cilantro

Our friend John prepared this dish for us long ago. Completely delighted, I meant to ask for the recipe but kept forgetting. The southeast Asian mix of fresh garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili pepper is divine.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

Recently I was craving it so I decided to take the risk of making/mixing my own sauce. I may have made it a bit Japanese with the addition of mirin and rice vinegar for an extra bit of sweetness and tartness. You know rice just goes so well with these two flavors, right?

Another thing I find makes me eat with gusto is atypical use of cucumber, here served in a warm dish. I grew up eating cucumbers only in salads so enjoying them any other way is incredible. The cukes were warm but still crunchy. I think Persian or Japanese cucumbers work best for this dish.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

1½ cups rice (Thai Jasmine, Basmati or Spanish)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb wild caught shelled and deveined medium sized shrimp
6 Persian cucumbers
sea salt
1 clove of garlic
Chili pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

sauce:

juice of 5 large limes
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 green or red chili pepper seeds partially removed
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin
2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves

Heat olive oil in a large pan, add rice and a sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat rice with oil. Add 2 and ½ cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce temperature to low, cover pan and cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft and water absorbed. Removed from heat and keep it covered for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut a ¼ inch top of the cucumber and rub cut sides together for good luck and good flavor. This will create a bit of a gooey slime that you should rinse away in cold water. Cut cucumber into ½ inch disks and soak in cold water. Repeat process for remainder.

Turn oven on to broil. Rinse and pat dry shrimp. Toss with juice of ½ lime, salt, chili flakes and one garlic clove that has been crushed. Spread shrimp loosely on a large baking sheet then broil for about 5 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let rest. For a delicious charred flavor and lovely grill marks use your outdoor grill.

To make the sauce, put garlic, sugar and pepper in a mortar and grind ingredients to a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Add lemon juice, mirin, fish sauce, soy sauce and cilantro. Toss to combine. This sauce should be salty, sweet, sour, and pungent with a spicy kick. Taste and adjust flavor with more of any of the ingredients. If you find my mix to strong you can dilute it with a bit of cold water. You should have around ¾ to 1 cup of sauce.

Drain cucumber slices and pat dry on a dish towel.

Mix rice, cucumber, shrimp and shrimp juices carefully not to break the rice too much. Drizzle most of the sauce over and carefully give it another toss. Taste and add more sauce if needed.

This is a delightful, simple, and chock full of flavor meal.

{ 4 comments }

When I was in Brazil recently my niece took me to a fun restaurant in São Paulo that offered dishes from South East Asia, Peru, Japan and northern Brazil. The flavors were very exciting. We ordered a lot so we could taste everything. For my main course I had a white fleshed Brazilian fish served in a thick green curry with coconut broth that was divine! The fish was ultra fresh and the curry well balanced. It came with a bowl of perfectly cooked fragrant jasmine rice.

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

This eating out experience reminded me of the green curry we made while in Chiang Mai several years ago in a traditional Thai cooking class. I realized that I had never actually made it home, despite my vows to the contrary throughout our glorious trip to that lovely country, until now.

I prepared the green curry from scratch. You can refrigerate the leftovers for later use.

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

for the curry paste:

dried spices:

1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ pepper corns

fresh ingredients:

1 inch piece of galangal root, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro, stems, leaves and roots
3 tbsp minced lemon grass (white and tender part)
4 kaffir lemon leaves, cut thinly, center stem removed
5 small shallots
10 to 15 Thai green chilies
1 cup Thai basil
10 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt

preserved ingredients:

1 tbsp shrimp paste

Place dry ingredients in shallow pan and toast until aromatic. Let cool. Grind in a coffee mill.

Add all fresh spices plus shrimp paste to food processor and whiz until mix turns into a paste. Use a spatula to push down spices so it blends uniformly. Add dry spices and blend again. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

Steven and I at Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai--in 2005

Steven and I at Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai–in 2005

for the dish proper:

2 cups coconut milk
1 lb fresh cod, cut into chunks
A few leaves of Thai basil
1 tsp brown sugar
1 chili pepper cut into small rounds
1 kaffir lime leaf
3-4 spoons green curry paste (prepared above)
1 tbsp canola oil
2-3 tbsp fish sauce

Heat up canola oil in a pan, add green curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes without burning. Add coconut milk, sugar, kaffir leaf and bring to a quick boil. Reduce temperature to low, add fish sauce. Taste it, adding more fish sauce if needed. Lay cod fish over sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Add basil leaves and chili pepper. Remove from heat and serve with Thai rice.

{ 1 comment }

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.

{ 4 comments }

This delightful recipe comes from Eating Well. I was feeling inspired after Hegui made those tremendous red lentil croquettes. We eat a lot of beans at home and frankly it gets a bit boring just having them tossed with garlic and olive oil after a while. Sure, that always tastes great, but variety is the spice of life.

Southwest black bean and fresh corn croquettes

Southwest black bean and fresh corn croquettes

This dish certainly has variety, and spice. I used 4 cups of black beans that I rehydrated myself, rather than the suggested two cans. That turned out to make enough for a “double” portion of the croquettes, which means since I only had enough salsa ingredients for the original Eating Well recipe, I didn’t have any leftover to garnish. I used fresh corn which I cut from two ears. For some reason my “batter” was a bit runny, so I ended up adding more breadcrumbs. Also I used dried pasilla powder and chile in adobo instead of chili powder for the spice. Yum!

Southwest black bean and fresh corn croquettes

4 cups prepared black beans
2 tsp cumin
2 ears sweet corn, corn cut from cobs
~1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 cups chopped tomatoes
4 scallions, chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tsp pasilla powder
1 chile in adobo, minced
Kosher salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 425F. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.

Mash black beans with cumin in food processor. Remove to a bowl. Add corn, tomatoes, scallions, 1 tsp pasilla powder, chile in adobo, cilantro, salt and enough breadcrumbs to make batter firm enough to shape. Mix well.

In another bowl, mix ½ cup breadcrumbs, 1 tsp pasilla powder, a pinch of salt and olive oil together.

Shape batter into balls and gently roll into breadcrumb mixture. Bake croquettes about 20 minutes until they become a golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges. These would be particularly tasty floating on some tomatillo salsa.

{ 6 comments }

Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

We’re constantly trying to add new legume-inspired recipes to our repertoire. After all, how can one be almost vegetarian without eating beans? I think, perhaps, that we don’t feature black-eyed peas as we should. Recently Steven made a delicious black-eyed peas and polenta dish. Every now and then I make a brown rice and black-eyed pea risotto that’s quite enjoyable. Black-eyed peas are delightful in croquettes, certainly. But all told, that’s only a few measly (albeit wonderful) ways of preparing something that’s so versatile, flavorful and nutritious.

So today’s inspiration comes from Indian cuisine. I’ve been following Manjula’s Kitchen for a while now and am blown away by the many creative ways she employs beans and pulses. This recipe is based on one from her blog. I made a few adaptations. We loved it.

the sunset on the night we enjoyed Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

the sunset on the night we enjoyed Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

2 cups dry black-eyed peas, rinsed and soaked in water for ½ hour then drained
1/8 tsp asafedida
2 tbsp canola oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
¾ tsp mango powder
¼ tsp garam masala
½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
Sea salt to taste

for the curry paste:

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
½ tsp chili powder
2 jalapeño peppers, seeds partially removed
2 tbsp coriander powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder

Add all ingredients for the curry paste to a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of water and whiz into a paste.

Add canola oil to pressure cooker. Bring temperature to high. Add cumin seeds and cook until aromatic, about a minute or so. Add asafetida followed by the curry paste. Cook on medium temperature until raw flavors are gone and oil floats on the surface of the curry paste. Toss in black eyed-peas with 3 cups of water. Cover pressure cooker, and when it starts whistling, turn temperature down and continue cooking for another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let pan cool down. Check for doneness. The beans should be soft. If not return pan to burner and cook a little longer.

Add tomatoes, salt, garam masala, mango powder and continue cooking, uncovered, just long enough to warm tomatoes through. Add cilantro, adjust salt and serve. We had this stew with a side of Japanese rice cooked Brazilian style.

{ 2 comments }

This tuna roll-up takes me back to memories of one of my first jobs in America. It’s been about 20 years now: gosh time flies by so fast! Then I managed a miniscule and extremely busy coffee shop located in the Murray Hill area of Manhattan on 3rd Avenue. We served gourmet coffee (before Starbucks invaded) and an impressive array of pastries and breads, which we carefully selected from numerous vendors. These were delivered fresh from different bakeries in town and sometimes even beyond the isle. We also made excellent sandwiches, salads and soups.

grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

Maggie, one of the owners, was in charge of the recipes. She would come up with creatively new ideas for the food borrowing from ethnic cuisines from around the world. Just like on this blog, we featured new things all the time. It was very cool watching how surprised and delighted our clients got when spotting the next hit on display at the shop.

The hoisin chicken roll-up was an instant sensation. We served lots of them for months and the demand never slackened. Plus, as an added bonus, they were super-duper simple to make. Last week for a quick and easy dinner, I prepared this pescatarian version at home using wild tuna steaks I got from our favorite fish monger west of Manhattan ;)

key ingredients for grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

key ingredients for grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

Hoisin sauce is sweet, a bit sour and salty, so the cool cucumber and veggies break some of the saltiness. The more veggies the better here, so pile them high.

grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

1 lb wild caught tuna steak
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Lemon juice
8 kirby cucumbers
1 head of lettuce
5 whole scallions
½ bunch cilantro
2 sheets Lavash bread
Hoisin sauce
1 tsp ground fresh ginger

Set grill to 500F. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of tuna, rub olive oil around steak. Grill for 3½ minutes, flip and cook for another 3 minutes on the other side. Remove from grill, sprinkle with a few drops of lemon, cover with aluminum foil or plastic film and let it cool. Cut into strips.

Meanwhile, wash and spin dry lettuce, scallions and cilantro. I used a salad spinner. Chop scallions and cilantro, but keep lettuce leaves whole.

Cut top off each cucumber and rub top against it to extract the bitterness. Partially peel cucumbers and soak them in cold water for about 5 minutes. Drain, pat dry and cut into spears.

ready to roll!

ready to roll!

Lay one Lavash bread on counter top. Squeeze hoisin sauce over it. On one end of lavash bread pile several leaves of lettuce, cucumber spears, scallions , cilantro, ginger and strips of tuna, roll it and cut in half. Repeat process for another sandwich. Serve.

The tuna steak was way too big for us eat so we shared some with Clarence, which he devoured with gusto.

Clarence waiting for some tuna

Clarence waiting for some tuna

{ 6 comments }

spicy urad dal soup

by Heguiberto on February 9, 2012

spicy urad dal soup

spicy urad dal soup

Every now and then I try recipes from the journal, Gastronomica, published by UC Berkeley. I’m a big fan of this academic culinary periodical. Primarily the articles are stuff related to food history and culture. Their subjects are always off the beaten path. I savor each of issue.

Here’s what it says on Gastronomica’s about page:

Since 2001 we’ve been renewing the connection between sensual and intellectual nourishment by offering readers a taste of passionate inquiry through scholarship, humor, fiction, poetry, and exciting visual imagery. With its diverse voices and eclectic mix of articles, Gastronomica uses food as an important source of knowledge about different cultures and societies, provoking discussion and encouraging thoughtful reflection on the history, literature, representation, and cultural impact of food. The fact is, the more we know about food, the greater our pleasure in it. Welcome to our table!

And it is true! And no, I’m not receiving a cash payment for promoting this quarterly. Though if a check arrives in the mail I won’t be too sad about it.

Alas, what does all this flattery have to do with today’s post? Before we started this blog (that seems like a while ago!) I made a dosa recipe from a lovely article I read in the magazine etitled The Masala Dosas in My Life.

That one called for a small amount of split urad dal, but overenthusiastic, I bought a large bag. After having stored it in the pantry “for a while,” it was time to get inspired again. This urad dal soup has some of the features of my other red dal soup but with a creamier texture. This was excellent and I really don’t know why it took me so long to prepare this gourmet pulse.

I found a great pic of several kinds of urad dal on this excellent site, Manjula’s Kitchen, which I’m re-posting here.

several kinds of urad dal

several kinds of urad dal

spicy urad dal soup

2 cups split and hulled urad dal, picked over and rinsed
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 small russet potatoes, skin on, quartered
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 white onion, chopped
2 Serrano chili peppers, minced (seeds and ribs removed partially)
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 branch curry leaves
1 bay leaf
½ tsp chili powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 28oz can unseasoned chopped tomatoes and juices
Kosher salt
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Put dal, turmeric powder and 6 cups of water in a saucepan. Place it on stove, temperature on high and boil for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove any foam that may form at the top. Add carrots, celery and potatoes and continue cooking until everything becomes soft. Add more water if needed. Keep it warm.

Meanwhile put oil, mustard and cumin seeds in a large skillet on high. Cook until aromatic and mustard seeds start to pop. Add onions, Serrano chili and cook until onion becomes translucent. Add garlic, ginger, bay and curry leaves. Continue cooking until raw aromas of the garlic and ginger are gone. Next add coriander and chili powders and salt. Give it a good stir. Fold in tomatoes, add a cup of water, stir and cook for about 12 minutes on medium temperature. Mix it in the dal, taste and adjust salt. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Just before serving, transfer half of the soup to a bowl. Using a stick blender, blend everything together then return it back to the pot to thicken the soup a bit. Add chopped cilantro and serve! We had it with Brazilian style rice though it would also be excellent with roti.

{ 5 comments }

Moqueca is a delicious fish stew traditional to the beautiful and sunny state of Bahia in Brazil. Seafood there is of excellent quality. In Bahia this dish is named moqueca but outside we call it moqueca baiana. I think I’ve actually been biased toward moqueca capixaba, a lighter version popular in the neighboring state of Espírito Santo, just to the south. Perhaps the reason is simply because I have a couple of dear friends who live in ES. In Bahia, one only eats moqueca Baiana; and in Espírito Santo, moqueca capixaba. Truly, both are delicious.

moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

Traditional moqueca baiana is made without paprika or shrimp paste. I decided to use these two alien ingredients for enhanced flavors and more color vibrancy. But this doesn’t make this a lesser a moqueca in any way. At times, Bahian foods remind me of South East Asian dishes or even things made in Louisiana. See here and here.

I purchased the dendê oil (palm oil) from the outrageously expensive Rainbow Foods Supermarket in San Francisco. It was Colombian, not Brazilian, but has an identical flavor. Actually, I had to go to several shops before I could locate it, so thank heavens for Rainbow. It was their last jar of the stuff.

I’ve had moqueca baiana many times but never actually made it at home, so this was a very exiting experience for me. I hope that you enjoy it as well.

some key ingredients for moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

some key ingredients for moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

my organic palm oil

my organic palm oil

moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

2½ lbs skinless thick pieces of wild caught ling cod, cut in ~6 inch steaks
½ lb medium sized wild caught shrimp; shelled, deveined and chopped
1 lb ripe heirloom tomatoes, skin removed, cut into chunks
½ bunch cilantro
4 scallions, green and white parts chopped
¼ cup coconut milk
2 tbsp dendê oil (palm oil)
¾ tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp shrimp paste (belakan)
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin rings
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin rings
1 white onion, diced small
2 limes
5 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 red chili pepper, seeds and ribs removed, sliced thinly

Rinse fish in cold water; pat dry with paper towel. Place in a dish. Squeeze juice of 1 lime over it. Add equivalent of 3 cloves of garlic, followed by salt and a sprinkle of black pepper. Let it marinate for about ½ hour, in the fridge if too hot. In blustery San Francisco, I just let it chill on my kitchen counter.

Rinse shrimp in cold water; pat dry with paper towel. Place in a small bowl. Squeeze juice of second lime, add salt, black pepper, equivalent of one garlic clove, cover and let it marinate next to the cod fish.

Using a large and wide cooking pan, add dendê oil and onion. Bring temperature to high and cook for a few minutes just to sweat the onion, add remaining garlic, peppers, belakan, paprika, sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir everything together. Cover the pan and cook for about 3 minutes on high heat. Stir to avoid burning. Add tomatoes and cook until they collapse. Remove 1/3 of partially stewed vegetables to a bowl. Add fish steaks with juices to pan. Top with reserved stewed veggies. Cover and continue cooking vigorously on high heat for another 10 minutes. Carefully flip the fish half way through.

Uncover and scatter spring onion and ½ of the cilantro over fish followed by the shrimp with juices. Cook for another minute. Carefully mix in coconut milk and remaining cilantro. Adjust flavors with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve with white jasmine rice and extra wedges of lime.

{ 8 comments }

fragrant herbed basmati polow

January 3, 2012

This is another wonderful rice pilaf adapted from our favorite Iranian cook book, New Food of Life, by Najmieh Batmanglij. I prepared it for our New Year’s Eve party and we shared it with our friends Jasmine Turner and Prof. T. Steven “suggested” the meal, and I’m glad. I was a bit jet lagged from […]

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sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

December 19, 2011

I adapted this marvelous garbanzo bean recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty. I like so many things about Ottolenghi’s book: plenty of them. In particular, from reading and trying out his flavorful recipes, I realize now that unknowingly we’ve been using principles from and eating PLENTY at home all along. Ottolenghi focuses my attention on […]

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