Ghormeh Sabzi (Chicken and Kidney Bean Stew)

Persian stew3

I love all kinds of Middle Eastern food and I’m always looking for new and interesting recipes. There is something about all of the wonderful fresh herbs and spices that I find irresistable. I came across this one when I was looking at some other recipe and like a magpie, my eye went to the shiny new object – in this case cooking with fenugreek and Persian limes. Whenever I am trying a new recipe, I try to find several versions of it and take what I like best from each of them. I didn’t actually do that here since this was such an unfamiliar recipe for me. However, I did note that many of the versions called for using lamb or beef stew meat, which I might try another time. Chicken is, of course, considerably less expensive than either lamb or beef and is also good if you are staying away from red meat. Meat will also have a longer cooking time. I would advise using the chicken thighs, however, as they are more flavorful than the chicken breast and also less prone to drying out. For just me and my husband, I am serving this with my version of a Jerusalem salad. If I am serving this to guests, I would serve several Middle Eastern salads and some warm pita or other flat bread.

Ghormeh Sabzi (Chicken and Kidney Bean Stew) from Tasting Table by Jake Cohen

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS                              Persian stew1

3 tablespoons canola oil

1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

6 ounces (12 medium) scallions, minced

2 cups minced parsley, plus more for garnish

1½ cups minced cilantro, plus more for garnish

4 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves

5 dried black Persian limes

Two 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained

Pita, for serving

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and add to the pot. Cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

2. Add the turmeric and onion to the pot, and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the scallions, parsley and cilantro, and cook until wilted and dark green, 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and add the chicken stock, fenugreek leaves and dried limes.

3. Bring to a simmer  and cook uncovered until the chicken is tender and the liquid has reduced, 25 minutes. Halfway through cooking, pierce 3 of the limes with a paring knife. Persian stew2

4. Add the kidney beans and cook until warmed through, another 5 minutes. Divide the stew between bowls and garnish with more parsley and cilantro. Serve with pita on the side. This is actually a very light dish and when making it again, I would serve it over rice.Persian stew4

Tuna and Spinach Tortas

Tuna torta1

When I was in elementary school, I came home for lunch every day. And every day I answered my mother the same way when she asked me what I wanted for lunch – tuna. I’m all grown up but I STILL love tuna – only the solid white albacore please. Of course, my tastes have become somewhat more sophisticated and I have learned that in the Mediterranean you can eat tuna without mayonnaise, celery and lots of lemon. This dish is simple to prepare and you will likely have most of the items in your pantry already. Any leftovers can be wrapped and frozen to be eaten at a later date. And who doesn’t love something baked in a muffin tin? They are so pretty! All it needs is a fresh salad (mine is arugula with toasted walnuts, shaved paremesan, shallot, cucumber and a bit of slivered jamon) and some good bread. A glass of a lovely wine wouldn’t go amiss and would turn this very inexpensive weekday meal into something special. This would also make a lovely brunch option.

Tuna Spinach Tortas adapted from a recipe on the Genova Tuna website

Yield: 6 Jumbo muffin-size tortas (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

10 ounces of frozen spinach, preferably from a bag not a box

Two 5 ounce cans of tuna packed in oil (I used white meat tuna but you could use any kind you like)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese plus a couple of Tablespoons

1/2 cup of unseasoned panko bread crumbs (mine were whole wheat becasue that was what I had)

1 bunch scallions, white and light green part only, thinly sliced OR 1 large shallot finely chopped

2 Tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro

10 Kalamata olives, chopped

12 small cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped

7 large eggs

3/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt and cracked black pepper or Mrs. Dash to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray the wells of the muffin tin with Pam or a neutral oil
  2. Place the frozen spinach in a strainer and run hot water over it, using your hands to break it up. Place the drained spinach in a tea towel or several layers of a strong paper towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. (REALLY squeeze!)
  3. Drain the tuna, discarding the oil. Combine the tuna, 1/4 cup of cheese and panko in a mixing bowl, stirring well so that everything is evely distributed. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and fresh cracked pepper. If it looks a little dry, add about 1 Tablespoon of EVOO.
  4. Divide the tuna mixture among the muffin wells and using the back of a spoon, pack it firmly.  Torta1
  5. Crack the eggs into the mixing bowl that you used for the tuna. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and lightly beat. Making sure that you have gotten rid of as much liquid as possible from the spinach, add it and the other ingredients to the eggs, mixing thoroughly.
  6. Divide the egg mixture over the tuna in each muffin well and lightly press it down. torta2Sprinkle a bit of extra grated cheese on top of each torta. Bake for 20 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Slightly cool in pan and then using a thin spatula, carefully lift out each torta.

Tuna torta2

 

 

Tofu Coconut Curry

Tofu curry2

Some weeks I am so overwhelmed by recipes I read and want to try that I actually end up unsure what to make. I know – it sounds crazy, but I find that I simply cannot make up my mind. Several weeks ago I read a recipe for a quick prawn curry that sounded good and so I printed out a copy for myself and then added it to my “to cook” folder – and forgot about it! One thing that I liked is that it serves two – just enough for me and my husband and no leftovers. I have nothing against leftovers and many, many nights when I get home from work, I am etxremely grateful for them, but sometimes I just wish I could eat a dish once during the week and then move on. I see no reason that this dish couldn’t be doubled, so if you need to cook for more than two people, give it a try. You could also substitute shrimp or diced boneless, skinless chicken breast. It’s quick enough for a weeknight dinner and only requires rice or another grain of your choice.

Shrimp Coconut Curry adapted from Nadia’s Healthy Kitchen

Yield: 2 – 3 Servings but can be doubled

Ingredients

14 ounces of cubed extra firm tofu OR 8 ounces of fresh or frozen uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined OR 3/4 of a pound of diced boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 can coconut milk

1 T coconut or Canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Juice of one lemon

Kosher or Sea salt to taste

1/2 bunch of chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Directions

  1. In a frying pan or wok, saute the onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until they become transparent
  2. Add all of the spices and garlic and cook for 1 more minute until fragrant
  3. Add the tofu and lemon juice. Stir to make sure that the tofu gets a good coating of the spices and then add in the coconut milk.
  4. Add the peas and season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  5. Cover and leave to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes depending on the protein used
  6. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro just before serving.
  7. Serve over rice or other grain of your choice.

Tofu Curry1

Tuscan Potato, Sausage and Kale Soup

zuppa toscana1I am afraid to jinx things, but mostly Chicago has been insanely lucky this winter. We have had very little snow and it hasn’t even truly been that cold – certainly nothing that lasted for days on end. As a result, I have been slightly less moved to make all of the soups and stews that I normally relish as soon as the temperature drops. The last few days have been a bit colder and the next few are expected to be as well so I went searching for new soups I could try out. I checked out about five different versions of Zuppa Toscana and ended up with my adaptation of a few. Some used 1:1 ratio of whole milk to chicken broth and that just seemed like way too much. And because I used chicken Italian sausage, instead of pork, there was virtually no added fat. Don’t get scared off by the heavy cream; it’s only one cup for a big pot of soup. The soup is actually ridiculously easy to make and you can have it ready in under an hour. Just have some crusty bread on hand and a salad if you are feeling ambitious. There is lots of kale in here so you are getting your greens.

Zuppa Toscana adapted from Tuscan Recipes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound fresh Italian sausage (hot or sweet) that has been removed from its casings

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 Tablespoon EVOO

3 large leeks, cleaned well and thinly sliced (white and light green part only)

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

10 cups of chicken stock, preferably no salt

4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons

1 cup heavy cream

1 large bunch kale (I just used regular curly kale, but you can use Tuscan kale if you prefer)

Fresh cracked black pepper and more Kosher salt to taste

Parmesan or Pecorino cheese for serving

Directions

  1. In a large, heavy soup pot of Dutch Oven, saute the Italian sausage and paprika, breaking it up while it cooks. Cook until just browned. If you are using pork sausage you will need to drain off the fat. Otherwise just set aside in a separate bowl.
  2. In the same pot, add the EVOO and saute the leeks and garlic until softened and beginning to brown. I sprinkle them with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt at this point.
  3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Now addthe sliced potatoes, turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the heavy cream, kale and add back the cooked sausage and cook until heated through. You want to serve this hot! Garnish with freshly grated cheese and crispy bread.

 

Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey

Ma Po Tofu

Okay, this may not sound wonderful, but it’s really quite good and simple to make. As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite food websites is Food52. I have found several very good recipes though the site as well as some fun – and useful – kitchen items to purchase. I love Asian food, especially as an antidote to the occasional over-indulgence in some rich foods. I haven’t located a delivery Chinese restaurant that ever seems worth the expense to me and frankly, what could be fresher than homemade.

This recipe is known as Ma Po Tofu in restaurants and is usually made with ground pork. I chose ground turkey, but feel free to substitute ground pork if you prefer. This is an adaptation of an adaptation of a recipe that was originally published in Food & Wine.

Ma Po Tofu (Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey) – adapted from Robin Diane

Yield: 4 portions unless served with other dishes

Ingredients

1 pound ground turkey

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 bunch minced scallions or more to taste

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

About 1 teaspoon sesame oil (regular or “hot”)

About 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Peanut oil)

3/4 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper

1 teaspoon (or more to taste) minced jalapeno pepper

1 rounded Tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1 rounded Tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 cup chicken stock, preferably unsalted

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons oyster sauce

1 pound fresh firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (see my instructions on pressing tofu)

Directions

  1. Press tofu according to instructions, cut into large dice and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. When ready to cook, combine the ground turkey, egg, 1 Tablespoon of the cornstarch, the five-spice powder, about 1 Tablespoon of the scallions, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar. 1/2 teaspoon of the seasme oil and the salt. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1.5 Tablespoons of the oil over high heat until it is shimmering. Then add the turkey mixture and break it up with a wooden utensil until it browns. Stir-fry until it is cooked through – about 3 minutes. Transfer to a strainer over a bowl to drain any excess fat.
  3. Lower the heat to moderate and add about 1 Tablespoon of the vegetable oil until it is hot. Stir in alll of the remaining scallions (except for about 1 Tablespoon that you have set aside for garnish), the red and jalapeno peppers, garlic and giner. Stir-fry until fragrant – about 30 seconds. Add back the cooked turkey and the remaining sugar and mix well. Increase the heat to high, stir in the chicken stock, soy sauce and oyster sauce and bring to a boil.
  4. Meanwhile dissolve the remaining 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 2 teaspoons of cold water. When well mixed, add the mixture to the center of the pan, stirring as you do it. Gently stir in the tofu and cook for about 3 minutes more until heated through. Serve over steamed or boiled rice and sprinkle with the remaining chopped scallions and drizzle with a bit more sesame oil.

Chicken with Almonds, Dried Cherries and Rice

chicken with riceIf you have a well-stocked pantry and 45 minutes, there is no reason that a weeknight chicken dinner needs to be boring.  Now I don’t always have the same things on hand and these kinds of recipes aren’t authentic anything. But if you cook long enough or enjoy trying new things when you eat out, you develop a sense of what sort of goes together. I also make use of my nose. I may not always know what spice I want by name, but I know it by sniffing. I also try to take into account the esthetics of the dish, which unsurprisingly perhaps turns out to usually help with the taste as well. This dish needed a pop of green so I added some frozen peas towards the end.

I don’t totally recall the occasion, but Frances and Matthew sent us a gift from D’Artagnan a while back and it included all kinds of wonderful goodies – some things I had tried and others, like a venison sausage with dried sour cherries, I hadn’t. It sat in my freezer until the other night after we had finished eating the cassoulet. I thought that before it got freezer burn, I really should use it. I had ordered some boneless, skinless chicken thighs figuring I would find a use for them. So now I had the basis for tonight’s meal.

I always, always keep an interesting array of dried fruits and nuts on hand that I buy from Nuts.com. If you live in the United States, you REALLY must try them! Frances is now a total convert. Check out what I came up with for an ordinary Thursday night. This should be a guide for you to try something different. If you don’t have this sausage on hand, try some andouille or chorizo and then adjust your spices.

Chicken with Almonds, Dried Cherries and Rice

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter + 1 Tablespoon more

1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5)

1/2 pound pork and venison sausage with dried cherries

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf, dried or fresh

2 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

Kosher Salt and Cracked Black Pepper to taste

1.5 cups Basmati Rice (Mine was white, but you could use Brown or Texmati rice)

4 cups chicken stock, preferably unsalted

1/2 cup dried sour cherries

1/2 cup blanched almonds (whole or slivered)

1 cup frozen peas

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon Ras al Hanout (I buy it on Amazon, but you can also make your own)

2 Tablespoons honey

Directions

  1. Place 3 Tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch Oven and heat until it starts to sizzle. Add the chopped onion, about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and saute for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken thighs and bay leaf and saute, turning just until it begins to lightly brown.
  3. Add the chicken stock, cherries, turmeric, cloves, another 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste) cinnamon sticks and Ras al Hanout. Bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, add the rice and stir through. Tuck the sausages into the rice. Cover the Dutch oven tightly and turn the heat down to a simmer. Check it if you aren’t sure. Then cook for 35 minutes.
  4. While the chicken is cooking, saute the almonds in 1 Tablespoon of the butter, moving them around until they just begin to brown. Add the honey. Turn off the heat and toss in your peas, gently mixing them together.
  5. At the end of the 35 minutes cooking time, remove the lid from the Dutch oven. The liquid should have been absorbed and the rice is very moist. Stir through the almonds and peas. Adjust your seasonings (add the pepper here) and enjoy.

chicken with almonds, cherries and rice

 

Ouzo Drenched Mussels

I really love mussels in white wine sauce but always thought that was the kind of food I would only order in a restaurant.  But one day I was reading the Wall Street Journal and came across this recipe and thought that just maybe I could do this at home. This wonderful recipe by Manhattan’s Balaboosta chef, Einat Admony for Ouzo Drenched Mussels with Fennel is  fabulous and as long as you have a good source of fresh and already cleaned and debearded mussels – it’s also easy to make. As with Chinese cooking, you need to have everything prepped and ready to go since it really only takes about a total of 15 minutes to actually cook.

I served it up with a crusty baguette and Admony’s recipe for Green Fatoush Salad. It was all so healthy, I didn’t even have to feel guilty. Well, except for that Pecan Pie with vanilla ice cream that I had for dessert….

By the way, while my husband and I ate this as a main course, it could easily make a fabulous first course for more people.

Mussels in ouzo

Adapted from Einat Admony’s Ouzo-Drenched Mussels with Fennel as it appeared in the Wall Street Journal 

Yield: 2 main course servings or 4 servings as a first course

Ingredients

4 garlic cloves thinly sliced or 2 teaspoons finely chopped

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 cup chopped or thinly sliced shallots

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

1/2 of a large fennel bulb cored and thinly sliced

2 Tablespoons chopped fennel fronds

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste

Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (I like lemon thyme if I can get it. In fact I like it so much that I am now growing it on my windowsill to ensure supply.)

1/2 cup Ouzo

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 pounds of mussels, cleaned and debearded (ask your fish monger to do this)

2 Tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. In a large, lidded pot over low heat, sauté garlic in butter and oil until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium, add shallots and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, sliced fennel, chili flakes, thyme and pinches of salt and pepper, and sauté until vegetables soften, about 2-3 minutes.  tomatoes and thyme
  2. Pour ouzo and wine into pot and simmer until alcohol cooks off, about 4 minutes. ouzoStir in mussels. Quickly cover pot with lid and steam mussels until they open, about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat, toss in parsley and fennel fronds. fennel fronds
  3. Gently toss mussels to coat in pan drippings. Serve immediately with good crusty bread. (And be sure to soak up all of that wonderful pot liquor with the bread – it’s the best part! A little briny and full of fennel, shallots and fresh herbs.) If any mussels don’t open on their own – toss them! In 2 pounds of mussels, we had only one that didn’t open. If you have more than 2 – complain to your fish monger.

White Bean Soup with Pesto and Chorizo

The weather this week has been pretty bleak – chilly, windy and rainy. This always turns my thoughts to soup and this white bean soup with pesto and chorizo is one hearty solution to banish the damp. It is thick and satisfying and only needs a salad and bread to make a complete meal. If you don’t have or like chorizo sausage you can substitute Andouille or a good garlicky sausage. It would still be delicious without any sausage, but for me, the sausage just puts it over the top.

When I first starting making this soup, you couldn’t buy ready-made pesto or even canned cannellini beans that easily, so I had to do everything from scratch. If you use some quality shortcuts like a good commercial stock and canned beans and prepared pesto – this soup is a snap to make and honestly just as wonderful. And if you don’t own an immersion blender, this should be a gift to yourself! It saves time and energy – yours and the environment’s. There is less clean-up than with a blender or food processor and you can even puree things that are hot without risking that mess you can make with hot soup in a blender. I am grateful to Frances and Matthew every time I use mine.

white bean soup

White Bean Soup with Pesto and Chorizo adapted from The Peasant Kitchen by Perla Meyers, which unfortunately seems to be out of print 

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

28 ounce can chopped San Marzano tomatoes in juice

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 – 15 oz. cans cooked white beans like Cannellini OR 5-6 cups cooked white beans

4 cups Chicken Stock, preferably unsalted (you could use Vegetable if you want)

1 teaspoon (or to taste) Kosher salt and about 25 cracks of fresh ground black pepper

1/2 cup broken up uncooked thin spaghetti or Angel Hair pasta

6 ounces (or more to taste) good quality pesto (look for one where basil is the first ingredient and where it uses olive oil and prefereably has pine nuts or walnuts)

6 ounces thinly sliced chorizo or other sausage (for this recipe, I prefer Spanish chorizo over Mexican – it’s dryer which is better with the soup.

Grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese for garnish

Directions

  1. In a 6 quart stock pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 Tablespoons of EVOO. Add the onion, garlic and parsley and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the onion has softened.
  2. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and oregano and continue cooking for another 6 or 7 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cups of the cooked beans and one cup of the stock. Then season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. If you are using an immersion blender, you can blend the mixture, with the heat turned off, immediately. You want it mostly smooth but don’t go crazy if there are some bigger bits. If you are using a blender or food processor, you must let the mixture cool down or you will have a mess. This will also need to be done in batches. See how much easier it is with an immersion blender?!
  5. Add the remaining beans an the rest of the stock. Season with salt and pepper and add the pasta. Stir. If y ou are not goin to eat this right away, you can allow the pasta to soften with the heat turned off in the covered pot. Otherwise, cook the pasta for about 8 minutes in the pot of soup.
  6. Add the chorizo or other sausage and the pesto. Stir through. The soup should be thick, but still soup.
  7. Serve with a dollop of pesto and some grated cheese. Leftovers will keep and they will thicken some. It’s up to you if you want to thin it out with some additional stock. I LIKE thick soup.

Take-IN Chinese food

chicken soong

I guess my cooking goes in phases – all Mediterranean, lots of Asian or South Asian or just plain, delicious comfort food. I have recently been looking through old recipes and came across one that I always loved and which somehow fell off of my food rotation. It’s called Chicken Soong and is Chinese lettuce-wrapped ground chicken. The recipe is hand-written and is probably at least 35 years old based on the note paper I found it on. I have no recollection of where I got the recipe, but I have no trouble recalling that I really liked this dish. I will serve it alongside a comforting beef, mushroom and broccoli dish over rice. It’s possible that 35 years ago, I might have made several other dishes alongside it, but I’m a little more realistic in my expectations now.

The prep could all be done the night before so when you get home from work or school or soccer practice, all you have to do is cook up your rice and throw the ingredients in the wok. The prep for two dishes takes about an hour. Perhaps if I were a faster chopper or more used to making Asian food, it could be done more quickly. The result is delicious and satisfying in under an hour – sort of. And the bonus is that if you have any of the lettuce wraps left-over, they make a wonderful lunch the next day.

Chicken Soong

Yield: This will not be satisfying as a dinner on its own. Combined with another dish like the one below, this will easily serve 6 people. If you make two more dishes, it could easily satsify 8 people unless you are feeding teenage boys – then all bets are off!

Ingredients:

10-12 lettuce leaves from either iceberg or leaf lettuce

1 pound ground chicken (I like the chicken to be a mix of white and dark meat so it isn’t so dry)

1 egg white (save the yolk for an omelette or baking pastry)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1-2 jalapeno chilis, cored and shredded/sliced (Know how much heat you like in your food; you can always substitute 1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers)

jalapeno

10-12 water chestnuts, thinly sliced, then diced

1/2 cup finely diced celery  finely diced celery

1/4 cup finely diced carrots (about 1 medium carrot)

1 rounded teaspoon finely chopped ginger (you can buy it in jars in the produce section to save time)

3-4 scallions, finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic (you can buy this in the produce section also to save time)

3/4 cup oil (Canola or Peanut are good here)

For sauce:

2 Tablespoons dry Sherry

1/2 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1/2 Tablespoon chili paste with garlic (harissa or Gochujang can be substituted)

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (You must use the toasted Asian sesame oil)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch combined with 1 Tablespoon water

Directions:

  1. Add egg white, salt and 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch to ground chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  2. Combine the celery, carrots, water chestnuts and peppers with ginger. Set asidecarrot celery water chestnut mix
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the scallion and garlic and set to the side.
  4. Combine the ingredients for the sauce except for the cornstarch and water
  5. In a separate dish combine the cornstarch and water and whisk with a fork or chopstick to make sure that it is well combined and there are no clumps
  6. Heat 3/4 cup of oil in a wok or deep skillet. Make sure that the oil is very hot before putting in the chicken so it doesn’t absorb the oil. Add the chicken, breaking up the pieces and stirring constantly for about 1.5 minutes. Drain over a strainer and set aside.drained chicken
  7. Return 2 Tablespoons of the oil to the wok and add the celery mixture. After 30 seconds, add the scallion and garlic. After 10 seconds, add the chicken and cook for 30 more seconds.chicken soong in motion
  8. Add sauce mixture with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (if you like it HOT, you can use the sesame oil with hot peppers). Cook for 30 seconds and then add the cornstarch mixture. Mix through and immediately turn off the heat.
  9. Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter and the filling in a bowl on the side. Everyone can take a tablespoon of the filling and roll it into a lettuce wrap.

beef and broccoli plated

Beef with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Yield: 4 – 6 servings with anothe rdish like the one above

Ingredients

10 ounces flat-iron steak thinly sliced against the grain (You can use flank steak but it will cost you about 2-3 times more and it really isn’t worth it)

3 cups broccoli florets, separated, with any stems, trimmed and sliced thinly on an angle

1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

About 4 ounces of mushrooms sliced (any kind will do so it is based on preference and budget)

About 2 Tablespoons of oil, preferably peanut oil divided

2 Tablespoons of water

For the meat

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

2 Tablespoons dry sherry

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon  sugar

For the sauce

2 Tablespoons dry sherry

2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 Tablespoon oyster sauce

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil for garnish

Directions

  1. Comine the ingredients for the meat in a bowl or heavy-duty plastic ziploc bag and refrigerate until ready to use. This can even be done the night before.
  2. When ready to cook, add 1 Tablespoons of the peanut oil to a hot wok. Pour the oil down the side of the wok, not into the center where it could easily splash you and burn. Add the meat, separating the pieces and moving them around until mostly cooked through. This only takes a couple of minutes.
  3. Carefully remove the cooked meat to a clean bowl and set nearby.
  4. Add 1 more Tablespoon of the remaining peanut oil to the hot wok and then add the onions. Stir for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli and mushrooms together and stir for 3 minutes.broccoli and mushrooms
  6. Then add back the meat and stir through. Add 2 Tablespoons of water. Cover the wok and cook for 3 minutes.
  7. Mix the sauce together so that all of the cornstarch is distributed and absorbed into the liquid. Uncover the wok, push the meat and veggies to the side a bit and carefully pour the sauce into the center of the pan. Immediately stir everything well to distribute the sauce and turn off the heat. The sauce will continue to thicken so do not leave the heat on.
  8. Serve over the rice of your choice. I’m usung brown rice tonight. Just be sure that your rice is cooked BEFORE beginning everything else.

Cool and exotic for a hot summer night

watermelon salad platter

These are the dog days of summer and at 91 degrees, the last thing I am about to do – even with central air conditioning – is cook. However, we still want to eat and this salad is refreshing and simple to make. All it really needs is some good pita or naan, a glass of refreshing wine and you can dine well without ever breaking a sweat. Fresh, high quality ingredients are key here. You are not masking anything with some slow-cooked sauce and it must be aesthetically pleasing as well.  While I highly recommend making the effort to find watercress, which has a distinctive flavor, you can make this successfully with only arugula, which might be more easily accessible. This salad cools you down in a flash. We may even decide to eat out on our terrace tonight.

Watercress Salad with Watermelon, Feta Cheese and Mint Dressing

Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients:

For Salad:

Half of a seedless watermelon, halved and then sliced, with the rind removed

8 ounces of a full-fat feta cheese block, cut into thin slabs

3 cups of arugula

2-3 cups of watercress

For dressing:

2/3 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves, with about 10 leaves saved for garnish

2 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley

Juice of 2 fresh lemons

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1/2 cup fruity olive oil

Garnish:

1/4 teaspoon sumac, optional

2 Tablespoons sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. When ready to serve, arrange the greens on a platter.
  2. Make the mint vinaigrette by placing all of the ingredients for the dressing, except for the EVOO in a blender. Puree until smooth.
  3. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the EVOO and process until emulsified.
  4. Toss the greens with a few tablespoonfuls of the dressing. Do not drown the greens! Any extra dressing can be stored in the fridge for several days in a glass jar.
  5. In a way that looks attractive (there is no ONE right way!) layer your watermelon slices over the greens. On top of the watermelon, lay thin slabs of feta cheese. Drizzle some more of the vinaigrette over the top and scatter the fresh, whole mint leaves over that. Voila! (Hopefully your watermelon will be redder and sweeter than this particular watermelon of mine was.)

watermelon salad plated