soups & salads

I really enjoy using ingredients that have sour flavors: lemons and limes, tamarind, tomatoes, berries and, as always, wine vinegar make me happy. I never tried sorrel until a couple of years ago when my friend John prepared a French fish dish with this delightfully sour veggie. I think he just steamed the fish and served it on a bed of sautéed sorrel. Yumm, just the thought of sorrel makes my mouth water.

warm carrot salad with sorrel

warm carrot salad with sorrel

I harvested this sorrel from a garden in my neighborhood, so it is extremely fresh and I know all about where it was grown. It is always exciting to eat things that have not had to travel too much to your table. The carrots are organically grown from Capay Farm. They produce the most delicious Nantes carrots. Any time I go to the Alemany market I make sure I get plenty of them. Normally I eat them raw as a snack, but this last time I exaggerated on the amount we purchased. They were on sale: buy two bunches, get the third one free. Who can resist a good deal like that?

One disadvantage with sorrel is that it discolors very fast when you cook it, so don’t be discouraged by a grayish green look here. The wonderful sour flavor surely makes up for the loss of the vibrant green.

warm carrot salad with sorrel

1 bunch Nantes carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Black pepper
Sea salt
2 cups sorrel leaves, julienned

Add carrots, 2 tbsp of olive oil, garlic and a pinch of salt to a pan over high heat. Cook until it sizzles and garlic becomes aromatic but not brown. Add few drops of water and cook for few minutes until carrots are tender but still a bit crunchy. Remove from pan and transfer to a serving bowl. Let cool down for a couple of minutes. Add julienned sorrel, the remainder of the olive oil adjust flavors with more salt and black pepper.

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This recipe was adapted from Plenty by Yottam Otholenghi. I remain a huge fan his book. We’ve prepared many of his recipes, often more than once: a total success at home, as you can see here: Ottolenghi’s roasted eggplant, sambal okra, and chickpeas with chard. Mmmm!

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

This is another yummy recipe. It is decadent as it is loaded with dairy, but I think it’s a-okay to indulge every now and then. The watery crunchiness of the endive combined with the creamy texture of this sauce is divine!

Funny thing is that I made this salad right after we came back from France. Could we be suffering from dairy deprivation so soon?

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

3 heads white endive, leaves separated, rinsed and dried
1 head red endive, leaves separated, rinsed and dried
a small portion of micro greens, rinsed and dried
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup walnuts, slightly toasted, with sprinkle of salt, cooled to room temperature
Kosher salt to taste
whole leaves of Iceberg lettuce
1 cup crème fraîche
2 tbsp water
~4 tbsp crumbled Point Reyes Monterrey blue cheese

In a bowl whisk together crème fraîche, water, blue cheese, some salt and pepper. Taste it and adjust flavor adding more of any of the ingredients. It should have a somewhat runny texture; taste savory, with that punchy flavor that you expect from a good blue cheese. Toss the sauce with the endive. To serve, pile seasoned endive over iceberg lettuce leaf cups on individual dishes, top with micro greens and toasted walnuts.

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The first time that I had this soup was with my glamorous friend, Euriele. At the time we both worked together in Palo Alto. One day we just took a long lunch break and feasted on an authentic Korean meal with multiple courses: kimchi soup, pickled cucumber, bean sprout, rice cooked with beans, Napa cabbage kimchi, Korean seafood pancake, seaweed salad and other items I don’t recall right now. There were so many! The centerpiece of the lunch was the spicy soup served piping hot in a stoneware pot. You cracked a fresh egg over the soup and watched it cook while at the same time you waited for the soup to cool down enough to eat. I love spicy food. That said, some Korean dishes are not for beginners when it comes to chili pepper intensity. This soup is an exciting and hot example.

spicy kimchi soup aka Kimchi Jiigae

spicy kimchi soup aka Kimchi Jiigae

To make my kimchi jiigae, I used the rest of the Napa cabbage kimichiI had prepared the previous week.

This recipe was adapted from this you tube video. The video uses meat, so I changed it here. If you’re vegetarian then no need to watch it :)

spicy kimchi soup aka Kimchi Jiigae

1lb silken tofu (extra soft type) chopped into 1x1x1 inch thick pieces
5 cups chopped kimchi and juices
1tsp sugar
1tbsp Korean Gochugaru hot pepper paste
1tbsp Gochugaru pepper flakes
½ cup red onion chopped
3 whole scallions chopped
Water to cover the chopped kimchi by two inches
Toasted sesame oil
½ head iceberg lettuce cut into large wedges

Place chopped kimchi and juices in a large sauce pan with onions, scallions, gochugaru peppers, sugar and water. Bring everything to a boil, cook on high for about 10 minutes, reduce temperature to medium and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Add tofu towards the last 10 minutes.

Place a wedge of iceberg in each bowl. Add a couple of ladles of the soup, and drizzle with some toasted sesame oil. Serve with a side of rice.

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Okay. They say cardoon’s flavor and texture resembles artichokes. I like artichokes, a lot. But as everyone knows, they’re technically difficult to prepare. So many sharp rough leaves to remove before you get to the flavorful choke. Well, in that sense, cardoon isn’t too different, either. Cardoons don’t grow chokes. Instead you have to remove the leaves and thorns, peel the stalks, remove the stringy fiber from them, then boil the tough buggers for some 30 minutes before you’re ready to begin!

But I’m brave in the kitchen so I finally decided to endure the cardoon challenge.

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

Frankly, I have yet to decide if it was worth it. This is loads of work for a somehow mediocre flavored end result. Cardoon and artichoke plants look alike: both gorgeous with spindly long stalks and silvery green leaves. I have to agree cardoon does taste slightly like artichokes but the texture isn’t quite right, sort of like crunchy and watery celery stalks or maybe chayote. I love both celery and chayote but since I was primed for artichokes, this was a tragic disappointment.

I followed this recipe to clean and parboil my cardoon.

I started with a whole plant but by the end only ended up with about 2½ cups of the prepared veggie. I cooked them like I do artichoke hearts. This recipe is a variation of the one with mint and anchovy (without the mint since I didn’t have it) and my favorite one with lots of olives.

cardoon plant

cardoon plant

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

2½ cups cooked cardoons
4 cloves garlic chopped fine
2 tbsp capers chopped
½ green olives chopped
2 anchovy fillets
½ to 1 bunch Italian parsley chopped
1½ dry white wine
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half lemon
Black pepper
salt

Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a saucepan followed by garlic and anchovies. Cook at low temperature for about a minute or so. Anchovies will dissolve. Bring temp to high then add capers, olives, parsley and cardoon. Toss to combine, add white wine, cover the pan and bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper, squeeze with lemon juice and finally add remaining of olive oil. Serve as a side dish, warm or at room temperature.

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authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

by Heguiberto on January 11, 2013

This Napa cabbage kimchi turned out as authentic as the ones I eat at Korean restaurants here in San Francisco. It was fun to make and it took just 3 days before it was ready. (Three days might sound like a long time to some, but I’ve seen recipes where the kimchi had to ferment for a week or more.) I have made kimchi at home before but never used the traditional Korean gochugaru pepper. Instead I substituted jalapeño and poblano peppers, which resulted in an ultra-spicy version. This is milder.

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

This recipe, with some minor adaptations, comes from Insanity Theory written by Ellie Won, a South Korean who grew up in Australia.

Aside from the excellent recipe, she wowed me with a kimchi refrigerator! Pretty cool! It makes sense to me. My jar of kimchi only fit in the refrigerator after some serious reshuffling.

Steven served it for the first time with rice and beans cooked in the Brazilian way. I simply love mixing foods from different ethnic backgrounds. The results can be surprisingly good. I think that this is what they call fusion cuisine? A bit of this and a bit of that combined together? It certainly breaks the monotony of a meal that could otherwise be boring and monochromatic. A toast to globalization!

The recipe calls for Chinese pear, which I didn’t have. I added red radish to it and changed the proportions of chili powder, sugar and fish sauce. I also added a fresh red jalapeño pepper because… well why not?

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

1 large head Napa Cabbage cut into wedges (~6Lbs)
~1½ cups non iodized sea salt
4 cups water (1 quart)
1 heaping tbsp sweet rice flour (sticky rice)
1 &1/3 cup Gochugaru chili powder
3 tbsp fish sauce (leave it out in case you want to make it vegan) use ~ 1 tbsp salt instead
1 tbsp sugar
6 whole scallions cut into 2’’ long segments
6 cloves garlic
1 2’’ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
½ white or sweet onion
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and ribs removed
5 small red radishes, thinly sliced
1/3 lb daikon, sliced

key ingredients for authentic kimchi

key ingredients for authentic kimchi

Dissolve ½ cup of salt in the water. Add cabbage bottom parts in first. Make sure all leaves and base receive a coat of this brine. Drain water.

Use part or all the remainder salt to sprinkle over each leaf, including the thick white parts at the base. Put the cabbage in a bowl and let the salt dehydrate it for about 3 hours (Ellie recommends 5-6 hours or until it is floppy). Mine became floppy within 3 hours.

Rinse cabbage thoroughly in running water to remove excess salt. Squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Place it in a colander and allow it to drain for another 15 to 20 minutes.

During the cabbage dehydration process, make a ‘pudding’ or ‘glue’ by mixing rice powder with ½ cup of water and cooking it on low heat, whisking nonstop until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Towards the last 10 minutes before draining is complete, add jalapeño chili, onion, ginger, garlic, and daikon to your food processor. Whiz into a pulp. Mix this pulp with the rice ‘glue’ along with gochugaru pepper, sugar and fish sauce.

Using a spatula spread the kimichi paste uniformly on both sides of each of the leaves. Put the cabbage in and jar, cover and let it rest in a dark, cool place for about 3 days. Be careful when opening it as gases that build up during fermentation will be under pressure. When ready the flavors will have married and you will sense a slight fizzyness, At this point refrigerate and enjoy.

As your kimchi continues to age in the fridge the flavors become more pungent. If it gets too intense to eat by itself, you can turn the kimchi into soups or make a yummy kimchi fried rice.

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Our old friend David went to Seattle last year and brought us a little tin filled with the aromatic Turkish powder, baharat, from that city’s famous Public Market. I have been shy about using it. Frankly, I thought the spice mix was for meat dishes only. So I’d sort of side-lined it to the back of the spice cabinet, that is until I read Yotam Ottolenghi uses baharat in a tabbouleh recipe from his new book, Jerusalem.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

So I did a little research. Turns out, baharat is a mélange of allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamonn, cloves, coriander, cumin, chili pepper and nutmeg. It has a wonderful scent.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

½ cup bulgur
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped fine
2 shallots, chopped fine, rinsed in running cold water
Juice of 3 lemons or more
3 large bunches of Italian parsley, washed, drained and chopped fine
5 leaves of escarole, washed, drained and chopped fine
2 bunches mint, rinsed, dried and chopped fine
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baharat mix
1/3 to ½ cup first cold press, top quality, arbequina olive oil
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Rinse bulgur in a strainer. Add to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for ½ hour. Drain and squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Transfer to a large bowl, add tomatoes, shallot, parsley, mint, escarole, spices, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add lemon juice and about two thirds of the olive oil. Toss again. Let it rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Just before serving add more olive oil and lemon juice and toss again.

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spicy pressed tofu salad

by Stevie on August 21, 2012

spicy pressed tofu salad

spicy pressed tofu salad

I’m so excited about this new-to-me book, Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Tofu. I saw it by chance at the local Whole Foods and was cautiously interested. I ordered a copy from the library and couldn’t put it down once I started reading. I shall have to splurge and actually buy a copy soon.

Nguyen writes in a lucid style with a modern sensibility. Despite the extremely broad sounding title, the focus here is on traditional uses of the various kinds of tofu. She’s lots of helpful illustrations and really breaks down the subject matter into digestible portions—pun intended. I made this dish last week just before we left for a trip to LA to hear fun. at the Wiltern. Mmmmm!

spicy pressed tofu salad

1 package pressed tofu cut into bite-sided cubes
2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
4 spring onions, cut into rounds
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp fermented black beans, mashed
2½ tbsp chili bean sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp sugar
1 to 2 tbsp spicy chili oil to garnish

Andrea recommends “refreshing” the peanuts by lightly roasting them in a dry pan. Let cool. Add to tofu with spring onion.

In a small pan, add canola oil, sesame oil, fermented black beans and chili bean sauce. Heat about two minutes on medium. Remove from heat and add sugar and soy sauce.

Toss sauce with tofu. Sprinkle with some chili oil. Serve.

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I have fond memories of a cooking class we took in Chiang Mai, Thailand several years ago. The chef picked us up early in the morning from the hotel then off we went to a thrilling local market to buy the ingredients for the cooking class feast. I think there were about 16 of us divided into pairs. Each group, after a brief classroom training session, was directed to an open restaurant kitchen area to cook different Thai recipes with the produce we bought earlier. We all shared the prepared dishes at the end.

vegetarian Vietnamese Pho

vegetarian Vietnamese Pho

Steven and I made Tom Yum with coconut milk. Since then I learned to make the one with clear broth which is my favorite. I have been making my Thai inspired soups at home for while now. They’re very versatile: here’s one with fresh salmon, another more traditional style and a third with Dungeness crab. Mmmm!

me at a buzzing Chiang Mai market

me at a buzzing Chiang Mai market

our Thai chef instructor

our Thai chef instructor

ready to cook amazing Thai food

ready to cook amazing Thai food

slurping up my first ever homemade Thai Tom Yum soup

slurping up my first ever homemade Thai Tom Yum soup

I have not yet had the honor and pleasure of travelling to Vietnam, but I can’t wait! I love Vietnamese Pho, that brothy spicy clear soup that’s usually served with paper thin slices of steak and other cuts of meat. Since becoming pescatarian, I haven’t really had it in a while. It’s hard to find a good pesce-veggie pho alternative. Though we’re blessed in San Francisco with two places, The Loving Hut and The Golden Era, both of which make good vegan versions. However I wanted to make my own soup at home.

I read an inspiring article in the New York Times on vegetarian pho broth and a related post on the subject at Ellie May’s blog.

Like that Thai cooking class for Tom Yum, these stories demystified pho for me. It is completely easy to make provided that you have the correct ingredients. One funny thing about this is that I have never been a huge fun of cinnamon or star anise and these spices shine in the soup… go figure. I’ve already made it twice and will be returning to this recipe often I’ve a feeling. Pho broth has a tart, salty, smoky, slightly sweet, and earthy flavor that matches perfectly well with the fresh herbs added at the end. Love it!

vegetarian Vietnamese Pho

for the broth:

3 quarts water
1 small daikon radish, cut into chunks
3 carrots, cut into chunks
2 tbsp soy sauce
Kosher salt to taste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 large onion, quartered
1 shallot, halved
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger
4 shiitake mushrooms
5 large cloves garlic, skin on, crushed
2 star anise pods
4 whole cloves
1 piece of good cinnamon (~3 inches)

for the solids:

Rice Noodles (~1 lb) – (pad Thai noodles)
Small pack of seitan strips soaked in 1 tsp soy sauce and 1 crushed fresh garlic clove
Field Roast cold cut sliced thinly
2 oz of Yuba cut into strips
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups fresh mung bean sprouts
Chives
Thai basil leaves
Mint leaves
Cilantro leaves
Lime cut into wedges
1 serrano chili pepper cut in rounds

condiments:

Hoisin sauce
Chili garlic sauce

preparing the broth

preparing the broth

Put first seven ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile place onion, shallot, garlic, ginger, mushroom, star anise, cloves and cinnamon in a skillet and toast until veggies begin to caramelize and everything becomes aromatic. Add toasted ingredients to the boiling broth, turn temperature down and simmer for 25 minutes. Discard solids.

roasting the onion, garlic, ginger and various spices

roasting the onion, garlic, ginger and various spices

While broth is cooking boil another pot of water, drop rice noodles in, remove from heat and let soak for about 15 minutes. Check every now and then for doneness. Noodles should not cook too long. Look for an al dente texture. Drain

Using the same skillet add olive oil followed by marinated seitan and cook for about 4 minutes then set aside.

To assemble the soup, place some noodles in the bottom of a bowl, add some mung bean sprouts, then ladle some piping hot broth over them. Top with a wedge of lime, some seitan, yuba, Field Roast cold cut slices, a few leaves of basil, mint and serve with more herbs and mung bean sprouts on the side.

Broth should be adjusted at the table with a dash of hoisin and chili garlic sauce.

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Cherokee tomato gazpacho

July 16, 2012

I’m so excited! We just came back from the Alemany farmers market after a quick stop at our community garden plot. The garden’s doing great but the market was amazing! Goodbye to all those tiresome root vegetables—at least for now. Heirloom tomatoes are back! It isn’t quite mid-summer yet but they’re starting to look good. […]

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roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

June 11, 2012

Spring is racing by and asparagus are plentiful right now here in sunny Northern California. But it won’t last. This is the time of year when this beautiful vegetable tastes best. It is true that nowadays one can buy any vegetable or fruit basically whenever but the difference is in taste and in the size […]

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