lime

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 }

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 }

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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I’ve been dreaming of this polenta cake with citrus glaze for months, ever since I stumbled across the recipe on the delightful blog, Journey of an Italian Cook. That was just around the time our kitchen remodel began so I’ve been putting off preparing it. Well, the wait is over and I can tell you, just as Claudia writes in her story, this cake is mesmerizing.

polenta cake with citrus glaze

polenta cake with citrus glaze

Heguiberto is a real fan of any corn-cake and I love glazes, so this one truly is a match made in heaven.

I didn’t have any oranges as is called for in the original recipe (we’d just squeezed them all into juice). And I ended up using three Mexican limes, which are smaller than “conventional” ones. They were hard to zest, but worth it. I made about half the amount of glaze than was recommended. Claudia got me thinking that it was easy to overdo it. Also I didn’t use the spring form pan (I always struggle with those). Instead I tried a round glass baking dish which I lined with wax paper. The cake came out quite easily.

But unfortunately, it fell in the middle. This worried me a bit, especially after I applied the glaze and it pooled in the center excessively. Fortunately, the cake was fairly dry so absorbed it. I had missed the direction about sifting the powdered sugar for the glaze so mine was lumpy. To cover that I sifted more sugar over the whole thing before serving.

It was a huge success! My charming dinner guests didn’t even mind that the cake fell. To them it seems it felt more authentically homemade. What wonderful guests!

polenta cake with citrus glaze

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup instant polenta
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 lemon
3 Mexican limes
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (sifted)

Preheat oven to 325F.

Zest citrus.

Mix flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt together.

In another bowl, beat eggs and sugar together for about three or four minutes on medium high until they triple in volume. Mix in zest. In an alternating fashion, add dry mix then olive oil into beaten eggs. Blend until just moist.

Line baking dish with wax paper and pour batter into dish (about 9 inch round). Bake 30 to 40 minutes until slightly golden and surface of cake becomes firm. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes. Gently remove from baking dish and peel off paper.

Squeeze citrus into small bowl with confectioner’s sugar. Mix to combine. Pour glaze over cake. Dust with more sugar just before serving.

{ 4 comments }

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.

{ 3 comments }

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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One of the vegetable stands at the Alemany Farmers Market had a ton of fresh okra on sale the other week. I bought a bunch of it, almost 2lbs. I didn’t see much okra this summer. I wonder why? I hope this vegetable is not falling out of fashion, or worse, that people are giving up on it because of the slime issue. Okra is delicious, and pretty, too. In Brazil we used to grow it in the front garden because the plants have beautiful leaves and bear cute yellow flowers with thin delicate petals.

quiabo refogado com tomates,  or stewed okra and tomatoes

quiabo refogado com tomates, or stewed okra and tomatoes

This is an ultra simple recipe for okra and tomatoes that I grew up eating. It is similar to that green bean and tomato dish I made recently. You will love it! The secret to making it non-slimy, if you care about that, is too cook the okra at high temperature and to avoid cutting them open. This way the inside juices don’t run off into the sauce making it, you know, slimy.

quiabo refogado com tomates, or stewed okra and tomatoes

~2lbs whole okra
5 Roma tomatoes (very ripe) cut in halves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp olive oil
½ medium size white onion, cut into small cubes
½ tsp garlic pepper sauce
½ cup water or vegetable broth
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lime or lemon wedges

Place three tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pan. Heat the oil for a minute or until fragrant. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Push onion to the side of the pan, add garlic and continue sautéing until raw garlic aroma is gone. Be careful not to burn it! Add okra, water or vegetable broth, tomato and salt. Give everything a good stir, cover and cook on high heat for about 4 minutes, shaking the pan vigorously every now and then.

Uncover pan. At this point tomato skins will be peeling. Remove skins with the help of a tong and/or fork. Add garlic pepper sauce, stir and cook until tomatoes are dissolved. Cooking time should not be longer than 8 minutes, total. Transfer okra immediately to a serving dish, while still al dente. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and several twists of freshly ground black pepper. Once plated, like with pasta, okra will continue to cook for a bit, but it won’t turn into mush or become slippery. Serve as a side dish with a wedge of lime.

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Mediterranean inspired tempeh sandwich

I made this sandwich last week because I wanted to use tempeh in a different way than deep-fried with Seventies brown sauce or with Southeast Asian flavors. Not sure whether it was going to taste good, this was what turned out to be a successful experiment. I love tempeh, so I’m thrilled with the results. This is a breeze to make; it’s very tasty and nutritious, too. Just give it a try!

some key ingredients for Mediterranean inspired tempeh sandwich

Mediterranean inspired tempeh sandwich

1 square block of tempeh, sliced horizontally to form large thin “patties”
2 tbsp canola oil
Salt
1 square roasted garlic/parmesan flavored Ciabatta, sliced horizontally to form a sandwich shape, inner part toasted in the oven
½ ripe Hass avocado
1 zucchini, sliced thin
½ eggplant, sliced thin
Slices of ripe heirloom tomato
1 red bell pepper
Handful of mache greens
3 tbsp sundried tomato pesto
3 tbsp goat cheese (Chavrie)
Juice from a couple of Mexican limes
Black pepper
Jalapeño slices en escabeche (optional)

Turn oven to 435F and roast red bell pepper until blackened and about to collapse. Remove from oven, transfer to a paper bag and let it cool down for about 15 minutes. The paper bag sweat will help you remove the skin form the pepper. Peel skin away then discard ribs and seeds. Lay on a paper towel to drain.

some refreshing vinhos verdes

Toss zucchini and eggplant with a bit of salt, pepper and olive oil. Grease a large pan with olive oil. Lay thin slices of eggplant and zucchini on. Bake/Grill for about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from oven and let cool down.

Using a skillet pan-fry tempeh for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
Toast Ciabatta.

To assemble the sandwich:

Spread goat cheese on one side of bread and sundried tomato pesto on the other side. Pile a slice of tempeh, avocado, eggplant, tomato, zucchini, roasted red pepper, mache, jalapeño on bread. Sprinkle with black pepper and a squirt of Mexican lime juice. Top with the other half of the bread. Using a bread knife cut sandwich in a triangular shape. Serve.

We had this sandwich with two refreshing Portuguese Vinhos Verdes. The first was 2008 Quinta da Aveleda and the second one was 2006 Trajarinho. Both were a bit effervescent and dry with aromas of peach, apricot and minerals.

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tamarind, mint and cilantro salsa

June 21, 2010

Tamarind bars are sold at Asian markets in 5x3x1½ inch thick bricks. They’re called Me chua Không Hôt in Vietnamese. Tamarind has a gorgeous sweet and sour flavor. Here’s something fun about tamarind: the fruit was brought to Persia and then the Arab world with the spice trade from the Far East. At that time […]

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pressure steamed yellow beet salad

April 21, 2010

Let me start today by thanking both my sisters, Ana and Tinha, for these two wonderful pressure cookers, in different sizes, that they got for us as gifts when we were in Brazil in January. They work perfectly! And they’re a lot easier to operate than our last one. Thus far, I’ve used them to […]

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