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Friday, October 31, 2014

Squash and Mushroom Dan Dan with Dangmyeon Noodles

A few days ago, I made some incredible Dan Dan Mian respecting the authenticity of the dish and adjusting the chili oil heat by plate.  I had a small bit of that dan dan sauce leftover that I just couldn't throw away, so I saved it in a jar in the fridge.  Since that day, it's been calling out at me.. but I've been doing so many other types of dishes that I wasn't quite ready to to a remake.  Now that I understand the concept of the dish, I allowed myself some room for freestyle.  Why not add a bit of squash?  It is Halloween, after all.  Since I'm not out disguised and partying like any normal American should be doing, I'll at least have my pumpkin in costume...
I had a piece of sucrine squash I needed to finish and taste-wise, it would worked out just perfect.  Why not transform it into fight food?  I decided to go half noodle and half strip mushroom, which are the same shape as noodles and are not very pungent, so would sub in just perfectly.  Since I didn't have time to grind, I just cubed some chicken filets and just let it flow out of memory.
The real star of the dish is the sauce, though.. so make sure you have the sauce.. otherwise you cannot call this dan dan anything.
Serves 3
700g (1.5lb) sucrine du berry or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 chicken cutlets, cubed
1 handful preserved radish greens
1 handful chopped leek greens
150g (5 oz) dangmyeon (sweet potato starch) noodles
100g (3.5 oz) dried strip mushrooms
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp five spice
1 tsp light soy sauce or tamari
1/2 cup heated Dan Dan sauce
2 Tbsp red chili oil
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
crushed peanuts for garnish
1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles and mushroom strips for about 5 minutes or to dangmyeon package instructions.  You can do the rest while this is happening.  Drain and set aside.
2.Heat the coconut oil in a wok and add the cubed squash.  Stir-fry for a minute or two, then add the preserved radish greens.
3.  When the squash starts becoming tender (about 2-3 minutes) add the chicken, garlic, leeks, and five spice.
4.  Stir fry until chicken is cooked through (about 5 minutes) then deglaze with the soy sauce.
5.  Give yourself enough time to make the dan dan sauce and red chili oil if you didn't already have it on hand.
6.  Assemble.  Place the strip mushrooms and noodles in a bowl with a few tablespoons of the hot dan  dan sauce.  Add some red chili oil, sesame seeds, and crushed peanuts.

Ah... now THAT is fight food!

The dangmyeon noodles work very well here.  I was looking for they chewy slick texture and this did not disappoint!
I'll be moving on to Mexican now that I've had my weekly Chinese fix..

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sucrine du Berry and Chanterelle Quinoa "Risotto"

Everyone has an activity reserved just for the "alone" moments.  Some are more glamorous than others.. for example, changing into your birthday suit once you know you'll be alone for a while.  Some like to watch the original versions of foreign movies or TV shows.  Some like to slip on their wive's red stilettos and feel comfortable.  These secret little pleasures are not necessarily bad or wrong.  They are just the only moments we can share with ourselves when we know there will be un-interrupted alone-ness for a short time.. so we do something we almost never do, but we get a high out of.  I don't have one of those strange stiletto fetishes, but I do know that I don't have the evening to myself very often.. but tonight.. it was just me and the animals.. and my "fetish" is to listen to Ravi Shankar's intro to the Concert for Bangladesh while cooking something incredibly classy.  My recent trip to the market included a small sucrine du berry, a French squash similar to the butternut, calling my name with it's "Hey, I'm in season right this second!!" pitch.  My stilettos tonight are seasonal, but never closed toed.  They are sweetly roasted squash with wild chanterelle mushrooms and some exotic long pepper from java... and speaking to the inner voice out loud and without restraint.  I really couldn't have done a better pairing job if I had tried..
Serves 4
1.5kg (3.3 lb) sucrine du berry or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
300g (10.5 oz) chanterelle mushrooms, wiped clean
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 sprig fresh sage, chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 pinch angel hair chile (or 1/4 tsp chile powder)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Javanese long peppers, ground in a mortar
few pinches fleur de sel
2 Tbsp heavy cream
parmesan for garnish
drizzle truffled olive oil in your plate
1.  Toss the squash cubes with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and a pinch of fleur de seul.  Bake for about 40-50 minutes at 190°C 375°F.
2.  Bring the vegetable broth to a boil in a pot and add the quinoa, a few pinches of the long pepper, one of the garlic cloves, angel hair chile, sage, and nutmeg. Cover and simmer until the liquid has mostly absorbed.
3.  Prepare the spinach.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a wide, heavy based pan or wok.  Add the fresh spinach and one of the garlic cloves along with a pinch of fleur de sel.  Cook until wilted and reserve.
4.  Prepare the chanterelles.  In that same pan, add the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil along with the chanterelle mushrooms and the rest of the garlic.  Cook, stirring until they start to release liquid.  Add a pinch of fleur de sel and cook for 2 minutes longer.
5.  By now the quinoa should have mostly absorbed the liquid.  Transfer into the pan with the chanterelles.  Stir, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa starts to look pearly.  I'm not really good at giving exact times.. sorry, but I was on an incredible musical high that I didn't pay attention to such details.
6.  Add in the baked sucrine squash cubes along with most of the rest of the pepper.  Stir without pulverizing the squash bits to have them evenly distributed through the dish.  Taste and add some fleur de sel if needed.
7.  The most important step is the cream.  Not because there is much of it.. but because it really binds all the flavors together.  Don't skip the stirring in of the cream.  It's the last little detail that will knock your socks off.
Serve by laying a light bed of sautéed spinach at the bottom of your dish, then the risotto mixture over it.. sprinkled with a bit of grated parmesan, another touch of the Javanese long pepper, and for the most "gourmands" a drizzle of truffled olive oil.

This dish is worthy of any high end venue.. such as my Stiletto-Evening-Chateau..

The Javanese long pepper leaves an almost clove like sensation but with a numbing pepper taste on the front of the tongue.  The truffled olive oil plays at the back of the mouth and you can taste the pair as you breath in.  Sage and squash such as this one is a no brainer.. they go so well together I'm not even sure how to use fresh sage other than with butternut or sexy squash.  The bed of sautéed spinach  is there not only for color contrast but for the earthy flavor that pairs well with the chanterelles.
This dinner was just perfection at its peak.

I'm going to put on my green stilettos and have some piment d'espelette ice cream for dessert now...

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Roasted Celery Root and other Oddities

Celery root is a strange strange vegetable.  It certainly does not look appetizing in its raw root form.  It's mostly eaten here grated as a salad with lots of mayo and cream.  It's interesting, though, because it has the pungent taste of celery but without all the stalks.  The root is white and can be used in purees such as mashed potatoes or soup.
Why doesn't anybody ever roast the thing?  Afraid of too much textural confusion?  Roasting is my favorite way of subliming quality ingredients in their own fragrance.  I added some other oddities such as white turnip and sweet potato, then some other tid bits to make it a bit more colorful than just.. white.
Then it ended up making enough for 5 people, although it was originally just for me.  No worries... I am quite good at bringing the best out of individuals..
Serves 5
1/2 celery root, peeled
1 white sweet potato, peeled
1 long white turnip, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
1 red onion, peeled
4 cloves garlic, sheathed
1 large green chile, seeded
a few brussels sprouts, halved (optional)
1 tsp fleur de sel
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
pinch angel hair chile or chile powder
1 Tbsp raspberry vinegar
few sprigs fresh dill
1.  Cut all the vegetables into like size chunks and toss everything but the vinegar and dill together with the olive oil.
2.  Bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour at 200°C 400°F, shaking the pan around from time to time.
Nice.  Isn't that nice?
3.  Drizzle a bit of that raspberry vinegar on and top with some dill before serving... with for example..
some mackerel filets..
or a chile avocado burger..

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Aglio e Basilico Spaghetti Pescatore

I don't know what's going on, but I've been craving spicy pasta and noodles.  I'm also going through major cuisine ADD.  Seriously, within a single week, I can go through a Mexican, Indian, Chinese, French, American, and Italian phase...with rest on The 7th day...
The craving hits between 2-3pm, and my mind goes through several brainstorms with the inner voice before settling down on the perfect solution.  Today, I wanted some mega garlic with spicy mouthfuls of summer plancha squid tentacles.  A few months ago, I overestimate what 2 people could eat in one sitting during a plancha craving.  I ate everything that wouldn't keep, and saved the grilled squid tentacles sliced in a freezer bag to retrieve during a future craving.
That day has come...
I picked up this green garlic and basil spaghetti near the Italian border and I've been waiting for it to spring up on me in this way.  Ah coming home, placing Maurice, my bearded dragon on my shoulder while speaking with my now 27 year old brother, wishing him a happy birthday, then sitting down to this.. what a perfect evening of the day today has been!
Garlic and Basil Spaghetti in a Spicy Tomato Seafood Sauce
Serves 5-6
1 lb - 500g garlic basil spaghetti (I found De Luca's artisanal brand) cooked al dente
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 large green chile, seeded and diced
4 garlic cloves, grated
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 can Italian tomato pulp + 1 can water
zest from 1 lemon
lots of freshly cracked black pepper
1 large pinch angel hair chile (or 1/2 tsp chile powder)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch fleur de sel
grated parmesan, to garnish
1.  Heat the oil in a heavy based pan or wok and cook the onion until translucent.
2.  Add the diced chile, basil, and garlic, and cook until fragrant.
3.  Add the tomato pulp and lemon zest.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes.
4.  Add the pepper, angel hair chile, and balsamic vinegar.  It might get a bit thick and dangerously spurt.  At this point, add some water, but no more than 1 can.  Simmer for another 5 minutes.
5.  Add in the cooked and sliced squid tentacles.  Since these are already cooked, just heat them need to further cook.
6.  Taste and add some fleur de sel as needed.  The squid may have released some of its salty seawater, so don't oversalt here.
7.  Toss with the al dente spaghetti.

Serve garnished with grated parmesan.
Then.. don't tell anyone you went for seconds.. please!
This could work with any type of seafood.  The sauce would go well with anything from mussels, clams, calamari, or even a can of drained squid.  I just used some grilled tentacles I had in the freezer, but oohhh yes clams.  I will definitely be making this again with fresh clams... letting them steam over the sauce and have their magic drip in instead of adding that can of water.

I haven't been this satisfied with a pasta dish in a very very long time.  I didn't follow a recipe, I just followed my inner voice which seems to guide me everywhere I place my hands..

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Dan Dan Mian with Udon Noodles

Slick oily spicy umami chewy Sichuan noodles.  The kind you slurp up and have to wipe your running nose after eating.  That's the kind of luxury these Dan Dan noodles bring to your life.
I'd been imagining these all day and made all the careful chili oil preparations when I realized I may be having company over that doesn't know me.  This isn't really a problem, it's just that people that know me expect to be eating something out of the ordinary when at my table.. some people do not do well with unknown flavors.
Lucky for me, everything went smoothly.. and I didn't even have a drop of red chili oil left after the meal!
Inspired by Yi Reservation
Serves 3
230g (8oz) dried udon noodles
1 handful fresh spinach (I didn't have any so I left it out)
250g (9oz) ground turkey or pork
115g (4oz) preserved mustard or radish green, chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp five spice
1 Tbsp light soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp grated garlic
2 tsp sesame paste (or tahini)
3 Tbsp light soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 Tbsp Mirin or 1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp black vinegar
2 + 2 Tbsp red chili oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 cup boiling hot water
chopped scallions (I used leek greens)
crushed peanuts
1.  Prepare the "meat" ingredients.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the ground turkey, ginger, garlic, and preserved greens.  Stir fry until cooked through, then add the five spice and deglaze with the soy sauce.  Watch out because the preserved greens are already salty, so don't overdo it with the soy sauce.  Cook until nice and brown and almost crispy.  Reserve.
2.  Cook the noodles with the spinach.  My dried Udon cooked for 5 minutes until they attained their desired chewy texture.  Then drain and rinse.
3.  While that is happening, prepare the sauce.  Stir everything but the chili oil and hot water together in a bowl until nice and smooth.  This may take some time because tahini tends to thicken with liquid.  Add 2 Tbsp of the chili oil and the boiling cup of water.  Stir well, finger taste test to see if the spiciness is enough.  I left the other 2 Tbsp on the table and added it onto my plate.
4.  Assemble.  Place home hot udon noodles and spinach in a bowl, spoon a few Tbsp of the sauce over the noodles.  Add some of the meat, then garnish with chopped scallions and crushed peanuts... and a few extra spoonfuls of red chili oil... if you can handle it.
Yes, you can eat this with chopsticks.. it's a slurp-with-face-near-bowl experience but its is the best way to enjoy this.

The spiciness was incredible.  I highly recommend making your own red chili oil.
I also discovered preserved radish greens.. which is very interesting.  They are pickled, crunchy, and salty, but with this earthy pleasant flavor.  Don't skip the preserved greens!

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Chinese Red Chili Oil

There is something hypnotizing about red chili oil.  I've made cold olive oil infused with red chiles chile oil before, but this one is the specific one used in some of the best Chinese noodle recipes, hot infused and filtered for a pristine red hot ma la condiment.  Traditionally, it is made with peanut oil but since I didn't have any, I used coconut oil and grape seed oil.  Neutral oils that are slightly healthier than peanut oil, but work fine since they are not fragrant like olive oil.  I mixed the two because coconut oil solidifies at room temperature, and I wanted a liquid result.
Inspired by ChinaSichuanFood
Yield 5 Tbsp
3 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp grape seed (or sunflower) oil
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 Tbsp dry roasted and ground red chiles
2 tsp dry roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 inch knob of ginger
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1.  Place everything in a ceramic bowl except the oil, cinnamon, and star anise.
2.  Heat the oil in a sauce pan with the cinnamon and star anise.
3.  When it starts to sizzle, wait about 30 seconds for the cinnamon to "unravel," then remove the anise and cinnamon.
4.  Pour the hot oil into the bowl over all the other ingredients.  It will foam up, but then reduce a bit.
5.  Let infuse and cool down for at least 3 hours.
6.  Strain with a fine mesh or cheesecloth to achieve the pristine red liquid that will blow your head off.

I dipped my finger in to measure the spiciness and I was not disappointed!
I used this in Dan Dan Mian which resulted in an extremely spicy Ma La heaven...

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Salt Cod Soup with Angel Hair Chile

Salt cod (morue salée) is not something you should take lightly.
Salting cod is a method used often in Portugal to preserve it.  In addition to preserving the fish, it helps it keep a wonderful meaty texture once it's been rehydrated and cooked.  You must not just "wing it" for cooking.  I tried that and realized my mistake.  To re-animate the dry salted fish, it needs to go through a soaking and rinsing process that can 12-24 hours depending on how dry it is.  Once you get paste that, it is quite a treat.  A traditional Portugese use is in Bacalhau, a baked emulsion of salted cod, olive oil, and potatoes.  I wanted to go for something soupy.. and I was not disappointed..
Serves 3
300g salt cod, soaked and rinsed during at least 24 hours
1 extra large handful cauliflower florets
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 serving pan fried brussel sprouts
3 cups chicken broth
few pinches angel hair chile (or chile powder)
lots of fresh cracked pepper
please no salt!
1.  Make sure not to skip on soaking and rinsing time on that salt cod... if you do, it will be inedible.  Remove from soaking water and cut into pieces.
2.  Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions.  Cook until translucent, then add the carrots.
3.  Cook, stirring for a few minutes until things start to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add in the cod, cauliflower, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes.
4.  Now comes the creamy part.  Using an immersible hand blender, give it 3 or 4 pulses.  This will thicken the soup and give it a creamy texture without the addition of actual cream.  I like my soups chunky, so I didn't blend it too much.
4.  Add the peas, pepper, pan fried brussel sprouts, and angle hair chile.  Simmer for another 5 minutes.  Taste and add more water if it's too salty (which you shouldn't have to do if you respected the soaking time).

Serve hot

This rather comforting and filling soup is actually quite healthy.  I was going for more of a chowder-style soup which is generally full of flour and cream to get it thick, and this came out chowder-like but without all those extra fillers.  I am no longer afraid of using salt cod.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Masoor and Toor Dal with Leeks

During a never-ending 4-5 hour drive home with never changing landscape, my mind struggles between dozing off (if I'm a passenger), singing (if there's good music such as Elvis or Cream in today's case), or concocting taste hallucinations in my mind (during any life situation, really.)
Today's taste hallucination involved some chopped leek greens I keep in my freezer whenever a recipe calls for the whites or tender parts of leeks.  Those green parts are quite useful in any leek situation, or in a green onion deficient situation.  They are pretty much the same vegetable, aren't they?  Leeks are just green onions on steroids.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
So when I'm out of town all week with no kitchen (it's torture to not have a single centimeter of kitchen during a whole week.. at least a fridge and microwave please??? but no.. not this week) I have taste hallucinations all week.  I've been currently taste hallucinating butternut squash roasted with apples, ginger, and drizzled with orange juice.. and also some golden egg style paneer in a cashew sauce.. and also some sprouted whole mung curry.
The thing is.. when I finally get home, I don't go food shopping, so I have to adapt my imaginative desires to my real life supplies... which I don't find to be so much of a challenge as I do during my "coming to" after taste hallucinating.  I have an intelligently stocked freezer and a whole cabinet full of lentils, bean, split peas, and rice.  Why should coming home after a week out on a friday at 7:30 pm be considered a hamper to my meal plan?  Well, it isn't once I get my hands on my happy place!
The secret ingredient this time around is Sambar powder.  That stuff is amazing.  It adds another dimension to the dish.  I'm talking beyond space time.  You know the 3 coordinates + time = 4 dimensions.  Well.. I'm giving you the taste-time coordinate.  Because how you process the taste depends on the mood at the time.  Something delicious may appear bland if you're not in a receptive mood.  Inversely, something ridiculously bland may taste exceptional if ingested at a dopamine-high moment of the psyche.
I may have gone out of hand again with my explanations, but what I was aiming for was the comfort emotion (and therefore taste).  Emergency items I always have on hand dried such as rice, beans, split peas, or lentils are always useful on evenings such as tonight, to bring my comfort as well as joy and a real world offering to one of my taste hallucinations.
Serves 4
1/2 cup masoor dal (red lentils), washed
1/2 cup toro dal (yellow split peas), washed
1 handful chopped leek greens
2 tsp sambar powder
juice from 1 lemon
3-4 cups water
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
pinch hing
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 large red chile, seeded and sliced
1 handful cauliflower
pinch angel hair chile (or chile powder)
salt to taste
1 tsp yogurt per serving (optional)
1.  Soak the washed dal for at least 30 minutes in cold water.
2.  Rinse the dal and place in a pot with the 3 cups water, leek greens, lemon juice, and sambar powder.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
3.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the cumin, fennel, and mustard seeds.  Cook for about 30 seconds until they crackle.
4.  Add the hing, turmeric, curry leaves, ginger, garlic, and sliced chile.  Cook for another 30 seconds, then add the cauliflower florets.  Stir fry for 1-2 minutes, then add to the pot with the dal.
5.  Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Taste and add salt if needed, then add the angel hair chile and let infuse for about 1 minute.

Serve piping hot with some basmati rice.. and if you're feeling a bit "gourmand," add a tsp of Greek yogurt into your plate, 
and mix it around before indulging.

Prepare yourself for some serious bliss in all its forms..

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Angel Hair Chile

This morning, shortly after waking, I crossed paths with something incredibly intruiguing.
Tianjin angel hair chile.
I'm not sure if this northern Chinese chile grows as angel hair or if it is just sold that way, but either way, the fact that a new element was introduced to me turned my energy dial from 5 to 10 (10 being the maximum.)
Now, brussels sprouts are something I've never cooked before.  They are a vague distant memory of something quite disgusting, usually mushy and with a foul aftertaste.  But now with a few years of experience and a partly mature brain, I couldn't quite possibly imagine why brussels sprouts would not be delicious.  I mean, they're like baby cabbage.  Cabbage is delicious.  Anything miniature of anything else is also usually delicious (baby carrots, baby corn, baby romanesco, etc).  My challenge of the day was to cook brussels sprouts myself and make them delicious, which in the end was not very difficult to do, especially when you let them keep some texture instead of becoming mush.
Serves 2
300g (10.5oz) brussels sprouts, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary
2 Tbsp EVOO
juice from 1/2 lemon
few cracks black pepper
pinch Tianjin angel hair chile
1.  Heat the oil in a wok and add in the brussel sprout halves and rosemary.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes until lightly colored, then shake around.
2.  Add in the garlic, black pepper, and angel hair chile.  Cook for another 1-2 minutes, deglazing with the lemon juice.
3.  Remove the rosemary and serve.

Do NOT, pair it with salt cod filets.
DO serve alongside any other non salted fish, chicken, or steak.
You see how the last 3 recipes I've posted go with just about "anything?"

I just learned tonight that salt cod (morue salée) is meant to be eaten in a soup or stew.
That stuff is SALTY!!  Even after rinsing and soaking... please do NOT cook them as filets.  It is not their business being a filet.  It is their business being a condiment or a base for some sort of fish stock.

That angel hair chile worked wonders with the brussels sprouts.  They are not very spicy.  Similar to piment d'espelette.. which have a very distinct flavor and mild heat. 
I very much enjoyed the pairing with this vegetable subzi.
I'd rather warn you.. it will be making an appearance hear and there in many of my dishes from now on.
I'm hooked...

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Leek and Artichoke Quinoa Risotto

Sometimes these things just happen, and they satisfy you when you feel you cannot be comforted.  Thus is the emmersion of this quinoa risotto.
The unplanned event of all these different ingredients came together almost naturally, before I even realized what the final result would be.
That phenomenon has been happening regularly to me lately.  It's as if I'm in a zone where I'm not consciously making any decisions, but just going with the flow.  It's relaxing and surprising at the end as well.  I know I did it, but I don't know why or what was motivating me.
I don't experience moments like that very often in general.. usually only when I'm cooking.
Serves 4 as a side
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and squeezed
1 leek, sliced down the center, then sliced crosswise
handful torn kale (or spinach)
1 small diced red chili (mine was not strong at all)
2-3 Tbsp EVOO
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
lots of cracked black pepper
handful parmesan
chopped basil for garnish
1.  In a heavy based pot, heat half the olive oil, then add the artichoke hearts.  Cook for a few minutes, turning them around so they color evenly.
2.  Add half the garlic, cook for another 2 minutes, then reserve the hearts.
3.  In that same pot, add the rest of the olive oil and brown the leeks until tender while stirring continuously.  This can take about 5-10 minutes.
4.  Add the kale, chile, and rest of the garlic.  Cook until the kale is wilted.
5.  Add the quinoa, black pepper, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low until the liquid is absorbed.  The quinoa will become pearly and beautiful.
6.  Before serving, stir in the yogurt and parmesan.  This should make it nice and creamy.

Serve garnished with some chopped basil.
I served mine alongside some roasted chicken thighs.  The next day with an over-easy egg, and then another time with half an avocado.  This really pairs nicely with anything or can be eaten on its own as a meal because.. well, isn't risotto a meal?

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Roasted Roots drizzled in Raspberry Vinegar

Roots have been lingering...
I was longing for something sexy and spicy at the same time.  Sexy because there are purple and orange vegetables.  Spicy with red and green chile peppers, tangy with the raspberry vinegar.  I knew it would be a winning combination I wanted to pair with something I recently bought in the "Spanish" section of the grocery store called angulitos.  The angulitos in their little can called out to me so loudly that I was already in line ready to pay for my groceries when the urge was greater than my resistance.  I held up the line while I ran back to the "world" aisle to grab that little can of angulitos.
Judging by the name and the picture on the cardboard box, I had assumed they were mini eels in olive oil.  My multilingual brain must have played a trick on me.  In French, anguille is an eel, so in Spanish, angulito must be small eel, right?
I think this fish stuff was made to look like small eel, but is actually just a sort of shredded surimi in olive oil.  It doesn't make it bad, but I was expecting somewhat of a marinated anchovy party of baby eels..
Anyway, it worked well as the protein part of my roots.
Have I mentioned I love purple vegetables.. especially when mixed with orange ones.. ooh I think I just now this instant got excited for fall!
Serves 2
3 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
1 large beet, peeled and cut into sticks
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into sticks
1 red chile, seeded and cut into chunks
1 green chile, seeded and cut into chunks
3 shallots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp thyme
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
Few drizzles raspberry vinegar
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1.  Toss all the vegetables with the thyme, fleur de sel, and olive oil.
2.  Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and cook for 30 to 40 minutes in a 190°C 375°F oven.
3.  Remove and serve topped with chopped cilantro and a drizzle of raspberry vinegar.

I served mine with angulitos, but this would have gone well with just about any fish, meat, or egg.
The flavors were perfectly balanced with the natural sweetness coming from roasting the beets, carrots, and sweet potato.  The roasted shallot chunks added another dimension of sweet depth, and the chiles gave it just the right amount of heat.  All was nicely balanced by the tangy drizzle of raspberry vinegar.
I suppose you could use balsamic vinegar as well, but it might stain your pretty orange beauties...

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup with Truffle Oil

The weather is not really cold, but there is definitely a change of mood in the air.. which inevitably implies change of season.  I wasn't ready for this, but sometimes time just taps you on the shoulder, giving you a mega wake up call.
Today was one of those days.. and to drown it out, I wanted to nourish my soul with something healthy but hearty as well as indulging.  This soup is exactly that.
Anything involving butternut will be hearty and healthy, but the addition of that black truffle oil takes it out of the box.  You can see it a bit in the photo.. drizzled on with a delicate hand...mine.
If nothing else can feel comforting, this may make its way into your heart..
Serves 4
1 butternut squash, sliced lengthwise and seeded
2 leeks, tender parts thinly sliced crosswise
3 Tbsp EVOO
3 sprigs fresh savory (sarriette)
3-4 cups vegetable broth
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp dried piment d'espelette (or other chile powder)
pinch fleur de sel
ground pumpkin seeds
dollop greek or turkish yogurt (optional if vegan)
drizzle truffle oil
1.  Heat your oven to 190°C 375°F.  Place the butternut squash halves face down on a baking tray and cook for about 40 minutes.
2.  While that is happening, heat the olive oil in a pot and cook the sliced leeks along with the savory sprigs, stirring, for about 10 minutes.  They should soften and start to stick to the pot.
3.  Deglaze with balsamic vinegar, then add just enough of the broth to cover.
4.  Scoop the butternut flesh out of the halves (being careful not to burn yourself like I did) and add them into the pot along with the black pepper and piment d'espelette.
5.  Add more broth to level.  Bring to a boil, then simmer another 5 minutes.
6.  Remove from heat and puree the contents.  I used an immersible blender for several reasons: to avoid burning myself even more, and to avoid having unnecessary dishes to wash.  That last reason is probably the most important one.
7.  Put back on low heat.  Taste and add salt if needed.  It should be velvety and delicious.

Serve with some ground pumpkin seeds, a pinch of fleur de sel, a dollop of yogurt, and most importantly, a health drizzle of truffle oil.
There's something about that truffle oil that just pairs so magnificently with squash.  I've drizzled it on a squash pizza before and it elevated me to a whole other dimension of pleasure.
This makes the soup refined while still keeping its integrity.  No flavor masking.. flavor enhancing!

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Paneer Mapo Tofu

Despite what the mainstream has been telling us for years, tofu is not the healthiest substance.  I say substanc, because it is originally a bean.. A bean that should not be eaten raw, but rather fermented.  I call it a substance because it has been transformed into items ranging from fake beef to ice cream.  Its oil is used as an emulsifier and its protein count is used as an excuse to indulge in soy products without counting.  I'm not a nutritionist, but I've done my homework on the subject and the bottom line is this:
to get anything good out of soy, it must be fermented and preferably organic, otherwise it works as a nutrient absorption inhibitor, much like raw chickpeas.. but nobody would eat chickpeas raw!  I mentioned organic because, aside from wine grapes, soy producers use the most transgenics and pesticides than any other producer.  I always look for organic or non gmo fermented soy products.
To make things clear, edamame and mung bean and their sprouts are not the same species as soy, and have no issues.  Soy sauce, doubanjiang, and duo chi are fermented, while soy milk and tofu are not.  For this reason (and the hormone reason I haven't mentioned) I've decided to replace anything involving tofu with (homemade) paneer.
You can do your own homework about that issue.. I just wanted to explain why I "sabotaged" a perfectly authentic Sichuan recipe by replacing tofu with paneer.
I may have also made a slight other change.  The original recipe calls for ground pork.
I just like mini pigs too much to knowingly buy ground pork.. so I use ground turkey, which is a great pork replacer in recipes such as this one or egg rolls.. or pretty much anything.  Not to mention, pork isn't very nutritious, so let Babe live and eat the gobbler!
The Ma La in this dish is out of this world.  I never thought something so pungent would be so quick to put together (if you have all the ingredients, that is).
Inspired by ChinaSichuanFood
Serves 3-4
250g (9oz) paneer, soaked and drained
200g (7oz) ground turkey, cooked plain
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 Tbsp Doubanjiang (Pi Xian broadbean paste)
1 tsp Dou hi (fermented black soy beans)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp light soy sauce
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp corn starch mixed with 4 Tbsp water
3 green onions, chopped
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, dry roasted and ground
1.  Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry the dou chi, doubanjiang, and garlic until a fragrant aroma starts wafting.
2.  Add the paneer.  Stir to coat and heat until bubbly.
3.  Add the water and corn starch mixture.  Simmer for about 2 minutes.  The sauce should thicken.
4.  Add the cooked ground turkey, most of the green onion, and half the ground Sichuan peppercorns.  Stir to heat through.
Serve with rice and garnish with chopped green onions and a pinch of ground peppercorns.

Rant and food choices aside, this Mapo Tofu has been on my mind since my quest to find a special ingredient you can only get in Asian Wonderland, dou chi.  The original reason I wanted to buy that was to make Mapo Tofu.. it's just that I hadn't gotten around to buying turkey and grinding it in my meat grinder since.. well.. the middle of summer!
The result is a silky spicy tangy mix of textures and flavors that pairs just magically with the rice.
It might almost help you forget the present...

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pepinos con Chile y Limon (Chile Lemon Cucumbers)

It's like going back in time...
Before coming to France, the only way I ever prepared cucumbers were with lemon and special Mexican chile powder used on various fruits and vegetables.
Ah the wormhole I was sucked through when I was offered some Tajìn and limon with the offered shot of Patron at a Mexican restaurant in Lyon, Chango Mamboo.  I was happier about the Tajìn than the tequila (and the entire meal by the way).  I just kept licking the palm of my hand and sprinkling it on, and licking it off.  Before leaving I asked the waiter where I could get some.  I wanted to relive the pepino experience and maybe even sprinkle it on a sour mango if I could get my hands on one.
"You can't get it here.  I have it sent from Mexico."
I must have gone from bubbly to flat when he told me that.  I turned and told him thanks.  He hesitated for a minute, poured out half the Tajìn into a glass and held out the rest of the bottle for me to take home.  The bubbles came rushing back into my smile as I thanked him several times, then left.
1 long firm cucumber, peeled and sliced into spears
2 tsp Tajìn (or other chili powder)
juice from 1/2 lemon
1.  Toss together.
2.  Let sit, refrigerated for at least 30 minutes so the juice renders.

Don't forget to drink the juice at the end!
I served mine at happy hour with some kale chips and other various goods.
Those kale chips were a big hit as well!

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Roasted Chayote and Sweet Potato with Green Chile

Chayote is one of those strangely interesting vegetables.  It's like a cross between an apple, cucumber, and a zucchini.  It's pear shaped with the odds and ends neatly tucked in, like an old lady without her dentures.
It's a pretty green with a somewhat thick skin, which becomes slightly slippery when removed.  Chayote is a sensual and playful vegetable.  It likes to be taken many different ways, and likes to slip out of your hands while you undress it...only to come back wanting more.
Yes, these are the thoughts going through my mind as I prepare dinner.
Doesn't everybody communicate with their vegetables?
By the way, that is an Opinel vegetable peeler.  It is top quality and cut through the chayote and sweet potato skin like butter.  I'll be progressively switching to the Savoy-made cutlery from now on...
Serves 2 as a side
2 medium chayotes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced in half crosswise, then lengthwise into 1/4 inch pieces
2 green whole chiles (I used Moroccan)
3 garlic cloves, grated and split into halves
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp piment d'espelette
1/2 tsp thyme
some fleur de sel
some cracked black pepper
hefty drizzle olive oil
some crumbled feta (optional if vegan)
1.  Make a dry mix of the paprika, thyme, piment d'espelette, salt, and pepper, and divide in half.
2.  Prepare 2 oven trays.  One with the chayotes, the other with the sweet potato.
3.  Toss the chayotes with the dry mix, half the garlic, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil.  Do the same with the sweet potato.
4.  Place into a 420°F 215°C oven along with the whole green chiles.
For the chiles:
Cook the chiles for about 10 minutes on each side.  Remove from oven and place in a plastic bag for 5 minutes to "sweat."  Remove from the bag and scrap the skin off.  Make a slit to remove the seeds, and sprinkle some feta.  Place back in the oven for 5 minutes (just so it heats through and the cheese melts.. because, yes, feta does melt)
For the chayotes and sweet potatoes:
Cook the pieces spaced apart on a baking tray for 30 minutes, then turn the trays around, lower the heat to 400°F 200°C for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with a touch of feta.
I served mine with some roasted chicken legs, which makes this a lot less vegetarian.. but this is about the sides, remember?
If chayote is new to you, let it introduce itself in its roasted form.. it's the most seductive form in my opinion..

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Split Dal in Coconut Chutney

I'm in this mood lately where all I want to eat is beans and lentils.  I went completely nuts with my black beans this week, scarfing them down for 2 meals a day until they were gone.. and I licked my plate each time to savor the last drop of that black bean juice.  The week before I had an Indian dinner party and did the same with my leftover toor dal.  Now I want it again.  I'm finally home for at least a whole week and my first cooked meal of the week absolutely had to involve split something if not everything.   I didn't have any overnight soaking time so I went straight for the quickly cooked dal.
Tonights guests are chana dal, green split peas, and split beans.  After rummaging through my freezer for inspiration, I found a tupperware of some coconut chutney that usually goes with dosas.
Aaah I shall cook the dal in this with a bit of water and see what happens.
As it is simmering, the house is filled with that lovely dosa memory from India.  That chutney is really to die for.  I guess it was hidden under the mole and lazy hummus so I didn't see it at each freezer opening.
Serves 4-5
1/3 cup chana dal, well rinsed
1/3 cup green split peas, well rinsed
1/3 cup dried split fava beans, well rinsed
1 cup coconut chutney
3 cups water
1 cup chopped cauliflower
3 green chilis, seeded and sliced (I used fresh piment d'espelette)
1/4 cup shredded cabbage
1/4 cup green peas
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 Tbsp oil
juice from 1 lime
salt to taste
chopped green onion for garnish
1.  In a pot, add the rinsed chana dal, split peas, and split favas with the water and the coconut chutney.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for about 20 minutes.
2.  Make the seasoning.  Heat the oil in a wok.  Add the mustard seeds and cook until they crackle, then add the curry leaves, hing, turmeric, chili powder, and chilis.  Cook for a few seconds, then add the cauliflower, peas and cabbage.
3. Stir fry for a few minutes, then add to the dal.
4.  Bring to another boil, then turn off heat.  Add lime juice.  Taste and add salt if necessary.

Serve over rice with some chopped green onion and more chili if necessary.
I like to add my little signature Thai chili from time to time.. it makes it special and makes me melt with pleasure..

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Breakfast of Champions: Eggs and Black Beans

So, last night I had a "Happy Hour Evening" party and I had made these marvelous black beans which I had blended into a dip alongside some perfect guacamole and some tuna rillettes to use as dips for tortilla chips, carrots, and various other dippable vegetables.  My table was beautiful and I was very happy with my offerings, but the guests just couldn't contain themselves and wreaked havoc on the order of things before I could take an appropriate picture.
The good news is that I take that as a major compliment so it's really not a disappointment.
I must have anticipated this behavior, for I had set aside a large part of the bean batch unblended to have for breakfast the next morning.  This morning to be exact.  I rarely photograph my breakfast, but since this one is very deserving.
Having beans, eggs, cabbage, and avocado for breakfast is truly the best gift you can give to yourself as a first meal.  It is high in vitamins, protein, and heat.  You really can't go wrong with a meal like this...
I'm probably going to do this again for dinner...
Serves 4-5
1 cup dried black beans, soaked at least a few hours
5 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
1 large chopped onion
1 can non GMO corn (yes that still exists!)
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, some chopped
1 chopped tomato
2 minced green chilis
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
shredded red cabbage
chopped cilantro
chopped green onions
crumbled feta (or queso fresco if you have it)
diced avocado
extra chipotle chilis for their inner beauty
Eggs however you want them (over easy is my way)
1.  Put everything but the garnish in the slow cooker and set on low for 7-8 hours.  Remove bay leaf.
2.  Cook your eggs.
3.  Arrange your garnish directly in your bowl of beans, on a side plate, or even spoon the beans over your eggs and garnish.
Rules are for the weak...

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Buckwheat Chestnut and Fig Thumbprint Cookies

It's been way too long since I've made any cookies... the insanity had to stop.  I've been imagining putting chestnut puree in cookies for a few weeks now, but my recent weekend time has been being used up by things not involving my kitchen.  Sometimes it's a good thing, other times I daydream about what I could be doing with my time had the decision been up to me, and the answer has always been MAKING COOKIES WITH CHESTNUT PUREE!!!
So now I've been able to do it.. and I had to do it on a weeknight to be sure to fit it into the schedule.  
These are actually quite similar to my other buckwheat thumbprint cookies but with a bit of chili powder to add some kick.
Yield 3 dozen
Dry ingredients:
200g (7 oz) buckwheat flour
80g (2.8 oz) whole wheat flour
50g (1.75 oz) ground almonds
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp milk (optional)
Wet ingredients:
80g (2.8 oz) room temperature butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla sugar
180g (6.3 oz) cane sugar
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
chestnut purée
fig preserves
blackberry jam
whatever your sweet little heart desires
1.  Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the egg and the rest of the wet ingredients until smooth.
3.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until it forms a ball of dough.  It shouldn't be too crumbly.  If it is, add a bit of milk and knead it into a ball. 
4.  On a cookie sheet or parchment paper, make tablespoon sized balls with the dough and roll them between the palms of your hands.  Press your thumb into the middle of each one and fill it with the topping of your choice.  I really loved the chestnut puree idea..
5.  Bake at 350°F 175°C for 18-20 minutes until very very lightly golden.

Now that it's done it's such a relief on the psychological side (that little lingering idea I had last month has finally materialized.. so relief is the correct word), and so gratifying on the tastebuds.
Any cookie with buckwheat will just have this nutty deep flavor that I love, but the addition of chestnut puree makes it creamy goodness with a nice contrast of textures.  Crunchy on the outside, creamy and chewy on the inside.
I also did some with fig preserves that were gifted to me.  The fig works well here too, as do the blackberries, but the real star is the chestnut.
Thank you for existing...

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Thai Turkey Stir Fry

Hello you..
It's already October.  I didn't see much of September as it flew by and now it is fall, a season offering plenty of opportunities to create masterpieces.. which I do intend to do!
I seem to be finding myself again after long stretches of "not cooking" with brilliant Thai ideas such as this one.
This recipe just happened out of nowhere and was just amazing in every way.  I started chopping vegetables that I thought would go well with some turkey.  I was going to just grill the meat and have it with a red cabbage and carrot salad, but then the little voice over my right shoulder started whispering Thai color patterns and deep flavors with spice and happiness.
Purple and orange and green.. ooooohhhh!!
Serves 3-4
2-3 turkey cutlets, sliced into strips
2 handfuls shredded red cabbage
1 carrot, julienned
1 onion, sliced
3 green chilis (I used fresh piment d'espelette), sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced
1 Tbsp Thai yellow curry paste
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp oyster sauce (omit if GF)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
chopped cilantro for garnish
thai red chili (for garnish and only if you can handle the heat)
rice vermicelli to serve
1.  Heat the oil in a wok and fry the yellow curry paste until fragrant.
2.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.
3.  Add the turkey pieces and cook, stirring, until almost cooked.
4.  Add in the cabbage, carrot, chilis, and lime leaves as well as the oyster sauce, sriracha, and fish sauce.  Cook stirring for about 5 minutes.

Serve garnished with cilantro and red chili over some rice stick.

When I cook meals such as this one, I really feel like I'm at the top of my game.  My stress is relieved, I feel creative, happy, satisfied on several different levels, and proud.
Ah yes, very proud.
I created that.  It came out of my heart....

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