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Lunch Box: Sauteed Pea Sprouts, Tofu Salad, & Turmeric Rice

November 3, 2017

NOVEMBER 3rd, 2017 — As I was preparing my lunch, dumping the contents of 4 containers into 1 bowl, I found it to be highly Instagram-able. Never have pea shoots had a more exciting platform to validate its presence on a food blog.

So what did you do?
For the turmeric rice, you can refer to this previous recipe for something more aromatic. The turmeric rice I made here was following basic instructions to cook white rice in a pot on a stove, and then I added spoonfuls of ground turmeric, ground cumin, and garlic powder in arbitrary amounts. You really don’t need a lot of turmeric to get explosive color. When the rice was about 80-90% cooked, I stirred in handfuls of a frozen vegetable medley.

For the pea shoots, I bought a large bag (like a salad bag) of pea shoots. I found mine at Ranch 99. (I’ve never seen them at Trader Joe’s, in case you were wondering.) I washed and drained them briefly. In a large saucepan, I heated 1-2 tbsp olive oil, and then threw all of the pea shoots. (They will wilt down.) I added arbitrary splashes of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic powder, and salt. On a more energetic day I would have chopped and minced 1-2 cloves of garlic and thrown that into the oil 1-2 minutes before the shoots.
They’re tiny, so they cook super fast, like within 2 minutes.

The tofu salad (which is shredded baked bean curd, not the soft silky kind) and kimchi had been bought pre-packaged.

I then sprinkled sesame seeds on top.

Lessons learned?
Bonus points would have been earned had I had both black & white sesame seeds, green onions, and/or furikake.

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Veggie Chow Mein

August 1, 2017

JULY 31st, 2017 — Weekday dinner! I also settled on this as I wanted to try my knife skills at julienne-ing everything to make the dish components attractively consistent.

So what did you do?
Vegetable prep: I julienned 1 large red bell pepper and 1 1/2 cups baby carrots.
(You could also buy julienned carrots, I guess. They are absolutely more convenient, but they are also absolutely drier and thereby less tasty.) Because carrots take the longest to cook, start steaming (or blanching if you prefer) them in a pot on the stove.

In the mean time, I roughly chopped one 7 oz. package of enoki mushrooms. I might have liked to have another one. I also roughly chopped one 12 oz. package of bean curd strands. Rough chop since these already have a thin noodle shape.
The one thing I did not julienne was ~8 heads of baby bok choy. I decided to dice those fairly finely.

Now that everything was prepped, I started sauteeing the carrots (drained) and bell pepper in an oiled pot on medium heat. Again, those go first because they take longer to cook.
In the mean time, I cooked ~200g Wu Long flour noodles according to the package directions, in boiling water for 5-6 minutes, until they’re just shy of al dente. You could use any noodle you want, but I think flour noodles are the most like comforting.

Meanwhile, back in the veggie pot, I added the mushrooms and tofu (bean curd) next. I added the seasonings. I eyeballed everything, but I would suggest starting out with 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup oyster sauce, dashes of garlic powder, and 1-2 tablespoons five spice. Finally, I added the chopped bok choy last, since its cook-time is the quickest. The veggies should look fairly saucy, because you haven’t added the noodles yet.
When the noodles finished cooking, I drained them, and added them into the veggie mixture. I added more oyster sauce, soy sauce, and five spice to taste.

To garnish, I topped with finely diced green onions and sesame seeds.

Yummy and comforting. Don’t miss the meat in this one as the tofu does plenty.

Lessons learned?
I had added a bit of rice vinegar early on. I don’t think that was the right move. I usually like a tangy element in most dishes, but this one would have done well without–the soy sauce also provided that.

Cornmeal Crepes & Chili with Apple Slaw

June 18, 2017

JUNE 17th, 2017 — I’ve had this idea for years actually.

So what did you do?
First I prepared the chili. I soaked 15 oz. dried beans (assorted) overnight in 8 cups of water. (Or you can do it for a minimum of 4 hours).
Then, I drained the beans, brought another 8 cups of water to boil in a pot, added the beans, and then brought it down to a simmer for 1 hour.
While that’s simmering, I browned 1 lb ground turkey with 1/2 of a large onion, diced in another skillet. I added some salt and some chili spice mix (probably about 1/4 cup worth), which included a dried ancho chile. I added some of the spice mix directly into the turkey and onion as they were cooking.
When the beans had finished cooking the second time, I drained them again and returned them back to the stove. I added the turkey and onion mixture, along with a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, 1 cup red wine, and 2 cups beef broth. I brought the chili mix to a boil, and then simmered for 1 hour.

While the chili was cooking, I prepared the slaw, which was:

  • 3 cups of a slaw mix (mine had napa cabbage, red cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts)
  • 2 large gala apples, julienned
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins and dried blueberries

They were dressed with 4 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp maple syrup (I was out of honey), 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, and salt & pepper.

For the crepes, I mixed the following in a large mixing bowl:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or you can use melted butter)

The batter should be thinner than traditional pancake batter, so I added a few more splashes of milk as needed.
In an oiled skillet on very high heat, I dropped in ~2/3 cup of batter at a time, and squeegee-d it around with a spatula. Probably not even a minute on each side is all it needs. I got 8 ~9-in. crepes out of this batter.

The crumbly cornmeal made for a not very pliable crepe, so I emulated a tostada when it came to plating, starting first with the crepe, then a ladle-ful of the turkey chili, and then the slaw to top it off.

Lessons learned?
I don’t work with cornmeal much at all, but I learned that you need really high heat in the pan in order to get a cornmeal batter to crisp up quickly, or else it shall stick to a skillet. (Thank you, Candice.)

In retrospect, maybe 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt would have made a nice creamy touch to the slaw…

Sabzi Polo

April 5, 2017

APRIL 2nd, 2017 — Persian food. Because it’s a cuisine I have so often due to the graces of my Persian-Armenian friend’s mother’s kitchen, I’ve felt intimidated to try my own hand at it.

But last week I was making kofte with a friend and we bought an obscene amount of fresh herbs from the local Israeli market. I took home said herbs, and then realized that there is only one good way to use all of these herbs.

Anyway, dill is my favorite herb. So I detected it immediately the first time I had sabzi polo (literally “herb rice”). Me: “Wow, they must just throw in a whole handful of the stuff fresh.”

So what did you do?
I scoured a few recipes for the dish, and I found many advising me to soak my long-grain rice (I used brown basmati) for at least 2 hours. What? asks the Chinese person. I guess, if they say so. And apparently the longer it soaks, the fluffier it will become in its next life. So I soaked 2 cups (dry) brown basmati rice in a bowl of water. I swished around in there with my hand so all the excess starches would come out.

Meanwhile, I finely, FINELY diced the following fresh herbs:

  • 1/3 cup scallions
  • 1/3 cup cilantro (also known as coriander)
  • 1/3 cup parsley
  • 1/2 cup dill

Extra emphasis on the finely dicing here. You want the herbaceousness of these greens to penetrate the rice on a molecular level and exude from the entire surface of each grain. No one wants to bite into an acrid chunk of cilantro and be done with it.

After the rice soaked for long enough, I brought 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot and added 1 tsp salt. I then drained the rice and added the damp grains to the boiling pot. This is also strange and counter-intuitive to me as a Chinese person, but instead of bringing the water down to a simmer, I left the rice boiling for about 12-15 minutes, until it was just about fully cooked. I then drained the rice and rinsed it with cold water. I let it sit in the colander for a few minutes to drain extra moisture.

I then heated 3 tbsp olive oil in that same pot, and added the just-about cooked rice back into the pot. I folded in the herb mixture. Recipes at this point call for butter, so I obliged, just a little bit, and added about 1/2 tbsp butter, really just for flavor. I added some more salt and herbs, to taste, as well as a squeeze of lime juice.

Apparently let it steam there on very low heat for another 45 minutes or so, then you’ll finish the rice, but I was at the end of my patience, (guests were arriving,) and I thought the sabzi polo was quite good by now. (I also added probably about 1.5x the amount of herbs that recipes tend to call for.)

But—so lovely. Heart-warming as most Persian rice dishes are, but with a verdant sharpness from the herbs. You know what would go well with this? Salmon. But also a shirazi salad (also known as Israeli salad) and mast-o-khiar (the cucumber yogurt dip that is also known as tzatziki).

For the shirazi salad, I simply diced some Persian cucumbers, tomatoes, some red onion, and parsley, salted them, and dressed them in some lime juice and some olive oil. Top with ground black pepper and sumac if you can nab it.

For the mast-o-khiar, I added 3 finely diced cloves of garlic, ~1/4 cup lemon juice, salt, pepper, ~1/2 tbsp fresh dill, and thinly diced cucumber chunks to about 1.5 cups plain Greek yogurt. The earlier you make this, the more the yogurt will absorb all the flavors.

Lessons learned?
There are many ways to please and prepare rice.

Citrus-Turmeric Salmon

April 4, 2017

APRIL 2nd, 2017 — Fish often accompanies sabzi polo for Nowruz, and it seems the classic pairing of dill and salmon does not get lost in translation.

Adding citrus and turmeric to the fish is probably not traditional, but I think the bright tartness of the flavoring here would counter the earthy herb rice.

So what did you do?
For a marinade, I mixed together:

  • 1/2 cup mixture of lemon and lime juices (I had one big lemon and a lime)
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp honey

I placed 4 salmon fillets into a large ziploc bag and poured the marinade over the top and made sure all the sides were getting coated. I let them sit in the fridge for 1 hour.

Then place the fillets on a baking tray, pour some of the remaining marinade over the top, and add some more dashes of salt and pepper and drizzle some more honey.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and flakes. Halfway through this time, it’s a good idea to get in there and flip the fillets over.

Top with some fresh dill. This was great, and went well with the sabzi polo, as well as the shirazi salad and mast-o-khiar (also known as tzatziki). It’s hard to go wrong with salmon.

Lessons learned?
This was my first time marinating fish in citrus juice, and it was very tangy; I probably wouldn’t serve this to my dad. So I imagine this technique would overpower lighter white fishes, but the salmon held up. I suppose something like tuna would too.

Turmeric Rice with Cumin-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

February 26, 2017

FEBRUARY 26th, 2017 — Two cooking goals as of late: a) jazz up rice, and b) incorporate turmeric I recently purchased on my last Asia trip.

So what did you do?

For the turmeric rice, I started sautéeing 2 minced cloves of garlic in about 1 tbsp olive oil. (You can use butter if you prefer the taste.) I added 1 tsp ground turmeric, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.
Then I added 1 cup uncooked rice. I had white jasmine rice. In an ideal world I would have had brown basmati. I let the rice toast in the oil for about 2 minutes. I then added 1.5 cups boiling water to the pot, and then brought it down to a simmer. I let it cook for about 25-30 minutes.

turmeric-riceThen, I prepared the vegetables. I had a bunch of heirloom carrots and 1/2 red onion, which I peeled and chopped. I tossed them in olive oil, salt, cumin, and nutmeg, to taste. I drizzled some honey and roasted them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes. I like my carrots somewhat crunchy, so I didn’t roast for much longer. (I also had onions in there, which cook very quickly.)

turmeric-rice-chicken-3For the chicken, I sliced 2 breasts into strips. I rubbed the chicken with ~1/3 tsp salt, ~1/2 tsp cumin, and ~1/2 tsp cinnamon. In an oiled skillet, I pan-fried the chicken pieces. I also splashed them with soy sauce, for moisture.

Serve together! What is this–Indian, Middle Eastern? *shrug* Hearty and tasty, however, without the rich heaviness of a curry sauce. For tomorrow’s leftovers, I may make a garlic-yogurt dip to serve on top.

turmeric-rice-chicken-2Lessons learned?
In the juggle of all these ingredients, I forgot that I had every intention of adding dried cranberries and crumbled feta cheese to the rice. Damn. Will add tomorrow.

Ginger-Roasted Chicken

February 2, 2017

gingerchicken_01JANUARY 15th, 2017 — Spent most of December in Southern China, and in Xiamen, my mother and I shared a plate of duck, which I suspect had been braised in soy sauce and then roasted, as evidenced by its dark, crispy skin. What I didn’t expect when we ordered it was the intensity of ginger in the dish. The aroma pervaded throughout all of the meat, and thick slabs of ginger were braised and roasted alongside it.

So what did you do?
For reference, I peeked at some recipes from Martha Stewart and The Woks of Life to get a sense of how people roast chickens with lots of aromatics involved.

I was feeding people at a picnic, so I got 6 drumsticks, 4 thighs, and 2 breasts (cut in halves), to make about 12 small portions.

To make a ginger paste, I finely minced 5 cloves of garlic, and about 4 tablespoons of fresh ginger. I then combined those in a bowl with 1 teaspoon salt. I also diced some scallions, and set those aside for later.

I put the chicken pieces on a greased baking tray. With my hands, I loosened the skin on each piece, and then grabbed some of the ginger-garlic mixture and rubbed and spread it underneath the skin. I spread the remaining mixture on the outside of the chicken pieces. I then drizzled and rubbed a rough mixture of 4 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons oil on top of the pieces. I also drizzled a bit of sesame oil on top.

I decided at this time to also top with thinly julienned ginger and about half of the scallions I had chopped. Then I roasted at 450 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

gingerchicken_02The chicken can then be served on top of rice or eaten on its own.

Lessons learned?
Glad I doubled the amount of ginger that I had seen in other ginger recipes, because you could really taste the ginger in each bite with this one.
My attempt back home was not as deep in flavor (probably due to not braising in soy sauce and shaoxing wine, as many Chinese recipes will call for). I also still haven’t nailed crispy skin–probably need to turn up the heat and turn down the timer for that one.