28 June 2016

I figured out how to make Anong's Spicy Eggplant and it's super easy

OK, for me it's Anong's, the megamillion dollar Wyoming chain of swank Thai restaurants, for you it's some other random Thai restaurant in your much sadder state with less-fancy things. But every good Thai place has a salty, sweet, spicy grease bomb like this stir fried eggplant I dream about when I haven't ordered it for a while, right? Well, here it is.  Save your cash, and you're welcome.

Spicy Thai Eggplant Stir Fry

Serves 4

3 medium-sized Chinese eggplants, halved and chopped into 1"-1.5" pieces
1 large red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 carrot, thinly sliced
4 oz. white mushrooms, thickly sliced
2-3 green onions, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped into large pieces
3 serrano chiles, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated ginger
a generous handful of fresh Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons mild-flavored oil, like peanut or grapeseed


2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup warm water
2 teaspoons corn starch mixed with 4 teaspoons cold water

Mix fish sauce, soy, water and brown sugar; set aside. Heat large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and eggplants. Fry for 2 minutes on either side, or until they begin to brown and turn soft. Remove from pan.  Add 1 additional tablespoon of oil to wok. Add onions, garlic, chiles, and ginger and fry for 6-7 minutes, or until soft and glossy. Add all remaining vegetables and cook until crisp-tender, stirring constantly. Return eggplant to the wok, and toss to combine. Add sauce to the wok, stirring for 1 minute. Toss in basil. Add corn starch, cooking until the sauce becomes thick and coats the vegetables. Serve immediately over hot rice.

PS--I threw some oven-baked tofu in mine, too.

24 June 2016

Black Pepper Tofu and other Genius Recipes

The good folks at Food52 have come out with an in-print book, Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook. It's actually a compendium of other famous chefs' recipes throughout the ages (including Julia Child's lovely grated zucchini casserole and Marcella Hazan's weirdly boring tomato sauce with onions and butter). Notes from the editors at Food52 explain how and why the recipe works and include "kitchen hacks" like "you can cut the amount of butter if you want."  So really, they've done a great job of rounding up some excellent recipes and putting them in one place for us to use.  It's debatably ironic for a well-established food blog to be in the printed cookbook business at this point in the 21st Century, but I still enjoy the tactile sensation of flipping through it, at any rate. And the photos are very nice.

Two of my favorite recipes are pretty modern in origin, including one from fellow blogger Smitten Kitchen.  I have included my own substitutions (or "hacks", if we must). Buy the book if you want, or just subscribe to Food52's excellent blog. You really will learn new things.

Yotam Ottolenghi's delicious Black Pepper Tofu recipe

with these substitutions:
  • just use 9 tablespoons of soy sauce, and add one more tablespoon of sugar
  • I used four small serrano peppers because it's what I had
  • I could not for the life of me crush my black pepper by hand--it just kept jumping out of the bowl. So I used a pepper grinder and did more like 3 tablespoons (to make up for the heat of the serranos)
  • I used 6 green onions and about 2 cups of steamed broccoli

Another great recipe included is Debra Perlman's (Smitten Kitchen) Mushroom Bourguignon. I actually used a mix of white and shitake mushrooms, because it's what I had, and I definitely had to add some water to keep the gravy from being too pasty in the end.  I also added salt, because I apparently like it more than she does.  But it's a totally solid foundation for a recipe. 

21 June 2016

The best recipe for your extra green beans

Oh man, I love this super-fast and simple recipe.  It's as junky as whatever your favorite greasy take-out is, and it's a great way to to use green beans that are slightly (ahem) past their prime. It makes a total mess out of your stove, though. Sorry.  It's worth it. 

Szechuan-Style Charred Green Beans

Serves 4

1 pound green beans, trimmed
4 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
4 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons peanut oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and dry well with a kitchen towel.
Whisk together the ingredients for the sauce: ginger, chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar. 

Heat the peanut oil in a large, deep skillet over high heat. Cook the green beans, stirring occasionally, until they begin to blister and develop some charred spots. Remove from heat and allow to sit for a minute or two to avoid an explosive mess, and then stir in the sauce.  Serve as a side or with rice and black tea and pepper tofu!

17 June 2016

What's easier than pie? CRUMBLE.

Rhubarb pie is very nice, but a crumble is even easier, and this one also involves pretty simple clean-up (mix the filling right in the baking dish, dirty one other bowl for the crumble). I love the flavor of coconut oil in this topping, but you traditionalists out there could easily replace it with butter.

Rhubarb Crumble

Serves 8-10

3 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
¼ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon ground cardamom

6 tablespoons coconut oil
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup pecans

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking or gratin dish. Toss rhubarb with white sugar, almond extract, lemon zest, and cardamom and spread evenly in baking dish.

Combine all remaining ingredients (coconut oil through pecans) in a large bowl and mix with your hands. Crumble the topping over rhubarb and bake until golden and beginning to brown, 45 to 50 minutes.

14 June 2016

Vegan cooking with the Shannons (+ recipe)

Dan and Annie Shannon must be the cutest damn couple.  They have kids and they're fun-loving, frugal vegans!  Nah, I shouldn't make fun--I wanted to like their book, Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking. They want to use (mostly) common ingredients, they want to be cheap (they even break down the cost per serving of making each dish), and they're open about ways to use leftovers.  What's not to like?  But many of the recipes are just bland, some measurements don't work (the lemon-tahini sauce turned out to be a gloppy mess of tahini with some things stuck in it), and they rely too heavily, IMHO, on meat replacements, which are ironically expensive, and totally unnecessary if you can just get past the mindset of needing a serving of meat on each plate. (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall offers a great restructuring of the common meal, for instance.)

But here's a version of a recipe I really liked (though I doubled the amount of pepper to give it some kick). This works great with some steamed veggies and cooked rice (you can actually use the leftover marinade, whisk in a little corn starch and chili-garlic sauce, and cook it up as a sauce for the veggies), but it's also a great snack by itself for cocktail hour with friends. The authors also suggest tucking the tofu into a sandwich, and if I did that, I think I'd make a bright little vinegary cole slaw to throw on top. 

Black Tea and Pepper Tofu

Adapted from Shannon, Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking
Serves 4

2 cups strong brewed black tea, room temperature (I like Russian Caravan for its smokiness)
2 tablespoons crushed black peppercorns, plus more to sprinkle on top
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 16-oz. package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into squares or strips
¼ cup neutral oil (grapeseed, canola,…)
Lemon wedges, for serving

In a shallow dish, whisk together the tea, pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, and soy sauce.

Pat tofu dry and place in the marinade (above). Leave for 10 minutes, then flip and marinade for another 5 minutes.

Heat the oil over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the tofu on both sides to golden. Drain pieces on a paper towel-lined plate.

Serve hot, seasoned with more pepper if desired and lemon wedges for squeezing over the top. 

10 June 2016

Samosa pie with chutneys

I love samosas so much, but they are rather labor-intensive.  I also love casseroles, so this recipe seemed like a no-brainer.  The filling is stolen from samosas, but instead of all that folding and sealing, you just lay a blanket of puff pastry over the whole thing and put it to bed.  Perfect.

Samosa Pie

Serves 6

3 butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeƱo pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. cooked brown lentils or soy veggie crumbles (like Morningstar)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons ketchup or tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 medium russet potatoes, diced
1 cup green peas, frozen or fresh
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed (1/2 a 17-oz package)

In a large stock pot, boil the diced potatoes in well-salted water until tender but still firm. Drain and reserve.

Returning to the stock pot, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add jalapeno and garlic; cook 1 minute more. Stir in lentils or soy crumbles curry powder, turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until fragrant and seeds begin to pop, about 5 minutes, then stir in the ketchup or tomato paste.

Add the potatoes, peas and cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart (2 L) baking dish. Roll out pastry and place over top. Cut a few steam vents.

Bake at 400 degrees until crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve with chutneys (see below) and plain yogurt.

Fresh Coriander Chutney
This is the same stuff you find in those expensive little jars in Asian grocery stores.
In a blender or food processor, add 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves, ½ inch chopped ginger and 1 chopped green chilli. Add 1 or 2 tsp lemon juice, ½ tsp cumin powder, and salt to taste.

Grape Jelly Chutney
If you are disturbed by a lack of authenticity in recipes, and particularly if you are disturbed by Midwestern shortcuts in cooking, do not read any further.  But if you sometimes happen to have a little bit of crappy jelly laying around after making some tasty grape jelly meatballs, you might appreciate this. 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoons raisins
½ cup grape jelly
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add grape jelly, raisins, lemon juice, mustard seeds and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grapes have broken down, 10 to 20 minutes. Cool to thicken.

07 June 2016

Migas for Joe!

A certain evil genius flute repair tech I know is, like me, a big fan of migas. It's basically a pile of eggs, cheese, fried tortillas, and possibly other things you see fit to add, like vegetables or beans. It's traditionally a way to use leftover tortillas that didn't get eaten the day before, and any other leftover scraps you might have in the fridge from last night.  So it has the same function as lasagna or soup--a way to clean up the scraps.

I like to scramble my eggs along with a bunch of vegetables and some black beans, if I have them, and pour the whole mess over the fried tortillas, which have been smothered in (green, please) chile. But there are many variations, depending on how you like your eggs, what leftovers you have in your fridge, and just how soft you like your tortillas.  It has been hard work, but I tested many recipes for you Joe, and here are the two variations I like best:

Here's the basic idea (for one), using scrambled eggs:

2 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil
1 tablespoon diced bell pepper
1 tablespoon diced onion
1 tablespoon diced tomato
2 eggs + a little milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, fry corn tortillas in hot vegetable oil until crispy. Drain. Remove oil from heat, Cut tortillas into bite-sized pieces. In butter, saute bell peppers and onion until soft. Add tomatoes. Beat eggs well with the milk and some salt and pepper. Add eggs to sauteed vegetables. Add tortilla chips. Scramble until eggs are done.

Now, to this you could add some leftover black beans or cooked, crumbled/shredded meat of any kind (throw those in with the eggs), something spicy (sliced serrano or jalapeno to sub for some of the bell pepper, or hot sauce added at the end), and of course, many people (me) are going to insist on cheese. Slice, crumble, or shred whatever you like--pepper jack, queso fesco, cheddar, etc.--and stir it in near the end of cooking time, when eggs are still a little wet but close to done.  I also like to season with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with a lime wedge, but you can do what you want. 

For a vegan version, simply swap out the eggs for a block of soft tofu and a sprinkle or two of nooch (nutritional yeast), break it all up with your hands until it looks scrambled egg-like, and toss it in when you would add the eggs. Obvs., you can't have the cheese either, unless you eat that horrible Daiya shit.)

And here's one using fried eggs and bread.  Its roots are Spanish. This one is much fussier and probably better suited to a purposeful meal with friends and family, so this recipe serves 4-6. I think it's nice with chorizo, but that's optional:

For the fried peppers:
Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch julienne
2 Anaheim chiles, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch julienne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the migas:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium yellow onions, diced
4 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
5 ounces chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 5-inch links)
1 tablespoon Sazon seasoning
3 cubed day-old bread
Salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil or butter
6 large eggs

To make the peppers:
Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large frying pan over high heat until drops of water sizzle. Quickly fry the pepper strips in small batches until the skins begin to blister and brown slightly, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season well with salt and pepper.

To make the migas:
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan and add the onions. Cover and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Uncover, add the garlic, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the chorizo and cook until it gives off most of its oil, about 3 minutes. Add the sazon and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in the bread, making sure they absorb all the juices from the pan, and cook until the mixture is lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into an ovenproof dishe and garnish with the peppers, tucking them in and around the breadcrumb mixture. Keep in a warm oven while you cook the eggs, or, if made ahead, reheat in a 250°F oven just before you cook the eggs.

To cook the eggs, heat 1/8 inch of oil over high heat to the smoking point. Break 1 egg into the hot oil. Season with salt and pepper. Working very quickly, fold in the edge of the egg white with a heat-resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Then spoon some of the hot oil over the egg so that it puffs up and crisps around the edges. All of this must be done in a matter of seconds so that the yolk remains soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove the egg and place it on top of a hot migas. Repeat for each serving. To serve, dived the bread mixture among six plates, then top each with an egg. 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I honestly have nothing to add to this Pioneer Woman recipe for Tex-Mex (Austin) migas, It's kind of like what your mom would make--you went out and bought all the ingredients just for this dish, cut everything up nice and pretty, and made it look super special for guests.  It's good, though, if missing the spirit of the original. Gimme Some Oven's is even more ornamental, but she has way pretty photos.

Of course, those of you who have been reading for a while may remember a lazy-girl migas, as my friend Jess calls it, I lovingly prescribed for a hangover back in December 2010. The big shortcut is that you just use leftover tortilla chips. I actually do this a lot, and I always save the broken up bits at the bottom of the bag in anticipation of my next hangover. Er...

[PS--migas or chilaquiles?  After reading enough that I thought I understood this to be a regional difference, it turns out it's not that cut and dried. I'm chocking it up to semantics, and I think this recipe for chilaquiles for a group by Rick Bayless is pretty spot on, too.]

03 June 2016

Skillet ( or roasted) Potatoes with Mushrooms and Kale

When I was a kid, my dad sometimes fried potatoes and onions in a big skillet for dinner when he got home before my mom.  I don't know what we had with them, but it was probably a a big hunk of meat.  This recipe starts from that tradition, but adds two vegetables my dad would never eat (sorry, Dad), as well as some Old Bay, because that stuff is delicious on potatoes.  This would still be tasty with a big hunk of meat, but you could just as easily make it a meal for two with a side salad. Bonus: leftovers can be laid out on a single layer baking sheet, sprinkled with feta or the cheese of your choice, and broiled on high for 5 minutes (see below), serving as a perfect bed for a fried egg for brunch. 

Skillet Potatoes with Mushrooms and Kale

Serves 4 as a side

1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 large russet potatoes, thinly sliced and rounds cut in half
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 cups washed, chopped kale, tightly packed
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

(To roast instead, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, pour out in a single layer on baking sheets, and roast in the oven at 425⁰F 20-25 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so.)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, cook the potatoes until golden on both sides. Remove potatoes to a paper towel-lined plate and lower heat to medium. Cook the onions and mushrooms until soft a watery, about 5 minutes, then add the kale and cook until bright green and wilted, another 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, potatoes, and Old Bay.  Taste for salt and pepper and serve piping hot.