Pickled mustard greens

One of my favorite Szechuan dishes is a spicy stew of fermented mustard greens and fish. I have tried to recreate it at home using homemade sauerkraut and chilis, and it was good – but not the same.

Fresh local mustard greens inspired me to ferment my own, and I can’t wait to eventually try making the stew again (in maybe a month? I like my greens real sour).

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  • 3 quarts water
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3-4 star anise pods
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled, sliced thin
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 bird chilis or other hot chili to taste
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1.5 lbs fresh mustard greens, well washed (lots of grit!)

Boil all ingredients except mustard greens and cool brine back to room temperature. Pack glass canning jars with greens and fill with brine to cover greens. Evenly distribute the aromatics among the jars. Make sure all greens are below the brine level and set in a dark place to ferment for at least a week. Loosen the jar lid periodically to let gas escape. You can place in the fridge and let slow ferment for months- just be sure to keep releasing the pressure.

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Apricot-Salted Caramel Ice Cream

This lightly tropical ice cream is so luscious you wouldn’t know that it’s dairy free! I used coconut milk and eggs to add richness, and the pureed apricots add a velvety texture and perfume. You could go all the way vegan with this recipe by thickening with cornstarch instead of eggs.

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  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 3 large eggs (for vegan ice cream: omit eggs and dissolve 1/4 cup cornstarch in 1 can of coconut milk and add to the blender before the apricots)
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup toasted cashews

Melt sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat and continue to heat until it turns a deep brown and smells a bit like burnt marshmallows. Swirl the pan as the sugar browns to even it out. If you don’t let it go long enough at this stage, you won’t get much caramel flavor. I always think of it like this – if I go too far and it burns (has a bitter smell/taste), I can always start over – it’s just sugar.

Pour in the coconut milk (mixture will bubble and spit) and carefully stir over medium heat to re-melt the caramel. Pour mixture into a blender and, with blender running, add the eggs one at a time. Add 3/4 cup apricots, salt, and vanilla and let run until smooth.

Pour the mixture back into your saucepan and slowly heat to fully thicken, whisking constantly. Do not let boil – but, if you do, pour the mixture through a strainer before cooling to get any lumps out. Cool custard overnight and then churn in an ice cream maker. Top with thinly sliced dried apricots and toasted cashews.

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Kimchi pancakes and caramelized delicata squash

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Kimchi makes me so happy. So so happy. These pancakes especially with their crispy, spicy, chewy, tangy, juicy-ness, are one of my favorite ways to have kimchi. You could sub in all sorts of ingredients here, and I’ll share suggestions below. (a previous post has the salad recipe)

Kimchi pancakes

  • 1 cup kimchi sliced thin
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup bay shrimp (could sub in other proteins like drained tofu, sauteed mushrooms, scallops or leave out completely. My kimchi is vegan and gluten-free, so I can easily accommodate dietary restrictions. Many store-bought brands of kimchi contain fish sauce or oysters and may have gochujang with can be made with wheat or barley paste both of which contain gluten – check it closely to be sure)
  • 1/2 cup flour (can use gf flour blend or rice flour)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all of the ingredients together and thin with a little kimchi liquid if needed. Heat oil on medium high in a large nonstick pan. Scoop about 1/4 cup mixture into the pan and flatten so ingredients are more or less in one layer. Let the pancake cook until it is golden brown and crispy, then flip and cook to crisp the other side, about 5-7 minutes total.

These can be served with or without an easy dipping sauce of equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar with a dash of toasted sesame oil and chili paste. You can use tamari if you are trying to keep this recipe gluten-free.

Caramelized delicata squash

  • 1 delicata squash, scrubbed clean, cut in half longways, seeds scraped and then sliced (skin on) into thin half moons
  • Oil and salt/pepper

Not really a recipe, but after you have cooked the kimchi pancakes, throw the squash into the same pan and cook for about 5 minutes per side until they are dark brown and tender. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Tabouli with amaranth (gf)

IMG-3053I have been craving sour things lately – the aforementioned kombucha, fish with sauerkraut and fermented black beans, and this bright and crunchy tabouli. I make it gluten free using amaranth (a seed) in place of the bulgur (which is cracked wheat and thus has gluten). I happen to love the texture of amaranth anyways, but it also packs a serious nutrition punch. You can use the bulgur if you are not wheat sensitive, or try another grain or seed like quinoa, brown rice, or millet.

Tabouli with amaranth

  • 1 clove garlic, minced fine
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled amaranth (cook according to package directions – be sure to add salt to the cooking liquid)
  • 1 bunch curly parsley, de-stemmed and chopped fine
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped fine
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • juice of 2-3 lemons
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything up to the cucumbers in a large bowl to combine and then begin adding your seasonings to taste. I like it pretty sour, so I use all of the lemon juice, but start with half and add more to taste. Same with the olive oil, salt and pepper. You may need to re-season with salt once the veggies have lost some of their water. Garnish with chive blossoms if you are lucky enough to have some around!

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Cherry-ginger kombucha (aka fizzy, sweet and sour drink)

IMG_2741I have joined team kombucha. After drinking switchels for years, kombucha was easy to love – lightly fizzy, sweet and sour, interesting flavors, refreshing. As someone who doesn’t drink much alcohol, it has also been a welcome option for happy hours and potlucks. My main problem has been the price of it. At $3-$5 per 12-ounce bottle, it is often more expensive than beer.

Problem solved. My friend O gave me a “scoby” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and some simple instructions (use black tea, plain sugar, keep it out of the light) and off I went. This is my third gallon batch, cherry-ginger flavor this time. I won’t go into instructions here, because there are so many blogs that dedicate themselves just to home-brew kombucha, but I will encourage you to give it a try. It isn’t hard at all (mostly waiting) and the flavor combinations are endless!

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South Indian-inspired lentil stew with coconut-rice crepes

Lentil soup with coconut rice crepe

This stew is inspired by some of my favorite breakfasts while in Goa. I didn’t follow a recipe, but I’ll try to capture how I ended up with the step. The crepes are an easy recipe that I’ll include below. I think they’d also be delicious with some butter and honey drizzled for breakfast or dessert!

Lentil Stew

Saute a chopped onion, 3 carrots, a tablespoon each of grated ginger and turmeric and 5 cloves of garlic until golden brown. Add a teaspoon each of black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and your favorite curry powder or masala. Add one bunch of chopped kale, 1/2 lb of split red lentils and enough veggie broth to cover everything. Let this simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt to taste. Once the lentils are soft, use an immersion blender to puree about half the soup and stir together until you get a consistency that you like. I prefer leaving in some of the chunks, but you might prefer a smoother soup. Adjust the spice levels to taste and add lemon juice for some brightness.

Coconut Rice Crepes

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Soak one cup of white rice (I used a mixture of basmati and sushi rice) in water overnight. Drain and place in a blender with 1/2 cup of fresh water and 1/2 cup coconut milk. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and blend until completely smooth. The batter will be very runny, maybe the thickness of cream? That is how it should be, don’t worry!

Heat a nonstick pan on high with some oil until just smoking. Add about 1/2 cup of batter to the pan and tilt to coat the pan thinly. Cook until light brown and then flip and cook until light brown on the other side.

Serve the stew with a garnish of chopped cilantro and a few rice crepes for dipping.

Roasted spaghetti squash

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It’s squash roasting season, obviously, but I wanted to make a specific plug for spaghetti squash. Cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, coat with olive oil and fill the halves with sliced garlic, herb sprigs and a sprinkle of salt.

Place, cut side down, on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until the squash strands separate as you drag a fork across them. The texture should remain crisp, and it’s better to under-bake than over. If you really want to soften it, just throw it back in the oven for a few more minutes. An over-baked squash is just mushy and sad.

I like to toss the strands with toasted walnuts, red pepper flakes, black pepper and shards of parmesan or aged gouda. It’s also great coated with some fresh pesto.

Johnny cakes for every meal

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Johnny cakes are kind of like fried cornbread, but easier to make. While the roots of the name are debated, we definitely can give credit to Native Tribes up and down the eastern Americas for the dish itself. While you can make more of a cornbread batter and fry like pancakes, these are simpler, denser, and satisfyingly toothsome. I like them savory with melted butter or cheese, as a side for BBQ or braised meats, or sweet with a drizzle of maple syrup or  honey.

  • 1 cup course cornmeal (this is a great time to use that heirloom, stoneground stuff you’ve been saving, because the taste of the corn is front and center)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (if you want them sweet, otherwise, you can leave it out)

Combine all of the ingredients, pouring in the boiling water or milk gradually until you get a wet mixture that will plop off the end of your spoon and flatten out slightly. Cook in a greased medium-hot griddle or pan for about 6-10 minutes per side, depending on how dark you like your edges. I like to keep them warm in the oven on a rack while I make a whole batch. The time in the oven also helps to soften the corn granules in the middle, as they can be a bit crunchy at first.

Mu shu pork with homemade pancakes

Mu shu (fill in your preferred protein here: chicken, pork, tofu, etc) has always been a favorite go-to Chinese take-out fave for me. I find that even in restaurants where quality is meh, the mu shu is a safe bet. Like many restaurant dishes, if I like it, I figure out how to make it. Mu shu can be super easy by substituting in flour tortillas for the pancakes, but making the pancakes from scratch isn’t too much work if you have some extra time (and don’t mind flour all over the kitchen…and you)

  • 8oz white flour (you could probably use whole wheat, but might need a bit more water)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup boiling water

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and add in the boiling water. Stir to combine and then knead with your hands for 5 minutes or so. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll dough into a long snake and cut into 12 pieces. Traditionally, and in order to get a really thin pancake, you then dip one piece of dough into toasted sesame oil and press against another piece of dough. By rolling and cooking these paired pancakes together, you can peel them apart at the end to get 2 super thin pancakes. Depending on your mastery of this, it can be a more or less successful technique. You may also want to just roll each piece on its own using a well floured rolling pin and counter.

Either way, cook the pancakes in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds. If you’ve rolled and cooked them as pairs, be sure to peel them apart (gently) while still hot. Cover with a dish towel to keep warm while you cook the rest.

The filling often has sliced napa cabbage, wood ear mushrooms, omelette strips, scallions and some kind of protein. I survey the fridge and make it with whatever I have on hand, and it seems to work. This time I had green cabbage, mustard greens, carrots, and shitake mushrooms hanging around. I also had some fresh bamboo shoot from our CSA that was really fun to play with. (tip: you have to boil it for about an hour before you can peel, slice and use it) The basic idea is to stir-fry your veggies, starting with the ones that take longer to cook, with garlic, ginger, soy and sesame.

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I like to cook the veggies in batches, moving the cooked ones to a large bowl. It allows me to get the pan screaming hot for each new type of veggie, which gives me that little bit of char that tastes so good. I made omelette strips by whisking 2 eggs with a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, salt and some chive blossoms. Cook in a non-stick skillet until firm and cut into strips.

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To serve, each person takes a pancake and smears on some hoisin sauce (also called plum sauce, which can be found in most grocery stores, or you can try making your own!). I also like to add some chili paste for heat. Add some filling, roll up and enjoy!

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Nachos on the roof deck

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Always in search of the perfect nacho, I most often find them at home. My partner has a patented “one layer” method that involves laying corn chips side by side (never overlapping) on a cookie sheet and topping each carefully with cheese. The other toppings are added later, as seen in this photo: pinto beans, sour cream, lime-cabbage slaw, pico, and guacamole. Eaten on a roof deck at sunset, doesn’t get much more perfect.

Missing but desired: pickled jalapeños, black olives (I know, not for everyone), maybe some carnitas?