shallot

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.

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

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

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

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

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

for the curry paste:

dried spices:

1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ pepper corns

fresh ingredients:

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

preserved ingredients:

1 tbsp shrimp paste

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

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

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

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

for the dish proper:

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

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

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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 }

These Yukon gold potatoes came from our community garden plot! I am so excited about that fact. Have you ever grown potatoes? Well, I haven’t before. And we never planted them to begin with—they just “came with” the new plot. These are super yellow and lovely. I wonder if they were planted intentionally? The person who used to have our plot composted, so she could have dumped them in as table scraps or something. Well, whatever the reason, we were able to harvest about 5 lbs of gorgeous potatoes in less than four months. One day we started digging and the spuds kept on surfacing. Wow!

clams with Yukon gold potatoes

clams with Yukon gold potatoes

Yukon gold potatoes harvested from our community garden plot

Yukon gold potatoes harvested from our community garden plot

I’m continually enchanted with growing some of the produce we eat. It is magical and right now (mid-summer) every other day when I come to the garden I am surprised at how fast things develop. We’ve been getting lots of sun and that is making our plants happy.

This recipe is sort of a cross between a clam chowder and Vichyssoise soup. The clam sauce is inspired by this recipe, an excellently traditional way to enjoy fresh clams.

clams with Yukon gold potatoes

3 lbs medium to small sized clams, rinsed and clean
2 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1½ cups dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped fine
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
small bunch chopped chives

Bring a pot of water to a boil; add a little salt and the cubed potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes or until tender, transfer to a colander to drain. Set aside.

Heat up 3 tbsp olive oil in a skillet, add shallot first then garlic and cook until aromatic. Toss in clams and let them sizzle for a couple of minutes without burning the garlic/shallot mix. Add wine and shake the pan to coat everything with juices. Cover and let cook on high until clams start to open. Transfer clams to a bowl as they begin to open and keep warm. Discard the ones that don’t open, if any. Pour juices over boiled potatoes and blend until smooth using a stick blender. If too thick add a bit of hot water. Adjust taste with salt. Return potato to the skillet and warm through. Toss in chives, the clams and drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil. Serve at once.

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Sometimes the most memorable dining experiences are when you cook with friends. Dinner yesterday was a treat: our friend, John, and I made it together. This delicious shiitake mushroom on toast was his contribution. I was mentally taking notes while watching him preparing it. The dish came together in almost no time and it tasted so good that we ate it all just as fast, obviously with sips of red wine and lots of laughs. Most of the ingredients were grown or made locally, so it was all super fresh.

Shiitake mushrooms & fromage blanc on toast

Shiitake mushrooms & fromage blanc on toast

Shiitake mushrooms & fromage blanc on toast

6 slices of rustic country loaf
1 lb shiitake mushrooms, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 shallot, minced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Marsala wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
½ cup container fromage blanc (ours from Cowgirl Creamery)
1 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped fine

Turn broiler on and position rack close to coils.

Place a non stick skillet on stove top, bring temperature to medium high, and add olive oil, shallot, garlic and cook until translucent. Toss in chopped shiitake and continue cooking for another minute or so. Add Marsala wine and stir until all absorbed, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add butter and set aside.

Place bread slices on a baking tray and lightly toast them in the oven, about 2 minutes. Remove spread cheese evenly on each slice. Return to the oven and toast until edges of bread have become brown and cheese starts to bubble. Remove from oven, top with sautéed mushrooms and sprinkle with parsley.

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Sweet or savory, most countries have their own style of making pancakes. I really like the Vietnamese version, bánh xèo. This recipe is especially interesting because it utilizes two ingredients very common on our table in a totally different way: rice and beans, a favorite combination on this blog. See what I mean here.

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes with leaft lettuces, mint etc. in the afternoon sunlight

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes with leafy lettuces, mint etc. in the afternoon sunlight

I’ve often seen this with shrimp or pork. (I used fish sauce in the spicy dipping sauce, otherwise this would be vegan.) Omitting these two still delivers a pancake packed with delicious flavor. I’ve adapted this bánh xèo from two sources: flavor explosions and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. It didn’t come out as crisply as I expected, probably due to me limited experience in this art. Nevertheless these were divine.

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes

For the batter:

½ cup hulled mung beans, soaked for 2h, drained and then steamed till soft and cooled down
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups rice flour
½ cup corn starch
2 cups water
1 tsp kosher salt
¾ tsp turmeric powder
4 whole scallions, chopped

For the stuffing:

I lb mung bean sprouts
1 shallot, chopped
Canola oil
1 pack enoki mushrooms, stems discarded

For the salad condiments:

Any sweet lettuce, mint leaves, cilantro, chives, mung bean sprouts all undressed

For the spicy dipping sauce:

1 serrano pepper, seeds and ribs partially removed, chopped and slightly crushed
1 tsp chili garlic sauce (Túong Ót Tói Viet-Nam)
2 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp water
5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 limes
1 large fresh clove garlic peeled and smashed

Place sugar, water, vinegar, fish sauce, Serrano pepper, chili sauce and juice of one lime in a small pot. Warm on stovetop until sugar just melts. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Add juice of second lime, and garlic.

Next prepare the filling. Sauté shallot in one table spoon of canola oil until translucent, add mung bean sprout and cook briefly just to wilt them a bit. Sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

To make the batter, place cooked and cooled mung beans, salt, turmeric powder, and coconut milk in food processor and whiz until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Add water, rice flour, corn starch and whisk to combine. Mix in scallions. Adjust consistency if too thick with a bit more water.

Add one tablespoon canola oil to a non-stick skillet on high heat. Let it warm up. Depending on the diameter of the pan, ladle in one or two scoops of batter. Spread batter evenly on surface of pan, add some mushrooms so tips are showing on the edge of one side of the pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes, until border is crispy. Flip with a spatula and cook for another minute, flip back again, add a bit of sautéed mung bean sprouts and fold it to shape into half moon. Repeat process with rest of the batter.

Serve the pancakes and salad with spicy dipping sauce.

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Some restaurants tend to make meat the focus of the main dish and skimp with regards to vegetable portions. How many times have you seen a huge steak served on a massive dish with a tiny portion of vegetables: something like a few minuscule cubes of carrot; a single, near microscopic broccoli floret or a lone spear of asparagus? Really the vegetables are there just for decoration.

sautéed zucchini and yellow squash

sautéed zucchini and yellow squash

When you ask for additional vegetables, or, if they’re not on the menu, request that the chef prepares a dish with veggies, the wait-staff look at you as if you come from another planet. And once again, inevitably, when the vegetable plate arrives, the portion is just as absurdly little. (And I’m not even talking about the flavor here, as most often these mini-veggies only taste like butter.) It is funny as I have always thought that vegetables were cheaper (and healthier) than meat to serve, so they’d likely improve the bottom line of any restaurant. What’s up with that?

I’m pulling your metaphorical leg here a bit, as I know the reason for this. We’re trained to ignore veggies and focus on fattening foods, especially when we dine out. How sad.

Actually this dreadful paucity of veggies happened to me the other day when we went to Zuni with friends. I was not very excited about the main course offerings, so instead, I ordered appetizers and wanted some vegetables to go with them. The waiter promptly offered to have the chef prepare a ‘special’ side of veggies for me. On the face of it that sounds really excellent, don’t you think? Well, this chef-inspired dish turned out to have maybe a half-dozen small pieces of mixed veggies, probably 4 to 6 oz total, if not less. That’ll teach me to special order.

Needless to say, when we’re home, the vegetable portions tend to be a trifle bigger, and I love it. I served this zucchini and yellow squash sauté as a side to go with halibut en papilote. It matched well with the dish, I ate a lot and enjoyed every minute of it.

sautéed zucchini and yellow squash

2 Italian zucchini, cubed small
2 yellow squash, cubed small
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
Black pepper
Kosher salt
Chili flakes
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
½ tsp minced lemon thyme

Heat up olive oil in a skillet, sweat shallot then add garlic. In goes the zucchini, yellow squash, salt, pepper, chili flakes, parsley and thyme. Toss around for about 4 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and voilà!

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And here’s another dish from the-Y-O, that’s Yotam Ottolenghi to you and me. This adaptation from “Plenty” was a huge success. The dish is South East Asian inspired, since it uses sambal sauce.

sambal okra over coconut rice

sambal okra over coconut rice

Sambal is a fiery sauce made with chili peppers, shallots, tamarind and other spices. The-Y-O claims that a dish like this is served in Malaysia for breakfast. “Wow” is all I can say, people and their cuisines sure can be different. This is spicy! I can’t imagine having it for breakfast. It reminds me of our trip to Thailand and Cambodia a few years ago. When we first arrived, the brutal jet lag had me hungry for spicy foods loaded with fish sauce in the morning. That’s standard fare there, so it worked out really well, at least at the beginning. Fried rice and fish soup at 7AM, no problem! I ate with gusto and it was all simply delicious! After a week or two, as I adjusted to the Thai clock, I began to have trouble with that kind of breakie.

I’ve made sambal before with calamari and shrimp, but didn’t think breakfast-time. We had this sambal okra for dinner, which is just fine by me. Really, it was so tasty that I’d be willing to have it anytime, including for breakfast… I bet this would be a super remedy for a hangover…

sambal okra over coconut rice

for the coconut rice:

1 cup basmati rice rinsed
½ cup coconut milk
1½ cups water
2 rinds of lemon
4 thin slices of fresh ginger
Kosher salt to taste

for the okra:

1 lb frozen baby okra
Lemon or lime wedges
Cilantro leaves for decoration

for the sambal sauce:

3 fresh Jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs partially removed (leave some for heat)
5 dried red chili peppers, seeds discarded
8 baby shallots
2 garlic cloves
1tsp paprika
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp sugar
Kosher salt to taste

Add chilies fresh and dried, shallots, garlic, paprika, tamarind, sugar, 2 tablespoons of oil and another 2 of water to the food processor and spin until it turns into paste.

Place remaining oil in a large skillet on high. Pour paste in and sauté for a minute or so. Turn temperature down and cook it for about 10 minutes. The sambal sauce will be ready when it becomes dark brownish red in color and oil starts to separate from the paste. Set aside.

Place all rice ingredients in a saucepan on high heat. Give it a good stir. Bring to a boil. Stir again, reduce temperature to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, keeping covered, and let rest for 8-10 minutes.

Have a pan ready with boiling water within the last 8-10 minutes rice is finishing cooking. Drop frozen okra into the water and cook 3-4 minutes to scald the little pods. Transfer okra to a colander and run some cold water over to stop cooking process.

Heat up sambal, fold in okra and let it warm through.

Transfer rice to a serving platter, top with sambal okra & decorate with cilantro leaves and wedges of lemon.

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ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and shitake in sage and trumpet mushroom sauce

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The inspiration for this dish came from necessity: Hegui carved a truly gigantic French pumpkin into medium sized cubes to make pumpkin coconut compote, but there was too much pumpkin. He also made a variation on Brazilian quibebe, but there was still too much pumpkin. He gave some to Jasmine T for her pumpkin pie […]

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