannellini and green beans leftover from lunch. I love asparagus so I pan-roasted a bunch and served it with a dressing of tomatoes, garlic, and ripe olives. Simple and delicious!

Chickpea Cakes with Tzatziki Sauce (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 slices high-quality sandwich bread, torn into pieces (I used 2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs and skipped Step 1)
1 cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise, seeded and shredded
Salt
1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
6 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
Black pepper
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garam masala (see Cook’s Note)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
Lime wedges for serving (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Prepare to make the chickpea cakes. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350˚F. Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Do not wash the food processor bowl afterwards. Spread the crumbs on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and dry, 10-12 minutes. Let the crumbs cool to room temperature.
  2. Make the Tzatziki Sauce. Meanwhile, toss the cucumber with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a colander and let drain for 20 minutes. Combine the drained cucumber 3/4 cup of the yogurt, 2 tablespoons of the scallions, and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro in a bowl and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  3. Make the chickpea patties. Pulse the chickpeas in the food processor to a coarse puree with large pieces remaining, about 8 pulses. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, 2 tablespoons of the oil, garam masala, cayenne, and 1/8 teaspoon salt together. Stir in the toasted bread crumbs, remaining 1/2 cup yogurt, remaining scallions, remaining 3 tablespoons cilantro, processed chickpeas, and shallot until just combined. Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop the chickpea mixture and roll into balls. Flatten. Repeat.  This amount makes about 10-12 cakes.
  4. Cook the patties. Spray cooking spray in a 12 inch non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat until hot. Carefully lay half the cakes in the skillet and cook until well browned on both sides, 8-10 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Repeat.
  5. Serve. Transfer the cakes to a plate and tent loosely with foil. Serve with tzatziki sauce and lime wedges.

Cook’s Note: To make garam masala:  1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Per serving (1 cake plus 1/4 cup sauce): Cal 240; Fat 12g; Sat fat 2.5g; Chol 75mg; Carb 23g; Protein 12g; Fiber  5g; Sodium 610mg

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.