Fried Tofu with Stewed Eggplant and Noodles

I am totally thrilled with how this dish turned out. It was easy to make, but is slightly more involved because of frying the tofu. Turns out though that frying tofu is relatively easy. I was surprised! Super comforting on a lazy weekend with a nice cold glass of beer. If you make it, let me know how it turned out! I’d love to hear from you. 

You’ll need:

Large shallot, sliced

4 green onions, sliced into large 2 inch pieces

Ginger, 2 slices cut into slivers

4 dried chilis

Thai basil, leaves from 2 or 3 stalks, torn into pieces

1 large Chinese Eggplant, cut into 1” slices, then halve each slice.

1 large tomato, chopped roughly

1 block of extra firm tofu, dusted in corn starch

Chicken stock (or vegetable broth)

Soy sauce

Salt & Pepper

Chow Mein Udon noodles (or another wheat or egg based asian noodle will work too)

Large, deep pan with a lid

Fry the tofu

Start by frying the tofu. Cut a block of extra firm tofu into 1 inch cubes, place in a bowl and coat each pieces in a light layer of corn starch. In a large pan coat the bottom of the pan with a layer of olive oil. Heat the oil for a few moments - you can tell if it’s ready to fry if you sprinkle a teeny amount of corn starch in it and it starts sizzling. Fry the tofu pieces in a single layer, cook in batches if necessary. Turn as they start crisping up to fry each side and then lay on some paper towels to rest.

Eggplant sauce

In the same pan, sauté the shallots, dried chilis and ginger in hot oil until fragrant. Add in the eggplant cubes and cook them down a bit. Add some salt & pepper when the eggplants soften. When the eggplants stick to the pan, add the tomatoes and lower the heat to medium. Add in some soy sauce, about one “turn” of the pan. The water in the tomatoes will help create a sauce, use a spatula to scrape up anything that stuck to the bottom. Add some chicken stock, about a cup. The amount of chicken stock will become the sauce, so if you prefer more sauce just add more stock. Place a lid on the pan to encourage steaming.

Boil Noodles

In another pot, boil some water to cook the noodles. I used chow mein udon noodles which were done in about 6 minutes. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water to prevent overcooking. 

Almost done

Meanwhile your eggplant mixture is becoming real nice and saucy. Add in the green onions and Thai basil. To thicken up the sauce, in a separate small bowl - temper 1 tbs. of corn starch with a bit of water. Mix that up so that there aren’t any remaining chunks of corn starch. Stir in the corn starch mixture into the pan and stir. Simmer. When you’re about to serve the meal, mix in the fried tofu and mix. You don’t want to do this too early, or the tofu will lose the crispiness. 

Serve in a large deep dish with a serving of noodles and a generous portion of the eggplant sauce. Enjoy because it is freaking delicious. Best comment from the BF: “I’d order this at a restaurant!” :) 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Rice with a Miso Dressing

My mom used to make black rice on special occasions, and cooking it brings back memories of her lifting open the rice cooker and surprising me with the dark shock of purple black grains. Black rice is somehow more satisfying in taste, as it has a chewier consistency with a more nutty flavor to it. The hardest thing about cooking it is getting the proportion of water correct, I’ve seen some recipes call for a 1:1 ratio which is completely wrong. I’ve found that for 1 portion of rice, 2 portions of water are needed to cook it completely. I personally do a 1 rice up,  2 1/4 rice cup proportion because black rice can sometimes cook up too dry. 

Roasted Sweet potatoes and Zucchinis go on top. Cut vegetables lengthwise into thick pieces. Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven until they are tender.

For the Miso Sauce

2 tablespoons of miso paste

1 teaspoon of sesame oil

olive oil

a bit of honey to balance it out

Tags: vegan

Fresh pasta, bufala mozzarella, spinach, and pesto

Bonus post! I made this months ago and only have a few iPhone snaps and completely forgot to post it. Everything in this pasta I bought fresh at the Noodermarkt farmers market in Amsterdam. Fresh spaghetti, bufala (buffalo) mozzarella, spinach, and basil pesto. Have you had real fresh bufala mozzarella? I don’t think I had until this point.. somehow I missed that boat. It’s so much better than the standard type. It’s saltier, creamier, just delicious. Then I got schooled on the existence of Burrata, the ULTIMATE mozzarella. I will have to do a post on that.

Anyways, when you use such nice ingredients the result is always fantastic. As you can see…I ate it up!

Roasted Roots & Brussel Sprouts

Winter makes roasted vegetables taste even better somehow. Today I combined Parsley Root, Sweet Potato and Brussel Sprouts, and served them with some warm buttery polenta. I’ve never eaten Parsley Root before, and actually I think I prefer it’s doppelganger - the Parsnip a bit better. You could substitute most hardy vegetables in this as it’s really a simple rustic recipe. Slice the brussel sprouts in half, and cut the sweet potatoes and parsley root into same sized chunks. Coat them with olive oil, salt generously, pepper, and fresh rosemary. I put them in the oven at 250ºC (450ºF) with just the top heat on. Normally I do it on a baking tray and spread out the veggies in one layer, but since I had a lot I roasted them in a casserole dish for 30 minutes, then tossed them a bit to move the layer on the bottom to the top, and roasted for another 10 minutes. To make the polenta, I just followed a simple polenta recipe, Boil 1 1/2 cups of water, add 1/3 cup of dry polenta. Stir it right away and mash away all the large chunks that will form. Add a generous pat of butter, and salt.

Cozy!

Hearty Autumn White Bean Vegetable Soup

Did you know that you can eat the leaves from a cauliflower? You can, they’re delicious, and it feels really good knowing not throwing away those leaves. This is a simple but hearty soup, and one pot will last you a few days.

1 can of white beans

leaves from a cauliflower, the large pieces split down the middle and then sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 white onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 carrot, sliced

1 stalk of celery, sliced

1/4 of a cauliflower head

2 liters of water + 1 or 2 spoons of vegetable bouillon (depends on your taste) 

OR

1 liter of vegetable/chicken broth + 1 liter of water

salt, white pepper, black pepper

In a heavy pot or a dutch oven like a Le Creuset, cover the bottom with olive oil and brown diced onions and garlic over medium heat. 

Add in the celery stalks, carrot and celery and cook until slightly tender. 

Then you can add in the water or stock, and the cauliflower heads, and beans. 

Bring the pot to a slight boil. I prefer this soup to have vegetables that aren’t too mushy, as they are kept whole instead of being blended into a creamy soup.

Sopa de Grão

Full disclaimer: This is not an authentic recipe. I actually haven’t even tasted the real thing, but my version isn’t too shabby. My friend Tiago mentioned this soup and kindly gave me the recipe, and it sounded so tasty I made it the same night. This Portuguese soup is traditionally made from chickpeas, potatoes, and spinach, but I substituted the potatoes with cauliflower. Have you ever tried that before? I highly recommend it, cauliflower has a really creamy consistency when it’s cooked or slightly overcooked. I love using it instead of potatoes when I can because it is so much better for you – low in saturated fats, and very low in cholesterol. It’s also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Phosphorus and Potassium, and an excellent source of fiber and vitamins C and K, and at the same time being negligibly low in carbs. Perfection! (I’m getting plenty of carbs at Oktoberfest let. me. tell. ya.) Learn more about your neglected friend, Cauliflower. And for the rest of the ingredients, chickpeas (high in fiber, low in fat) and Spinach (superfood), and Carrots (428% of your daily vitamin A!!) this soup is crazy packed with good-for-you-ness. 


You’ll need:

2 cans of cooked chickpeas

Small head of cauliflower

2 large carrots

Fresh spinach

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves

Large heavy pot or dutch oven with a lid 

Stick blender

To make it:

Chop the onion, garlic, carrots, and cauliflower. The original recipe calls for 2 medium potatoes, so I just eyeballed the same amount in cauliflower. In the pot, heavily coat the bottom with olive oil over medium heat and throw in the chopped ingredients. Cook those until they are slightly tender and throw in 1 and 1/3 cans of chickpeas. Cook a bit more. Add 1 1/2 liters of water, and a spoonful of vegetable bouillon. (Bonus points if you use homemade stock.) Add salt and pepper. Raise the heat a bit and cover the pot with a lid. Heat until the soup is boiling and you can slide a fork into the carrots and cauliflower easily. Take a stick blender and carefully blend the ingredients into a velvety smooth consistency. Add the rest of the chickpeas (we’ll leave these whole) and fold in the spinach. Done! (or I should say Feito!)

Links:

http://www.everynutrient.com/healthbenefitsofcauliflower.html

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2391/2

http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-carrots-i11124

Assiette des Veggies

While I was in Paris I had the sheer foodie pleasure of enjoying some amazing dishes. And also refreshingly, not everything was coated in butter, cheese or blended into some creme like traditional French cuisine. (Not that anything is wrong with that!) In fact at one restaurant called Les P’tites Indécises the food was simple with great flavor combinations. My friend ordered the Assiette des Veggies, a vegetable plate, and out came a plate of roasted eggplants, zucchinis, a nice arugula salad and a bowl of quinoa. This is my attempt at recreating it. I don’t know about you, but whenever I come back from a holiday I always try to recreate the experiences I had. Like when I came back from Mexico, the only beer I wanted was Modelo Especial, in the can, with a slice of key lime. No exceptions!! 

For the vegetables, I simply roughly chopped the zucchini, parsnip, and carrots into big chunks. Coat them in olive oil and a generous handful of Herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper. Spread evenly on a baking tray and pop in the oven at 250ºC until they are tender and a little browned.

For the salad, I tossed arugula in lemon, olive oil, and salt. I also slice some raw zucchini into very thin slices to add some crunch. 

For the Quinoa, cook 1 cup of washed quinoa in 1 1/4 cup water. (sorry for mixing up imperial and metric). Boil water with a dash of salt, throw in the quinoa and let it boil again for 5 minutes. Then turn down the heat to medium and put a lid on, and in about 15 minutes your quinoa should be fluffy and done. You can tell that the quinoa is done when the grains have turned translucent and the solid white spiral has come loose a bit. 

Moroccan Hummus and Walnut Salad

This turned out so great, I almost named it the Amazeballs salad. No but really - this is delicious, and quick to make so it’s great for after a long day of work, or a stifling hot summer. This salad is made of really flavorful and healthy layers, and has a nice crunchy/smooth contrast to it. 

For the base layer:

1 cucumber

1/3 red onion

handful of cherry tomatoes

half a lemon, olive oil, salt

Take the time to dice cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and red onions into small cubes. Somehow I prefer this one to be a little more refined than ‘rustic.’ Add a circle of olive oil, squeeze the lemon juice, and a bit of salt - mix and let the flavors meld together.

For the walnut layer:

Walnuts (a big handful or 2)

Soy sauce 

Raisins (soak in water for a few minutes to plump them up)

Ras el Hanout

Ground Cumin

Sesame seeds (optional, I just had them on hand)

Chop the walnuts roughly and add a small circle of soy sauce, a dash or 2 of the Ras el Hanout and Cumin. Mix and add the raisins and sesame seeds. The Ras el Hanout spice and raisins is what makes this more of a Moroccan feel -

The name means “top of the shop” in Arabic and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer…There is no definitive set combination of spices that makes up Ras el hanout. Each shop, company, or person would have their own secret combination containing over a dozen spices. Typically they would include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and tumeric." (from wiki).

Mix the walnuts, raisins, sesame seeds and the spices together. If you find that you’ve got a lot of soy sauce at the bottom of the bowl, I would move the mixture into a clean bowl so that they don’t get too salty.

You’re done, now layer it up

I think the biggest portion should be the cucumber tomato mixture. Then add a smaller portion of walnuts. Add a generous spoonful of the hummus of your choice. I used an aubergine variety, and then topped it off with arugula. 

Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

This recipe is something my family makes every year, at Lunar new year. I’ve always been told that the more dumplings you make, the more luck you’ll have in the new year. It’s quite fun to have people over and teach them to fold them. Also, the more hands you have, the faster the wrapping part goes. A big credit to my sister who wrote this recipe!

This makes approximately 160 dumplings. 

For the Filling

1/2 kg / 1 lb raw shrimp, heads removed, peeled, and de-veined

1/2 kg / 1 lb freshly ground pork

1 bunch of spring onions

1/2 of cabbage, minced

1/8 cup grated fresh ginger

1.5 tablespoons sesame oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup dry white wine or rice wine

1.5 tsp salt

1.5 tsp white pepper 

Salt to sweat cabbage

 ~ 120 dumpling wrappers (Round thick Shanghai style. Wonton wrappers are too thin and will break quite easily.

For the dipping sauce:

Soy Sauce + Chiakiang Vinegar +Sesame Oil

Chili paste, Chili oil (optional)

Directions 

1. Cut the root and a 1/4 inch green tips off the green onions, and discard. Chop the remaining green and white parts as thin as possible.

2. Mince the cabbage. I did it by hand which took a lot longer, but it still turned out nice.  If you have a food processor, use the “Chop” setting.

 3. Place minced cabbage in a big bowl and sprinkle salt over each batch that you process. Let salted cabbage sit and “sweat” at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes. Removing the excess water helps keep the dumplings from being too soggy on the inside.

5. Chop the shrimp into small pieces. 

6. Peel and grate ginger.

7. By the handfuls, squeeze the minced cabbage to remove the water that has “sweated” out of the cabbage. A fast way to do this is to roll the cabbage in a thin towel and twist.

8. Mix ground pork, spring onions, cabbage, shrimp, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, wine, salt, and white pepper

 9. Wrap filling in dumpling wrappers. Use about 1-1.5 tsp filling for each dumpling wrapper.

Note:

Before folding the wrapper, dip your index finger in a small bowl of water and run your wet finger around the edge of the wrapper. This moisture will help the dumpling wrapper stick better and stay closed while cooking.

There are 3 ways to cook them, steaming, boiling and pan frying (my favorite)

Pan Fry (Pot Stickers)  

1. In a non-stick pan over medium-hi heat, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. 

2. Place dumplings in pan while oil is still cool. Ensure they aren’t touching each other.

3. Once the bottoms are golden brown, pour enough cold water into the pan to cover half-way up the height of the dumplings.

4. Cover the pan and cook on Medium heat until water is just disappeared. (Any longer and the bottoms will burn.)

Boiling

1. Bring 1/2 pot of water to a gentle boil.

2. While gently stirring the boiling water, drop in 10-12 dumplings.

3. Stirring occasionally, let water reach a gentle boil, and add cold water occasionally to prevent it from boiling over. Try not to let the dumplings settle at the bottom of the pot as they will stick and break open.

4. Let water reach a gentle boil. Dumplings should be floating and are ready to serve.

Steaming

1. Prepare a steamer lined with thin cabbage leaves

2. Place dumplings in steamer and steam for about 10-12 minutes per dozen dumplings.

Note: Serve in the steamer. It will be very difficult to remove the dumplings from the steamer without puncturing them or breaking them.

If you have any leftovers, you can freeze them and they’ll last for a few weeks.