spring onion

spicy pressed tofu salad

by Stevie on August 21, 2012

spicy pressed tofu salad

spicy pressed tofu salad

I’m so excited about this new-to-me book, Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Tofu. I saw it by chance at the local Whole Foods and was cautiously interested. I ordered a copy from the library and couldn’t put it down once I started reading. I shall have to splurge and actually buy a copy soon.

Nguyen writes in a lucid style with a modern sensibility. Despite the extremely broad sounding title, the focus here is on traditional uses of the various kinds of tofu. She’s lots of helpful illustrations and really breaks down the subject matter into digestible portions—pun intended. I made this dish last week just before we left for a trip to LA to hear fun. at the Wiltern. Mmmmm!

spicy pressed tofu salad

1 package pressed tofu cut into bite-sided cubes
2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
4 spring onions, cut into rounds
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp fermented black beans, mashed
2½ tbsp chili bean sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp sugar
1 to 2 tbsp spicy chili oil to garnish

Andrea recommends “refreshing” the peanuts by lightly roasting them in a dry pan. Let cool. Add to tofu with spring onion.

In a small pan, add canola oil, sesame oil, fermented black beans and chili bean sauce. Heat about two minutes on medium. Remove from heat and add sugar and soy sauce.

Toss sauce with tofu. Sprinkle with some chili oil. Serve.

{ 7 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.

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

tabouli with endive and escarole

tabouli with endive and escarole

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

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

tabouli with endive and escarole

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

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

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My original idea for this recipe wasn’t Southwest at all. I was reading this cool food blog, bitchin’Camero, and got super excited by Mel’s recipe for smoked salmon, goat cheese and spinach empanadas.

Southwest inspired homemade empanadas

My folks had just gone on an Alaskan cruise and brought us some smoked salmon as a gift. Perfect! I made the dish more-or-less the way described, but I tried to be ambitious and make my own dough. I should have read between the lines when Mel gave hints on buying pre-made empanada shells at a local grocer or even on-line. Will I ever learn? The filling for the salmon etc. empanada (I made one large pie instead of hand-held ones) tasted great. The crust, not so good: sort of brick-like.

this smoked salmon, goat cheese and spinach empanada looks great but the dough didn't work

Not to be deterred by such a minor setback, I tried again: this time with a different crust recipe and a new filling. I’d already used up the salmon so improvised here with a Mediterranean-meets-Southwest style stuffing. The empanada dough recipe comes from about.com. The dough was easy to make and turned out very well. I ended up sprinkling some sea salt on the finished empanadas before popping them into the oven, which might have been overkill. Otherwise, this was fantastic.

some key ingredients for Southwest inspired homemade empanadas

Southwest inspired homemade empanadas

For the filling:

½ cup olives, pitted (I used kalamata and stuffed Spanish)
3 fillets anchovy
4 sundried tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
12 small dried mild chiles (I used chile puya)
2 small onions, peeled and cut in halves
¼ cup pepitas, briefly dry pan roasted
8 spring onions, chopped
Goat cheese to taste
Salt to taste

For dough:

Follow the link above or take Mel’s excellent advice and try frozen shells. Making the dough yourself brings a real sense of satisfaction if it comes out right. Plus the empanadas can take on irregular and exciting shapes, which make them seem more unique and fun.

To prepare the filling:

Using a cast iron pan on high heat, roast the garlic and onion until blackened a bit. At the same time, roast the chile peppers for about 20 to 30 seconds on each side. Immediately toss them into a small pot of boiling water. Boil, covered, for five minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest, covered, for another fifteen minutes. (This is the same preparation that I used for smoky ancho salsa but with a different chili pepper.) Remove chiles from water. Carefully remove and discard stems, seeds and inner ribs. Place peppers in food processor.

Add olives, roasted garlic and onion, sundried tomatoes and anchovies to chiles. Pulse until a thick paste is formed. Transfer to a bowl.

Mix pepitas and spring onions with blended chile filling.

Southwest inspired homemade empanada close up

To stuff empanadas:

Place a large spoon of filling in the center of each piece of dough. Top with a chunk of goat cheese. Close dough per recipe directions and bake. Allow to cool on wire racks and serve. These would be great for a picnic to wine country!

{ 4 comments }

purslane feta pasta with fresh herbs

This recipe is a variation of spring onion, chive and feta pasta. I love the original. We have this dish at least once or twice a month. It’s very simple to make: you can whip it together in less than 20 minutes, all prep included.

This time around I added fresh oregano and purslane as I had them on hand. I love purslane and never seem to eat enough of it.

Purslane has a sweet and sour flavor. It has an enjoyably slippery texture in the mouth which makes it fun eating. I only see it for sale in the summer, so it must be a seasonal thing. I got mine at at the Alemany Farmers Market but I’ve seen it at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market as well as at the Mexican market in the Mission District, here in San Francisco.

purslane

purslane feta pasta with fresh herbs

1 medium bunch purslane, rinsed and roughly chopped, stems included
1 bunch fresh chives, rinsed and chopped fine
Leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh oregano
4 spring onions, rinsed with roots removed, green and white parts coarsely chopped
½ lb. good French sheep’s milk feta, cut into cubes
salt and black pepper to taste
½ cup olive oil
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
12 kalamata olives, pitted and cut in halves
1 package long pasta, cooked per package directions
¾ cup water from cooked pasta reserved

Throw everything into a large pasta dish while pasta cooks.

Cook pasta per package instructions. Drain, reserving some of the hot water.

Place hot pasta on top of all ingredients, followed by the hot water and toss to combine. The feta cheese will melt a bit getting a creamy texture. If necessary crush some of the cubes with the back of a spoon and toss with the juices at the bottom of the bowl. Let it sit for a couple of minutes for flavors to marry. Drizzle a bit more of extra virgin olive on top before serving. It’s delicious!

moody San Francisco skyline with the fog rolling across downtown

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Szechuan fry bread

by Stevie on July 1, 2010

I’ve been wanting to make this recipe for ages, but was having trouble locating Szechuan peppercorns. Finally, I found some in the bulk section of my least favorite grocery store ever, Rainbow. Everyone in San Francisco raves about that place but I think that it has poor lighting; it’s difficult to find things; it’s very overpriced; and, the worst thing of all, the staff is rude. Ugh! I rarely shop Rainbow but this time I was desperate so put up with the rough conditions.

Szechuan fry bread

This recipe comes from my favorite East-meets-West cookbook, Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. The dish is surprisingly easy to make, particularly considering that it’s a bread. It was delicious: not too spicy but very flavorful. The sauce is sour and a little savory, which matches perfectly. Brilliant work, Najmieh!

Szechuan peppercorn

I served this with Szechuan style green beans with zucchini, essentially using the same recipe as the one with long beans. We loved it.

Szechuan fry bread

3 cups flour, sifted
1¼ cups boiling water

¼ cup sesame oil
1 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 spring onions, shredded

Olive oil for frying

some key ingredients for Szechuan fry bread


½ cup vegetable stock
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 hot red pepper, crushed
1 spring onion, chopped
2 tbsp. soy sauce

Place flour in food processor with bread dough attachment. Pulse in water to mix and make dough. Mix for three to five minutes until a soft dough is formed. Place in bowl and cover with damp cloth. Let rest for thirty minutes.

Place rested dough on floured surface. Roll into a long cylinder about two inches in diameter. Cut into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a flat round about six inches across. Paint each piece with sesame oil on one side. Sprinkle sesame seeds, Szechuan pepper and shredded spring onion over each. Roll each round into a cigar shape. Twist each cigar into a spiral. With a rolling pin, gently flatten each spiral to form a round. When I did this, some of the sesame oil and stuffing came out. That’s o.k.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium high. Pour about two tablespoons into pan then add first bread. Fry for a few minutes until the edges dry out and the bottom becomes a reddish brown. Flip and fry reverse in same way. Repeat with remaining breads.

stuffing the bread


To prepare dipping sauce, mix remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Serve with hot bread.

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spring onion, chive and feta pasta

spring onion, chive and feta pasta

This recipe is a variation of one I found in Marcella Hazan’s cookbook, “Marcella Cucina.” Hers calls for chive but no spring onion or olives. When I first tried making this in Astoria, I couldn’t find chive easily but spring onion was quite abundant. Spring onion alone is a little too oniony but chive alone isn’t quite as peppery and exciting. In California, I use spring onion and chive which is now generally available in markets as well as the kalamata olives which give a more complex and earthy taste to the dish. Feta cheese is highly variable and a key ingredient here. I prefer a cheese that will melt somewhat. Many fetas stay quite firm even in hot water. You may have to try a few until you find one that works for your taste. This is a very simple recipe which I’ve made for years and always enjoy. The feta I used this time is from 22 and Irving Market. It’s the French one. It smelled a little like cheap pinot noir, i.e. like a barnyard, but it melted well.

some ingredients for spring onion, chive and feta pasta

some ingredients for spring onion, chive and feta pasta

Spring Onion, Chive and Feta Pasta

1 bunch chive, cleaned and chopped
6 spring onions, cleaned, roots removed and chopped
1/2 lb. feta cheese, cut into cubes
salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup olive oil
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
12 kalamata or similar olives, pitted and cut in halves
1 package long pasta, cooked per package directions
¼ cup water from cooked pasta reserved

While boiling pasta, put all ingredients except for reserved water in large platter. Add hot pasta to bowl and toss. Pour reserved water to moisten pasta a bit. Toss and then let sit for a few minutes for ingredients to marry. Serve with salad and red wine, of course! 🙂

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I love Mediterranean style cooking. The food is always fresh, never too heavy in sauces, you can taste each individual item, it’s almost always lean…hummm. Among the vegetables used in Mediterranean cuisine, the artichoke is one of my favorite. They are beautiful plants. I’ve seen them planted as decorations in gardens here in California. The leaves are greenish gray and when left to mature the artichoke produces a beautiful purple flower that looks just like an oversized thistle. They look alike for a reason: both the artichoke and the thistle are members of the same family of plants. Isn’t that neat?

finished Mediterranean baby artichokes

finished Mediterranean baby artichokes

Fresh artichokes filled every Greek market that I used to shop at back in the day when I lived in Astoria, NY. A few years ago, shortly after moving to the West Coast, we went on a driving trip along the Pacific to Big Sur. We ended up traveling through miles and miles of artichoke fields somewhere near Santa Cruz. They were breathtakingly beautiful. Steven imagined that those plants looked pre-historic because of their unusual coloring, the shape of the leaves, the long thorns and the actual artichokes themselves, sticking incongruously, almost menacingly, up in the air like primitive weapons. Well, maybe the fog was confounding his vision. I’ve heard that California produces 90% of the artichokes consumed in America, and that most of them come from that area.

A-ha! So this was where my “Greek” artichokes had been growing all along!

While passing by these romantic artichoke fields, we suddenly had the urge to indulge our taste buds with some of these incredible flower buds. Luckily the area caters to all things artichoke, so we had no problem finding the perfect place. Almost perfect, anyway: the only way they made them was deep… no, deeply fried….served with their popular aioli sauce on the side. I don’t normally go for fried food (well, sometimes ;)) but here we were in the Mystical, Misty Land of Artichokes! How could we pass on this rare opportunity? We ordered a couple servings and just devoured them almost instantly. The Mexican beer that we ordered was excellent, too!

I never tried frying artichokes at home. Maybe I should sometime…?

Last week I found a perfect box of baby artichokes at Trader Joe’s. They were very fresh with a deep olive green color that turned a little purplish at the base and on the stems. They’re easy to make the way I prepared them though cleaning the things is a pain and a lot of laborious work!

cleaned artichokes, soaking in lemon bath

cleaned artichokes, soaking in lemon bath

To clean artichokes:

Rinse baby artichokes in cold water. Using your fingers, remove about 3 to 4 layers of the outer leaves. Then cut about ½ of artichoke top off. Using a potato peeler, shave the rough outer layer off the stem and base. Don’t cut the stems off! These taste great and make the finished dish look much more interesting and exotic. Cut the very tip of the stem off. Then split artichoke in half cutting it lengthwise (from stem through the crown of the bud.) Carve the choke (the hairy/spiny center) out with a spoon or a sharp paring knife. Immediately toss prepared artichoke into a large bowl filled with cold water and the juice of a lemon along with the squeezed lemon peel itself. This will keep the artichoke from turning brown. Repeat with all artichokes. You see, a lot of painful and laborious work.

Fresh Baby Artichokes for Dinner

Ingredients:
12 to 15 baby artichokes prepared as above, rinsed
3 cloves of garlic, cut into fine slivers
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 spring onions, chopped coarsely
2-3 tbsp water for steaming
½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped roughly
3 sprigs of fresh oregano, stems removed
1 tbsp Spanish capers with 1 tbsp caper brine
5 Spanish stuffed olives, cut into rounds
salt
fresh black pepper
red chili pepper flakes
3 tsp olive oil
a few slivers of peeled Parmigiano-reggiano cheese (cut with potato peeler) or 2 tbsp grated. Spend a little more cashola on this! There’s no substitute.

blooming decorative artichoke

blooming decorative artichoke

How to:
1-heat olive oil in frying pan on high heat. Add onion, sauté for a couple of minutes, then add garlic and further sauté for another couple of minutes. Toss in artichokes. Sprinkle with salt. Add spring onion followed by a couple of tbsp of water. Cover the pan and let artichokes cook till al dente, about 5 minutes. Add Italian parsley, oregano, capers with brine, olives, pepper flakes and fresh pepper. Adjust salt. Transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle with a bit more of olive oil; add cheese to the top and serve! It goes well with red or white wine. Bon appétit!

{ 6 comments }

vegetarian Szechuan eggplant

June 1, 2009

I grew up eating American Chinese food in New England. This was mainly take-out or at restaurants on special occasions like Christmas Eve. Chinese places were always open on December 24th for some reason. The whole family was really into the fried stuff, like eggrolls and dumplings. When I was quite young, we’d order this […]

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