ginger

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables and whenever I see a new recipe for it I just want to try it right away. This recipe is featured in the March 2013 edition of Saveur Magazine. A few years ago Steven’s colleague at work lent him a wonderful cookbook, “Pei Mei’s Chinese Cookbook Volume 1.” That book had an excellent recipe for Sichuan Eggplant.

vegetarian Sichuan fried and braised eggplant

vegetarian Sichuan fried and braised eggplant

He made it once and we were hooked. I’d say we have this dish at least once a month. It is so flavorful with black bean sauce, ginger, sesame oil, scallions and other delicious ingredients—and eggplant, of course: sweet, savory, sour and lots of umami flavor.

I would say that this recipe is actually a variation on Steven’s version. Both are Sichuanese style using very similar ingredients. In Steven’s recipe he cooks the diced eggplant in a hot pan, just tossing it around until they are done, so the oil absorbed is very little. This recipe calls for deep frying the eggplant, which I did, despite the guilty feeling. To prevent the eggplant from absorbing too much oil they suggest soaking it in ice water first. I’m not sure if that helped much, but it hardly mattered, as the dish itself had such a lovely delicate flavor, you could hardly tell.

vegetarian Sichuan fried and braised eggplant

4 Japanese eggplants
2 cups chopped Chinese chives
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh ginger paste (I used fresh ginger that I ground with a fine micropane)
2 tbsp Chinese chili bean sauce (Toban Djan)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1½ tsp sugar

Quarter the eggplant lengthwise. Make incisions in a lozenge pattern in the flesh without piecing the skin. Soak pieces in salted cold/ice water for 5-10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Fry in hot oil (350F) for about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and lay eggplant pieces on paper towels.

Drain all but two tablespoons of frying oil from pan. Add garlic, ginger and cook for a minute just until raw aromas disappear. Add Chinese chives and continue cooking for another minute or so to wilt. Add chili bean sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Continue cooking to warm through. Add eggplant, one cup of hot water, black vinegar and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil, transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle some Chinese chives over and serve with some rice cooked in the Brazilian way.

{ 4 comments }

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.

{ 1 comment }

Steven’s been complaining about my cooking lately. Well, maybe not complaining exactly but pointing out a bit clearly that we’ve been in a breakfast rut for a while—bread and coffee, bread and coffee, bread and coffee. Perhaps we’ve both been a little bored with this monotonous refrain. We do eat whole wheat, which is very healthy. He has his with jam and nut butter; I have mine with Earth Balance. Sometimes though what starts out as a virtue can become a culinary straightjacket.

nut and seed granola with date and pomegranate molasses

nut and seed granola with date and pomegranate molasses

Breakfast food is normally loaded with cholesterol so we try to stay away from eggs, cheese and butter as much as possible. Plus during the week, we have virtually no time to cook in the morning. Both of us want to maximize sleep so we get up and leave for work in about thirty minutes. That includes showering, taking out Clarence, getting ready and sharing a little breakie together. So forget cooking!

Granola is a Northern California stereotype and certainly I’ve seen more than one hiker whip out a pouch of the stuff or a few bars in the middle of the woods. Despite the silliness, just like Martha says, “it is a good thing.”

I adapted this recipe from Alton Brown and David Lebovits. I think they adapted their recipes from someone else because they seem fairly similar. You can vary the ingredients to customize your granola or improvise and just toss in whatever’s at hand in the pantry.

I had originally intended to use maple syrup like that other granola I wrote about years ago but realized at the last second that we’d run out. The date and pomegranate molasses were wonderful substitutes.

nut and seed granola with date and pomegranate molasses

5 cups organic rolled oats
2 cups chopped pecans
½ cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup cashew nuts, chopped
½ cup Brazil nuts, chopped
½ cup dried grated coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup raisins (or a mix of dried fruits)

2 tbsp walnut oil
1/3 cup rice bran syrup
¼ cup date molasses
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
½ cup warm water

Pre-heat the oven to 300F.

With exception of the raisins, place all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix and set aside.

Add wet ingredients to a separate bowl and whisk to combine. Pour over dry ingredients. Use your hands so it gets absorbed evenly. Spread the granola on two large baking trays and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Stir granola with a spatula every 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool a bit then add raisins and toss to combine. Let cool completely. Transfer to an air tight container and have it for breakfast with some soy milk, or on a hike to somewhere gorgeous.

do you feel the call of the wild

do you feel the call of the wild?

{ 1 comment }

Sweet potato’s great! Don’t you love it? I do. I’ve made it seasoned with shoyu and toasted sesame oil, which is amazing. They’re lovely simply oven baked, too.

my somewhat blurry yet fabulous version of roasted white sweet potato in garlic and ginger

my somewhat blurry yet fabulous version of roasted white sweet potato in garlic and ginger

Somehow, I’m disappointed to see so few stories on our blog about this humble tuber. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new culinary trend for us at weirdcombos.

This recipe couldn’t be simpler (though I’ve read some food blog advice somewhere that strongly discouraged describing things as “simple” “quick” or “easy,” as all that’s very subjective, isn’t it?). And it packs a lot of flavor: you have the sweetness of the potatoes, the spiciness of ginger and garlic all stitched together with just plain sea salt. You can serve this for the holidays. Thanksgiving is already right around the corner.

well, aren't you four the sweetest little things

well, aren’t you four the sweetest little things!

roasted white sweet potato in garlic and ginger

4 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch thick rounds
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
¾ cup vegetable broth

Pre heat over to 350F.

Toss sweet potato slices with salt, ginger, garlic and olive oil. Lay them in a loaf pan. Pour vegetable broth over potato. Cover with tin foil and bake to 20 to 30 minutes or until soft. Remove foil towards the end for a slight caramel color.

{ 3 comments }

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 }

With this unusually cold and wet spring in San Francisco, I feel like I want to eat hearty, earthy food. Something flavorful that fills you up and makes you happy and satisfied. Something like mushroom risotto.
Initially I was going for the Italian approach. The thing with the Italian approach is all that cheese and butter.

Japanese mushroom risotto, or kinoko gohan

Japanese mushroom risotto, or kinoko gohan

I wasn’t feeling dairy-ish. Inspiration struck when we went to a Korean market in Daly City.

The market has a huge assortment of fresh mushrooms for sale. I settled for the shimeji, button and shiitake types. I also bought some aanori seaweed salad, a couple of servings of cucumber and cubed daikon kimchi to serve as side dishes to jazz up our meal a bit more. I served the Japanese mushroom risotto with pan fried mahi-mahi steaks and kabocha pumpkin wedges cooked in dashi-shoyu broth, so we had fun.

Mushroom risotto is still English-Italian. This is originally called kinoko gohan in Japanese. Kinoko stands for mushroom, and gohan, for rice. The dish is rich and flavorful yet does not use a single drop of fat.

Japanese mushroom risotto, or kinoko gohan

1 tray (100g) fresh white shimeji mushrooms, aka beech mushroom, rinsed and very bottom discarded
1 tray (100g) fresh brown shimeji mushrooms, rinsed and very bottom discarded
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, rinsed, cut into ½ moons, stems chopped and reserved
1 lb fresh white button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
3½ cups dashi broth (see below to make fresh)
2 cups Japanese sushi rice
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake
4 tbsp soy sauce
Kosher salt to taste
scallions
toasted sesame oil
Ponzu-soy sauce
1 4×4 inch piece dried kelp (kombu)

Wipe white layer of salt off the kombu leaf using a wet paper towel. Put it in a sauce pan with 4 cups of water and shiitake mushroom stems. Let soak for 30 minutes. Place saucepan on stove top, and bring to a boil. Immediately turn it off, remove from heat and let kelp and mushroom stems continue soak for another 15 minutes. This is your dashi broth. Discard mushroom stems. Kelp can be stored in the fridge and reused another time soon, otherwise simply discard it.

Bring three cups of prepared dashi to a boil. Add ginger, mirin, sake and soy sauce, a sprinkle of kosher salt and all the mushrooms. Cook mushrooms for a couple of minutes. Scoop them out of the broth and set aside. Top up broth with hot water (if needed) to make up for 3 and ½ cups then add rice. Bring temperature to a boil. Turn it down to medium low. Stir rice to prevent sticking. Cover and cook for about 14 minutes, lid on, until liquid absorbed. Stir occasionally. Top with mushrooms and their liquid. Cover and cook on low for another couple of minutes to warm through. Remove from heat and keep pan covered for another 5 minutes.

Transfer rice to a serving platter. Scatter with chopped scallion. Serve with toasted sesame oil and ponzu-soy sauce on the side.

{ 3 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 recipe was adapted from the latest issue of Vegetarian Times. I didn’t have most of the veggie ingredients so I made do with what was available at home. It turned out as granola as it can be, of course not in any pejorative way, but simply healthy and delicious. The sauce reminded me of something similar that I made to dress a Thai inspired salad.

springtime garden tempeh with snow and garden peas, Kabocha with quinoa and almond butter sauce

springtime garden tempeh with snow and garden peas, Kabocha with quinoa and almond butter sauce

springtime garden tempeh with snow and garden peas, Kabocha with quinoa and almond butter sauce

1 block of garden tempeh, cut into bite size cubes
2 wedges Kabocha pumpkin, skin on; steamed and then cut into bite size cubes
1 cup snow peas
1 cup fresh garden peas
1 cube vegetarian bouillon
1½ cups dried quinoa
1 tsp black sesame seeds
2 scallions cut into thin rounds

for the sauce:

1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp red miso paste
2 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp cider vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tbsp canola oil

Rinse and soak quinoa for 20 minutes. Drain, add to a sauce pan with vegetarian bouillon, 2 cups of water, bring to a boil reduce the heat to medium/low and cook until water has absorbed and grains are soft, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Keep covered for few minutes.

Prepare the sauce by combining together ginger, miso, almond butter, cider vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic and a third to a half cup of water. You want the sauce to be relatively thick but with a runny consistency. Set aside.

Add canola oil to a skillet. Bring temperature to high. Toss in tempeh cubes, sprinkle with salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, turning cubes occasionally to brown them evenly. Add one tablespoon of water, cover the pan and let tempeh absorb the water. Transfer tempeh cubes to a plate and keep them warm. Add remaining oil to the skillet, followed by snow peas, garden peas and cook for a couple of minutes until they turn bright green. Add kabocha pumpkin and tempeh cubes.

To serve, fluff quinoa with a fork, mix in scallions and transfer to a large serving platter. Pile sautéed tempeh and veggies combo next to the quinoa. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve sauce on the side.

{ 4 comments }

spicy urad dal soup

February 9, 2012

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 […]

Read the full article →

sesame and onion seed crusted swordfish with buckwheat soba and chard sauté

December 29, 2011

I know eating swordfish is supposed to be naughty. But per our fish monger, this one was line caught off the coast of California. So that’s good. It looked super fresh with that beautiful seafood aroma and so after listening to his explanation he convinced me. I lost my guilt and purchased 3 steaks for […]

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Read the full article →