mint

Our old friend David went to Seattle last year and brought us a little tin filled with the aromatic Turkish powder, baharat, from that city’s famous Public Market. I have been shy about using it. Frankly, I thought the spice mix was for meat dishes only. So I’d sort of side-lined it to the back of the spice cabinet, that is until I read Yotam Ottolenghi uses baharat in a tabbouleh recipe from his new book, Jerusalem.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

So I did a little research. Turns out, baharat is a mélange of allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamonn, cloves, coriander, cumin, chili pepper and nutmeg. It has a wonderful scent.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

½ cup bulgur
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped fine
2 shallots, chopped fine, rinsed in running cold water
Juice of 3 lemons or more
3 large bunches of Italian parsley, washed, drained and chopped fine
5 leaves of escarole, washed, drained and chopped fine
2 bunches mint, rinsed, dried and chopped fine
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baharat mix
1/3 to ½ cup first cold press, top quality, arbequina olive oil
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Rinse bulgur in a strainer. Add to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for ½ hour. Drain and squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Transfer to a large bowl, add tomatoes, shallot, parsley, mint, escarole, spices, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add lemon juice and about two thirds of the olive oil. Toss again. Let it rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Just before serving add more olive oil and lemon juice and toss again.

{ 4 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 }

We are still enjoying home-grown zucchini from our prolific community garden plot squash plants. It feels so good just going there to water them. We find new ones growing full swing every time. It seems to happen overnight!

grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

This recipe comes from this lovely blog, not without salt (I so wish that I’d come up with that name for our blog!) that I’ve been enjoying reading recently. Really, the dish is very simple and most of the ingredients came directly from our community garden. The flavors are super vibrant!

The recipe calls for grilling the thinly sliced zucchini. Our grill had no gas so instead I seared them in a pan. But this didn’t make the final result any less delicious.

This is perfect for a tapas style meal, or served as a side dish.

grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

3 zucchini, sliced thinly
Arbequina olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Zest of ½ lemon
Juice of a whole lemon

Place a non stick skillet on stove top and bring temperature to high. Meanwhile put sliced zucchinis in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat using your hands. Lay zucchini slices on hot surface in a single layer and pan grill it for about a minute or so on each side. Remove from pan, repeat process with remainder. While zucchini slices are still warm add herbs, zest, lemon juice more salt and pepper and olive oil to taste. Toss to combine. There you have a tasty and elegant side dish to enjoy!

If there are any leftovers make a sandwich with it the following day like I did. All you need is to have a nice piece of fresh crusty bread and stuff it with some of the grilled zucchini, chévre and a drizzle of a good olive oil.

{ 4 comments }

Spring is racing by and asparagus are plentiful right now here in sunny Northern California. But it won’t last. This is the time of year when this beautiful vegetable tastes best. It is true that nowadays one can buy any vegetable or fruit basically whenever but the difference is in taste and in the size of the carbon footprint. I am always dubious about veggies that arrive at my table following intercontinental flights. They’re often as flavorful as cardboard. I’m not impressed. We’re better off eating seasonal and local ingredients as much as possible.

roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

Speaking of local I’m thinking of planting some asparagus in our community garden plot. The reason I didn’t before is that our last plot was a bit too small. Asparagus plants take about two years to produce and you can’t rotate crops in the area where they’re grown. A couple of the other community gardeners have them growing in their plots. It’s cool to watch the spears shooting out from the ground in springtime. Left alone, they grow into big wispy bushes: very interesting and even decorative. If I do it now, maybe in a couple years I can make this salad again with asparagus grown on Potrero Hill, just a few blocks away. Now that’s very local!

This recipe is so good that it can’t wait. I like the combination of legume and vegetable here. The flavors that the Meyer lemon, sesame oil and mint impart to the dish are singular: smoky, herby and slightly tart. You can serve this dish either warm or at room temperature as a main dish with a green salad or as a side dish to go with anything really. I’ve adapted it from asparagus recipes.

key ingredients for roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

key ingredients for roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

2 bunches of asparagus, rinsed, dried, each spear cut into 3 pieces
3½ cups prepared chickpeas, drained (canned is okay)
4 tbsp olive oil
¾ tbsp toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt to taste
~ 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Several fresh mint leaves, chopped
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 450F.

Place asparagus, chick peas, sesame and olive oils, salt and black pepper in a bowl and toss to combine. Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and toss. Position rack closer to grill, return to oven and continue roasting for an additional 5-8 minutes. This will allow for some of the chickpeas and asparagus pieces to brown. Remove from oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Toss in lemon juice, lemon zest , mint and serve!

{ 2 comments }

quinoa tabouli

by Heguiberto on March 13, 2012

quinoa tabouli

quinoa tabouli

I made this dish for a “healthy-“themed potluck at the office the other day. Several areas of my company are on an inter-departmental contest for weight loss. I am impressed with the dedication of my colleagues and the number of pounds some people are dropping. Go marketing team! The recipe is a variation on tabouli with endive and escarole, which is also quite healthy. Here the quinoa adds additional protein. They’re these incredible little seed power-packs. I was inspired by our recent visit to Herbivore where we tried something similar. This makes a perfect vegan meal.

quinoa tabouli

1½ cups quinoa
4 whole scallions, chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cube vegetarian bouillon
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Rinse and soak quinoa for about 10 minutes. Drain, transfer to a sauce pan add 2 cups of water and the cube of vegetarian bouillon. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to low and cook until soft but not mushy. Add more water if needed. Pour quinoa over a strainer and let it drain excess water and cool down to room temperature.

Once quinoa has cooled, add the rest of the ingredients. Adjust salt to taste. Let sit at room temperature before serving, or better yet, refrigerate and serve the following day. The tabouli will taste even better.

{ 3 comments }

I always think of stuffed veggies as an elegant treat. When I was younger, they mystified me. How in the world did anyone figure out how to fill these delectable creations just right? Now that I’m officially “middle aged” and thus more experienced in the kitchen, the question no longer interests me. Instead, I’m quite comfortable improvising.

yellow bell peppers stuffed with mung bean, feta and fresh herbs

yellow bell peppers stuffed with mung bean, feta and fresh herbs

And that is what these mung bean filled peppers are all about. I had the ingredients at home already and sort of made the recipe up as I went along. I liked it so well, that I kept snacking on the filling while I was preparing the dish. Mmmm.

Typically, poblanos are my favorite pepper to stuff, as I prefer their earthy, smoky flavors over the plain sweet bell peppers. Mine were too tiny for that. So instead I chopped one up and sautéed it to bring those tastes to the dish.

bake any remaining filling in ramekins for an attractive presentation

bake any remaining filling in ramekins for an attractive presentation

my big jug of dried green mung beans

my big jug of dried green mung beans

yellow bell peppers stuffed with mung bean, feta and fresh herbs

4 to 6 medium to large yellow bell peppers
3 tbsp olive oil plus more
1 poblano pepper; stems, ribs and seeds removed; chopped fine
2 pieces green garlic, green and white parts, chopped fine
4 scallions, green and white parts, chopped fine
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped fine
1 small bunch mint, chopped fine
3 cups prepared mung beans
½ lb. French feta or similar that will melt easily
2 tbsp pignioli nuts
12 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne

I usually start with dry mung beans. This time, I had some that I’d already prepared, frozen and awaiting this delicious recipe. These lovely beans don’t require soaking. Just boil in water for about 30 to 45 minutes. That’s it. They should be completely drained before using here.

To prepare yellow bell peppers for stuffing, remove tops and interior seeds and ribs with a paring knife.
Steam for ten minutes then rinse to cool.

Pre heat oven to 350F.

In a large skillet, add olive oil then sauté green garlic, scallion, chopped poblano pepper and a pinch of salt for a few minutes until they soften. Add mung bean, cover and warm through. Add feta, mint, parsley, pignoli, olives and mix everything together. Adjust salt and add black pepper. Remember for the filling to taste right with the unsalted peppers, it should be slightly salty on its own.

Gently fill yellow bell peppers with mung bean mix and place on a baking dish. If you have extra filling (like I did) you can bake that in ramekins for an elegant presentation, or in any baking dish. Finish with some more olive oil and dust the filled peppers with cayenne.

Bake about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. We had ours with plain basmati rice.

{ 4 comments }

I adapted this marvelous garbanzo bean recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty.

sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

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 the process and the order in which ingredients are added or combined to a dish to maximally preserve the individual flavor and freshness of each, while combining harmoniously in a final dish that will taste even better. Here the aromas and volatile components present in herbs such as mint and cilantro, and the powerful presence of garlic all play their individual roles, adding layers of complexity to this meal. I feel I am acting sort of like one of the Iron Chefs today, trying awkwardly to explain myself to the panel of celebrity judges. Yet in a simple dish made with ingredients as prosaic as beans sometimes you truly can find poetry.

sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

6 cups cooked chickpeas
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 medium sized carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
2 bunches rainbow Swiss chard
2 cups pre washed spinach leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tbsp fresh mint, julienned
2 tbsp cilantro, julienned
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

for the labneh sauce:

¾ cup labneh
Water
Kosher salt
Olive oil

Wash Swiss chard in lots of water. Separate stalks from leaves. Cut stalks into ½ inch segments. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the Swiss chard stalks in, cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Add chard leaves and cook for a couple of minutes more. Add spinach leaves in the last 30 seconds. Drain.

Add half of the olive oil to a sauce pan on high heat. Next add cumin seeds followed by the carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes. The olive oil will get tinted orange from carrot and the air will be infused with the scent of cumin.

Add chick peas, chard and spinach, give it a good stir. Cook for about 8 minutes. In the last minute of cooking add garlic, cilantro, mint, salt, pepper and the rest of the olive oil. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust flavors if needed. Transfer to a serving platter

To make the labeneh sauce, place labeneh in a bowl, add about 1/3 cup of water and whisk until it reaches the consistency of a thick yogurt. Add salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Spoon it over the chick peas and serve.

{ 7 comments }

fish biryani

by Heguiberto on November 8, 2011

This is our recipe for the biryani cook-off that the delightful Heavenly was so good to sponsor. Though after making this marvelous, complex dish; I’m starting to think that she might have been misnamed, as it appears that a tiny bit of a devilish streak lies hidden among all that domestic goodness and glamour. Have you ever seen one of those cartoons with the good angel and the bad angel sitting on the main character’s shoulders, giving opposite confusing advice? Then you know where I’m coming from here.

fish biryani

fish biryani

Okay I always promise myself whenever I’m about to cook Indian that I’ll get the spices out first, so I don’t get mixed up or forget anything, then proceed to the actual cooking adventure. But no, I didn’t do that again! Perhaps that was my evil angel’s counsel. I got dizzy from relentlessly having to go back and forth to the pantry and spinning the lazy-susan over and over and over again to locate the next needed spice for this dish. How funny that now that we have a new kitchen with a dedicated place for spices, I still find myself unable to find anything. I hope that one day they add some computerized artificial intelligence with a soothing voice to kitchen cabinets that will both find anything that I want via verbal-command and will calm me with his/her flattery and encouragement as I freak out at the stovetop. Then no more getting lost in the aromatic black hole I call my spice cabinet.

spice chaos as I look for ingredients for fish biryani

spice chaos as I look for ingredients for fish biryani

I must confess I think I have never made a dish that was so complicated. Lots of steps! I quite liked the result, but this was an effort. I am going to test the recipe again using spices in different proportions. I feel sure each time it will come out tasting slightly differently, so I can mix it up some. I’m excited to read about everyone else’s versions in the cook-off. You should be too. Follow these links for the other “contestants’” biryani masterpieces.

Heavenly Housewife from donuts to delirium
Vanessa from sweet artichoke
Glamorous Glutton
moinetteTeczcape: An Escape to Food
Laura from healthyjalapeno

fish biryani

Make Masala powder first. See below for recipe.

toasting the spices for the Masala powder

toasting the spices for the Masala powder

for the rice:

2 cup basmati rice
1 bay leaf
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
Few peppercorns
¼ tsp kosher salt

Soak rice in plenty of water for about one hour. Drain. Place rice in a saucepan with 5 cups of water. Drop in salt, bay leaf, pepper corn, and parboil the rice for about 10 minutes. Do not overcook it! Drain and set aside.

for the fish:

1 lb monkfish cut into individual pieces, or any other firm white fish
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp Masala powder*
1tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp kosher salt

Make a paste by mixing lemon juice, garlic and ginger paste, salt and powders. Rub on fish pieces and marinate for about ½ hour. Keep it refrigerated if your kitchen gets too hot.

gently poaching the monkfish in the Masala sauce

gently poaching the monkfish in the Masala sauce

for the Masala sauce:

1 large onion, cut into thin half moon slices
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Serrano peppers, minced, ribs and seeds partially removed
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
A few mint leaves, julienned
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp fresh garlic paste
1 tsp fresh ginger paste
2 tbsp Masala powder *
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp black peppercorn
½ tsp allspice powder
¼ tsp clove powder
¼ tsp onion seeds
1½ cups plain yogurt
2 tbsp canola oil
A few strands saffron
1 tsp sugar

Add oil to a large skillet followed by onion and minced Serrano pepper. Cook until onion becomes wilted and translucent. Push onion to the side of skillet. Add ginger and garlic pastes, ajwain seeds, bay leaf, black peppercorn, Aleppo pepper, Masala powder, turmeric, allspice and clove powder, saffron, onion seeds, sugar and cook until raw smells dissipate. Add tomato, stir everything together and cook until tomatoes begin to dissolve. Mix yogurt with half cup of water and fold into the sauce. Carefully lay fish pieces over the Masala sauce, cover pan and cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Mix in cilantro and mint leaves.

At this point heat up the oven to 450F.

ready to layer the baking dish with rice and fish

ready to layer the baking dish with rice and fish

several layers of rice and fish to form my biryani

several layers of rice and fish to form my biryani

*for the Masala powder for fish

5 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks ~3 inch each
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin leaves
1 bay leaf
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp ground coriander

Place cloves, cardamom, fennel and bay leaf in a saucepan; put it over burner over high heat. Dry roast spices for a few minutes until aromatic, being careful not to burn it. Transfer to a coffee grinder and pulverize. Mix in ground nutmeg and coriander. (My coriander was already ground, if you have seeds use them instead).

to assemble the fish biryani:

Using an oven-proof baking dish with a cover, assemble the biryani with one layer of rice, followed by a layer of fish masala, and finish with the remaining Masala sauce. Repeat so you end up with three or four layers of all ingredients. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. The rice will finish cooking in the masala sauce without becoming overly cooked. Remove from oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

If you haven’t had enough fish biryani yet, look here, here and here for other related versions.

{ 7 comments }

Thai bouillabaisse

September 15, 2011

I always ordered this dish when eating out at the Thai Pavilion restaurant in Astoria, Queens, my favorite Thai place when we lived in New York. There they called it Potek. It was this clear aromatic and spicy broth with loads of fish and shellfish. After moving to San Francisco, I learned to make it […]

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savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

July 12, 2011

Labneh is sort of a Lebanese version of sour cream or perhaps a very creamy cream cheese. Joumana uses it to great effect on her food blog. Look here, here and here for some excellent ideas. Hegui was so inspired that he bought a large container of labneh, mostly to snack on, it seems. I […]

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