Monthly Archives: April 2012

Beef with Broccoli

Earlier in my post, I mentioned that my family dined at a Chinese restaurant every week. This was never one of the dishes we ordered. But oddly enough, I recall maybe once or twice having a dish of Kung Pao Chicken on our table. But there’s something about Chinese “take-out” food where you order dishes that are far from authentic but you don’t care because when you see television sitcoms eating chowmein, fried rice, beef with broccoli- whatever looks “Asian”  from a take-out container, it has me craving for some non-authentic Chinese food. However in NYC, Chinese restaurants don’t serve the food in the white paper take out containers with the red pagodas. It’s just not the same eating from these round plastic containers. You lose the authenticity! In my neighborhood, there are Chinese folks running tiny Chinese take-out joints with the names of Golden City, Ling-Ling (and you bet there’s a Panda on their sign), and my personal fave, Me and My Egg Roll. Ai-ya!

Funny how my family never ordered no mandarin orange chicken but we never fail to enjoy our sweet and sour pork- with or without the canned pineapple. Perhaps that’s why I always have Trader Ming’s mandarin orange chicken stashed in my freezer.

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Acorn Tajine

After my dad finished his job in Saudi Arabia, he brought back a loot worthy amount of saffron- enough to fill a quart size jar! And to think that grocers store tiny glass vials of saffron stored in the store’s safe. Had I knows what culinary jewels we had in our kitchen, I would have opted for an upgrade on my bike!

Most of the saffron we had was used for making rice pilaf. I have borrowed the elements of raisins and pine nuts from my dad’s recipe for my recipe and replaced the rice with quinoa. This can be used as a vegan main dish or as a side dish accompanied by grilled meats.

Unfortunately, I do not have anything as valuable as saffron in my spice storage. The most valuable ingredient in my cupboards are Madagascar vanilla beans. Which I happened to use them to accompany this meal with a cashew vanilla bean smoothie!

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Beet greens and Smoked Mozzarella Baguette

I love this time of the year in New York City because you can really enjoy the urban outdoors. Limited mosquitoes and low levels of humidity- condolences to those with hay fever allergies. Picnics at the park have become a wonderful weekend treat for us- and it’s also a great excuse to make variations on the baguette sandwich.

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Cauliflower Vichyssoise

There are some dishes that exude fine dining. Vichyssoise is one of them. Sounds so Fraanch but the origin is supposedly from the Ritz Carlton in New York City. It seems like the debate is who figured to serve the soup cold. I can picture Mrs. Patmore and Daisy stirring a large copper pot of vichyssoise while the rest of the staff would happily take crusts of bread to soak up any remnants from any leftovers that remain.

Though my father made vichyssoise, during a rare hot summer’s day in Seattle, I have made my version a little lighter by adding cauliflower to the pot.The key to all good soups is making your own broth. It seriously changes the magnitude when you do.

I wrote “vichyssoise” enough times in this post to remember its spelling.

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Salt & Pepper Prawns

For the longest time, you could not drag me to a Cantonese Chinese restaurant for the life of me. Why? Because for for about five years straight, I went every Sunday to one and we pretty much ate the same meal every single time. I probably shouldn’t complain since there are far worst places to dine at, or even the treat of getting to go out at all. But from middle school up until college, I could always predict what I was eating for dinner at 6:30p at Sea Garden. Before that, we had our Saturday routine of dim sum after Japanese Language class.

Now that I can patron my preferred Chinese restaurants, I often find myself wanting to order the same dishes I once grew tired of. One of those dishes is salt & pepper prawns, or at the right season, steamed sweet prawns with dipping sauce. So like an ungrateful brat who has matured to appreciates those earlier years and has adapted Ming Tsai’s recipe into her own.

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Gnocchi

A cook must admit their weaknesses. For me, it is kneading any type of dough. Perhaps my over-kneading tendency stems from the Parent-Child Waldorf classes where we kneaded our bread until the song was over.

The first time I made these, the gnocchi turned out a little heavy. So they weren’t your usual cliche of being billowy soft light pillows. A sign that my kneading technique needs work. But then I tried a different recipe. It read, “try not to knead the dough”. Perfect. This recipe turned out much better.  Usually, I’m not keen on ordering gnocchi when I can get fresh ribbons of pasta. (My pasta machine sitting in its box just gathers dust since I have yet to make fresh pasta.) Seeing that I make spaghetti bolognese about once every 10 days, I figure I should make at least one attempt at using the machine, especially if kneading is not necessary.

To make this gnocchi for a weekday meal, just split it into two parts: 1) Baking potatoes along with other things in the oven; 2) Rolling the dough. Then it becomes a quick and easy meal- especially with a good jar of Rao’s marinara sauce!

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Spring Pea Pesto

While seeking new ways to serve protein for Little Green Wagon’s baby food, I was amazed to learn that peas was a great source of clean protein. I made plenty of pesto blends for my baby food clients. Some with nuts, some with seeds, and of course, some with peas!

You can make this pesto in 5 minutes. With spring peas in season, you can easily shell some but a bag of frozen peas does just fine. I have mixed it with roasted veggies, pasta, and it is just beautiful as a crostini.

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Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Usually what makes this dish are the hand pulled noodles and a generous pile of pickled mustard greens. There’s just something about Asian noodle soup and pickled mustard greens that gets me excited. But so many of the varieties of pickled greens contains MSG or a lot of foreign preservatives. Not to mention that I’ve bought a few that weren’t from China and didn’t have MSG but didn’t taste right. Maybe it’s the MSG that I liked before the headache sets in.

Fortunately, one of the farms selling at our local farmer’s market, sells a variety of Asian greens. One of them being mustard greens. So in lieu of the usual pickled mustard greens, I opted to make it healthier (aka no MSG) and used fresh mustard greens to accompany my bowl of Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian, Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. I know someone in my home who will have one happy tummy tonight!

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Portabello Vegetable Quinoa Enchiladas with Chipotle Cream

Enchiladas is a new thing to me. Up until a few years ago, I could count how many different Mexican dishes I have eaten. Living in New York, there is only one place I go to for my fix of tacos. La Esquina is a must when I am around SoHo/Nolita and need a quick snack or pick me up. Their grilled fish tacos are the best and you can never go wrong with their elotes callejeros (grilled corn).  It has only been in the last year that I discovered how much I enjoy chicken tortilla soup!  Since then, I’ve been playing around with the flavors of chipotle. Here is one dish that goes so well with its spice!

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