black peppercorn

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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Portuguese businessman’s salt cod aka bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

Portuguese businessman’s salt cod aka bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

This is another Portuguese salt cod recipe which I adore. Legend says that it was created by a businessman from the northern city of Porto, hence the name Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá. It is a complete success all over Brazil and a comfort food for me. It reminds me of the holidays from my childhood. My brothers and sisters would all come home and my mom would make special delectable meals for the 13 of us! Lots of activity in the kitchen preparing meals for a big family! This was one of the best.

Portuguese businessman’s salt cod aka bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

2lb dry salt cod
4 large Yukon gold potatoes
4 red bell peppers, cut in quarters, stems and seeds removed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorn
1 cup olive oil
4 tbsp canola oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 eggs boiled – how to boil eggs?
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped fine
3 medium sized white onions, 2 of them cut thinly in half moon shape
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Soak cod in cold water for about 24 hours changing water about 4 times. Place cod in a large saucepan, fill with fresh water; add bay leaf, peppercorns and one whole onion. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer cod with part of the cooking water to a bowl and let it cool down to room temperature. Retain remaining cooking water in pan. Drain, shred cod into bite size pieces. Remove and discard skin and any bones.

cooked, desalinated cod

cooked, desalinated cod

prepared salt cod

prepared salt cod

Return saucepan to the burner. Add whole potatoes, top with more water if needed. Bring to a boil and cook until soft by not crumbly. Mine took about 25 minutes. Scoop potatoes out of the pan, and let them cool in a colander. Once cool enough to handle, peel and cut into thick slices then set aside, keep warm.

Follow the link above to boil the eggs.

Meanwhile add canola oil to a pan that is wide enough to lay quartered peppers skin down in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt, cover, bring temperature to high. Then lower it and cook/poach peppers until soft and skins are wrinkled, about 15-20 minutes. Do not burn them. Remove from heat, let cool, peel and discard skins. Set aside. Reserve the oil for other cooking purposes.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel, add ¾ cup olive oil, sliced onion, some salt and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring every now and then. Onions should be soft but not browned. Towards the last minute add crushed garlic followed by the prepared cod. Put in parsley, bell and black peppers. Carefully fold in potatoes and heat through.

Transfer to a warm serving bowl, garnish with slices of egg and Kalamata olives. Drizzle remaining olive oil over everything.

{ 11 comments }

flower pepper pickles

by Heguiberto on November 10, 2010

flower pepper pickles

flower pepper pickles

These beautiful flower peppers came from my friend Sandy who is a great gardener. Aside from their marvelous shape and startlingly red color, these peppers are also blessed with delicious and very sweet flesh, but the seeds can be tricky as you may end up every now and then biting into an extremely spicy one. Mostly these turned out to be mild, with a few noticeable exceptions. They sort of remind me a bit of garlicky pimientos de padrón. Spicy heat is not an issue at home because we adore it. However if you are concerned, just make sure you remove the seeds before eating these pepper treats. I didn’t bother. Plus they wouldn’t be quite as cute all sliced up.

fresh flower peppers from Sandy's garden

fresh flower peppers from Sandy's garden

I tried to make these similar to the flower pepper pickles that I sampled the other week at the Whole Foods olive bar nearby our house. The recipe also reminds me a lot of pickled Serrano and jalapeño peppers.

flower pepper pickles cooling

flower pepper pickles cooling

flower pepper pickles

1lb fresh flower peppers, rinsed
½ cup olive oil
5 gloves garlic, smashed
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1½ cups white Italian wine vinegar (6% acidity)
1½ cups water
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp kosher salt

Just bring all the ingredients to a boil except for the flower peppers and olive oil. Meanwhile using a tooth pick, punch a couple of holes in each pepper to prevent them from bursting. Add them to the boiling vinegar solution, cover and simmer at low temperature for about 5 minutes. Transfer peppers to a jar. Top with olive oil. Let it rest at room temperature for about 8 hours then refrigerate. Eat them within a week or so.

You can have them as a side for sandwiches or wraps, with rice and beans, or as a snack to go with beer. They’re very tasty.

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pickled artichokes

by Heguiberto on July 19, 2010

I got a couple of gi-normous globe artichokes at our local Trader Joe’s last week. They were so beautiful and fresh, shipped directly from the cold misty weather of Castroville south of Monterrey Bay in Central California. Not too bad for our carbon footprint, I think…

pickled artichokes

Because we went out for dinner several nights that week, there was no time to eat these delectable things. Instead of making them my usual way, I chose to pickle them to enjoy on a less hectic week.

I’ve cut and pasted the instructions on how to peel, trim, and remove the chokes from the inedible parts from that earlier post on fresh baby artichokes, as it’s always the same, so why bother torturing myself with trying to re-write it in a new way?

Rinse baby artichokes in cold water. Using your fingers, remove about 3 to 4 layers of the outer petals/ leaves. Then cut about ½ of artichoke top off. Using a potato peeler, shave the rough outer layer off the stem and base. Don’t cut the stems off! These taste great and make the finished dish look much more interesting and exotic. Cut the very tip of the stem off. Then split artichoke in half cutting it lengthwise (from stem through the crown of the bud.) Carve the choke (the hairy/spiny center) out with a spoon or a sharp paring knife. Immediately toss prepared artichoke into a large bowl filled with cold water and the juice of a lemon along with the squeezed lemon peel itself. This will keep the artichoke from turning brown. Repeat with all artichokes.

This pickling required a week long wait for the flavors to marry before we could try them. But it was well worth the wait! These were delicious! We had some last Saturday for lunch and it tasted great. I think I am going to prepare a big batch next time to leave in the fridge and eat as a side dish to accompany sandwiches, pasta, etc. Yum! Artichokes are very versatile and enliven any dish with their delicate and complex flavor.

key ingredients for pickled artichokes

pickled artichokes

2 large artichoke, cleaned as above, cut in halves
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup water
1 tbsp black pepper corn
2 cloves garlic, slivered
3 sprigs fresh oregano
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp kosher salt or less if using sea salt (salt must be non-iodized)
2 dried red hot chili peppers
¼ tsp sugar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Steam artichoke halves for about 5 minutes or until they feel ‘ al dente’ when pierced with a fork. Remove from heat to a glass jar.

cleaned steamed artichoke halves

Using a stainless steel pan, combine water, vinegar, black and red peppers, oregano, garlic, salt, sugar and basil. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir to make sure salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and pour over artichokes. Pour olive oil on top. The ‘chokes should be completely covered. Close the lid and let it cool down to room temperature. Move it to the fridge and let it cure for a week. Give jar a quick shake every day and return to the fridge.

pickled artichokes cooling almost ready for the fridge

After the bother of cleaning the artichokes, this recipe was surprisingly easy and really, really, really good!!!

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