cucumber

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 }

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 }

Last November when Devaki from the beautiful blog, Weave of a Thousand Flavors, came to San Francisco, we took her to one of our favorite restaurants in town, the Slated Door. That visit, we tried a dish that I had not had before: deep fried whole branzino served on a bed of a thick sweet-and-sour sauce. Thanks Chef Charles Phan! This fish was ultra fresh, fried to perfection, crisp on the outside with a yummy flesh inside. Mmmm!!! We (me) actually ate everything, bones and cheeks included, and wiped the sauce off the plate with our fingers. Delish!

fried red snapper with tamarind date sauce

fried red snapper with tamarind date sauce

my tamarind date sauce on the side

my tamarind date sauce on the side

So this is my attempt to reproduce the dish at home. The branzino at Sun Fat was farm raised in Greece, so instead I bought wild caught red snapper from the Pacific. Much better.

The sauce from the restaurant, as I recall, was a simple combination of tamarind concentrate and spices. I think that my version’s close. I used a mix of tamarind concentrate and a tamarind-date chutney I found at a local Indian market. The list of chutney ingredients includes tamarind concentrate, dates, salt, sugar, chili and black peppers. Just the thought of it makes my mouth pucker happily lol

We served this for New Year’s Eve with fragrant herbed basmati polow.

tamarind  concentrate and tamarind date chutney

tamarind concentrate and tamarind date chutney

fried red snapper with tamarind date sauce

2 red snappers weighing about 2½ lbs each, cleaned
rice flour for dusting
Kosher salt
black pepper
oil for frying
slices of cucumber
lime wedges

for tamarind date sauce:

4 tbsp tamarind paste
3 tbsp tamarind date chutney

Rinse and dry fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dust in rice flour and fry it in hot oil for about 8 minutes on each side or until crisp. Remove from pan to a dish covered with paper towels to drain any excess oil. I served the tamarind date sauce on the side after I got worried that the guests might not like it. My original idea was to drizzle the fish with the sauce. Silly me because we all loved it! This was another great tasting and satisfying meal.

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Sometimes I like being told what to do—not too often mind you, so don’t get the wrong idea! But once in a while when I’m lacking the proper kitchen inspiration, it is nice to get helpful instruction. That happened the other day with this eggplant recipe. We were having a group of friends over and needed some sort of appetizer. Hegui whipped out Yotam Ottolenghi and was on a roll. I had nothing. So sad! Fortunately he had enough enthusiasm for the both of us. He “suggested” that I try the “burnt eggplant with tahini” recipe from Plenty. Well, yum!

roasted eggplant with tahini and pomegranate party dip

roasted eggplant with tahini and pomegranate party dip

Sort of like babaganoush on steroids, this has the exciting addition of pomegranate molasses, which I’d not had before. It is so delightfully tart. Mmmm. That plus cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds for garnish really make this recipe pop. Part salad, part dip, and very festive looking; you’ll be happy that you spouse demanded that you make this one.

roasted eggplant with tahini and pomegranate party dip

1 large Italian eggplant
1/3 cup tahini
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
juice from half a lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
Salt and black pepper to taste
12 cherry tomatoes in halves
half an English cucumber, cut in quarters the long way then sliced thinly
½ cup pomegranate seeds
olive oil to finish

Roast whole eggplant on grill at highest temperature for about thirty minutes, turning occasionally, until it shrinks. Remove from heat, let cool then peel. Discard skin and stem. Tear flesh with a fork. It will have some residual juice (or at least mine did). Use this instead of water to thin the dish.

Add tahini, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt and black pepper to eggplant. Mix thoroughly. Fold in cherry tomatoes and cucumber. Place in a serving dish. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with bread or crackers as an appetizer or as a side.

{ 3 comments }

Korean pickled cucumber salad

by Heguiberto on December 5, 2011

This pickled cucumber salad is ultra easy to make and tastes so good! Some of its appealing qualities include the crunchy texture, the sour and tart flavors and the slight bite of heat from the gochujang chili pepper. I have reproduced it from the blog, I-eat-food (what an excellent name for a blog!) with some minor changes in ingredients and proportions.

Korean pickled cucumber salad

Korean pickled cucumber salad

Korean pickled cucumber salad

10 Kirby cucumbers
Sea salt
1 tbsp Ponzu
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Korean chili pepper powder (Gochugaru)

Slice off the top of each Kirby and rub the slice against cut part until a gooey foam forms on top. Rinse it out. Repeat process with remaining cucumbers. Why do this? Did you ever taste bitterness in cucumbers? Doing this takes the bitterness away. Steven thinks that it is merely an old-wives-tale, or perhaps, blind superstition, but my mother did it (and his does, too, come to think of it) and they can’t both be wrong.

Set mandolin blades for thin slicing. Slice all cucumbers.

Sprinkle with sea salt and let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Rinse completely with plenty of cold water. Thoroughly drain in colander. Finally give cucumber slices a squeeze to remove more liquid.

Meanwhile mix ponzu, vinegar, soy sauce and chili pepper together. Toss cucumber slices in and viola!

{ 10 comments }

som tam AKA spicy green papaya salad

som tam AKA spicy green papaya salad

We had a Thai inspired dinner the other evening. This som tam was served with a spicy potek soup and Jasmine rice. In Brazil we frequently ate green papaya at home but the way my mother made it was completely different. She cooked it with garlic, oil, salt and pepper and sometimes stewed with tomatoes. That was good, but not as incredible as this Thai dish that is just packed with amazing flavors: spicy, sour, umami, salty, sweet and crunchy. I love it!

green papaya

green papaya warming in the afternoon sunshine

som tam

1 lb shredded green (unripe) papaya (I used a mandolin to shred it)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 Thai bird’s eye chili pepper
8 fresh green beans, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 large clove fresh garlic
Juice of 4 limes or more
½ tsp sugar
4 heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges
Japanese cucumber slices

In Thailand, it is fun to watch green papaya salad being prepared by street vendors. They pound garlic, sugar, tomato and green beans in a large mortar and pestle right in front of you. Then they add the papaya, lime juice and pound it again to bruise everything to release flavors. It is like a cooking demonstration on the side of the road. I don’t have a mortar so I improvised a bit. I placed the green beans between 2 layers of saran wrap and flattened them with the rolling pin. I squeezed the tomatoes a bit with my hands. I grated the garlic and chili pepper with a micro-plane grater. Then everything was mixed together and let macerate for about 20 minutes before going to the table. The delicious Japanese cucumber slices helped cool down the heat of the salad. Serve on a few leaves of lettuce with some cucumbers on the side.

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bulgur love

by Stevie on November 15, 2010

Recently Hegui went on a mini bulgur cooking frenzy, making mushroom and pink bean bulgur loaf and Brazilian style tabuli in a single afternoon. He over estimated the amount of bulgur needed so we had about two pints leftover. Well, I didn’t want to waste it and we all know that necessity is the mother of invention. So “bulgur love” is born.

bulgur love in hommage to the Summer of Love and modern hippies everywhere

bulgur love in hommage to the Summer of Love and modern hippies everywhere

Actually, I feel pretty confident that recipes similar to this are made everywhere. Here’s a nice example from Cookin’ Canuck. After all, I’ve really just added everything in the kitchen to the bulgur to make a flavorful, colorful and hopefully wholesome main dish, e.g a bulgur pilaf. I’m inspired by Hegui’s delicious and under appreciated, quinoa love.

Obviously, we’ve made up the names. They’re not very descriptive so I’d guess that search engines can’t figure them out too well. Our initial idea was that quinoa love was a vegetarian dish in homage to the Summer of Love in San Francisco, Flower Power and all that. Plus, cooking itself is an act of love. So what better way to honor a key ingredient then by surrounding it with a thrilling assortment of other, exciting, supporting cast members, all served up on a huge platter with metaphorical trumpets blaring? That’s the grandiose concept, anyway.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can mix and match almost all of the ingredients, perhaps even changing bulgur for another grain (maybe quinoa 😉 even.) I used a lot of stuff with intense flavors to make this vegan dish really pop. I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.

downtown San Francisco at dusk

downtown San Francisco at dusk

bulgur love

2 pints coarse bulgur, pre-soaked for an hour and drained
1 container firm tofu
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 bunch kale, stems finely chopped and leaves, coarsely
2 cups black beans, drained
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 red jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, sliced thin
½ cucumber, sliced thin
12 stuffed green olives, cut in halves
¼ cup fresh mint, minced
¼ cup Italian parsley, minced
6 spring onions, chopped fine
1 medium onion, sliced thin
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, minced
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
lime juice to taste
extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse tofu, cut into bite size rectangles and soak in a warm saltwater bath for about twenty minutes. This will add salt to the tofu and give it more flavor.

In a separate bowl, let cucumber slices soak in a saltwater bath. Hegui’s convinced that this step improves the flavor though I’m still doubtful about it.

While tofu soaks, heat some olive oil on medium and add garlic, kale stems and a dash of salt. Sauté until stems become tender. Add kale leaves and cook until they wilt a bit. Remove from heat and set aside.

Rinse tofu. Heat some olive oil in a small skillet on high. Add tofu and gently fry for a few minutes on each side until it browns slightly. Carefully remove to a dish and set aside.

In a large skillet, add sliced onion, red and jalapeño pepper, some salt and olive oil. Sauté until vegetables reduce and onion begins to caramelize (about five to eight minutes). Add black beans to onion and sauté together to warm through. Fold bulgur into cooked onion. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Drain and rinse cucumber. Add cucumber, olives, herbs, spring onion, tomatoes (dried and cherry), and kale to bulgur mixture. Fold everything together. Add lime juice, more olive oil and adjust salt. Pour into a large serving platter then place tofu rectangles on top. Serve and enjoy.

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Tabouli is a Middle East dish that is very popular in Brazil. It arrived there with Lebanese immigrants and became so integrated into Brazilian culinary traditions that for me it has always been comfort food.

tabouli with endive and escarole

tabouli with endive and escarole

The basic ingredients for traditional tabouli are cracked wheat, lime juice, good olive oil, tomatoes, cucumber, salt and pepper. In Brazil we like to do things differently, so we go a little crazy with fresh herbs and leafy vegetables. Endive and escarole have a distinct bitter taste, which adds a stimulating depth to this otherwise traditional dish. Steven didn’t even complain! That really must say something. Though now that I’ve gotten him to eat the stuff, how do you pair red wine with bitter greens such as dandelion, treviso, radicchio, sow thistle and so on and on?

I think that the secret to tabouli, and really any good food, is to make it with the freshest ingredients that you can find. I served this dish as a side to mushroom-pink bean loaf (it’s a funny name, though better than “vegetarian meat loaf,” don’t you think? It truly looked a bit pink, but the taste was out of this world!)

tabouli with endive and escarole

2 cups coarse cracked wheat (bulgur), pre-soaked in water for 2 hours, drained
½ bunch Italian parley, chopped
½ bunch mint, chopped
1 red endive chopped
1 white endive, chopped
4 fresh Texas spring onions (those spring onions with a little bulb attached to it), chopped
10 leaves escarole, chopped
10 pearl tomatoes, halved
½ English cucumber, cut into thin half moons and soaked in salted cold water for 10 min, then rinsed
Juice of about 5 limes
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup extra virgin Arbequina olive oil

Place the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl and gently mix with a spatula or by hand. Add salt, freshly ground pepper. Squeeze in lime juice and add olive oil. Toss it again. Taste and adjust flavors. Let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving. Yumm!

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Japanese inspired “sea vegetable” salad

May 21, 2010

I prepared this Japanese inspired salad with home-cured gravlax and white rice. The gravlax had dill and was Swedish inspired. The “sea vegetable” salad was Japanese inspired. Despite being from two far distant culinary traditions, they seemed to match well together. Perhaps because they’re both “ocean foods?” This salad is easy to make and would […]

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wide rice noodles with Birjandi cucumber and pistachio sauce

March 19, 2010

The more that I delve into Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey, the more that I become fascinated. I’ve been focusing on some of the rice and grain dishes over the past few weeks, like Susa Polow with lentils, currants and dates; Fertile Crescent bulgar and mung bean pilaf; and Georgian pilaf with tart cherries. […]

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