A close view of Spicy Cashew Cheese

In a recent post about this years Epcot Food & Wine Festival (Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2012: more food… more thoughts…), I showed you the offerings at the Vegan booth terra, one of which was a meatless chili topped with a faux cheese…

Chili Colorado with House-made Chips and topped with Cashew Cheese

about the same time as I had tried this dish, I happened to stumble across a recipe for cashew cheese in the November 2012 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine, and since I’m quite fond of cashews anyway, I decided to give it a try…

So be prepared to make a trip to the health food store or Whole Foods, etc for a couple of the ingredients, and then Let’s Cook!

Spicy Cashew Cheese

Ingredients

2 Cups Raw Cashews, soaked in water to cover for 12 to 24 hours

1/2 Cup Water

2 Tbl Nutritional Yeast (not the regular stuff – you’ll likely have to hunt for this, like the raw cashews… or find online)

1 Tbl Fresh Lemon Juice

2 Tsp White Balsamic Vinegar (or white wine vinegar – rice vinegar would work too)

1/4 Tsp Granulated Onion Powder

1/8 Tsp Granulated Garlic Powder (or a little more, to taste)

1/8 Tsp Ground White Pepper

2 Chopped Chipotle Peppers in Adobo, along with a Tsp of the sauce (of course you can up this as desired… as I usually do)

Procedure

Soaked and drained raw cashews

Drain the soaked cashews and put into the bowl of a food processor.

Cashews after first processing

Process for about 1 minute until a coarse paste develops.

Adding stuff to the cashew paste

Add the rest of the ingredients, other than the chipotle peppers and sauce, and process for 4 or 5 minutes until the mixture is very smooth.

Smooth “cheese”

Add the chopped peppers and adobo…

Adding the peppers

and process for a couple more minutes until well incorporated.

The finished product

Transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate overnight to firm up a bit.
And now what do you do with it?

Use as a dip, spread on a chip,

Spicy Cashew Cheese atop Triscuits

use it as a bread spread, and yes, you can dollop it on chili (veggie or not) or with some pasta…

So is it “cheese”? Of course not – the nutritional yeast gives it a little bit of that cheesy taste – but what it really is is a cashew-based hummus – and it’s really good (and probably, shhhh… sorta good for you).

Now if you want to season this differently, at the point after the second (long) processing (and before you add the peppers in this recipe), you have a fairly “blank slate”, as the “cheese” is a bit nutty, but still fairly bland. If you don’t want to make it spicy, omit the chipotles and try adding herbs of your choice (basil?), and/or roasted garlic, or whatever strikes your fancy… or even more or different peppers (habaneros anyone?) for the chile-head!

This is worth a try, and after you’ve found the ingredients it’s is easy as pie… or “cheese”…

Back to the kitchen – see you soon!

As Dedicated Readers know, I have quite a fondness for Korean cuisine, and have shared a few Korean (or Korean-inspired) recipes here over the years…

Seafood and Scallion Pancakes (Pajeon)

and with the South Korea booth making a return appearance at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival this year (yeah!), I thought I’d share another… and it gives me an excuse to cook and eat some Korean food!

South Korea Kiosk at Epcot

The Korean food has been a big hit since this location was introduced to the Festival in 2010. This was actually a bit of a surprise to me, as I was afraid so many guests would be reluctant to try a cuisine that I think is mostly unknown to the majority of Americans. But I think the food items were so good that word of mouth soon had long lines at the kiosk almost constantly. I’m glad that Disney guest have taken to this introduction to a type of food I really enjoy… but I hate that I now have to wait in those large lines to get my taste!

Korean Lettuce Wraps with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw

The two savory items featured the first couple of years were Lettuce Wraps with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw (which has been the most popular recipe I’ve shared on the blog) and Barbecue Short Rib (aka Kalbi) with Rice and Kimchi.

Barbeque Short Rib with Rice and Kimchi (Kalbi)

The 2012 version of the booth still has the pork dish, but the beef ribs are being replaced with a Mung Bean Pancake with Shrimp and Kimchi Sauce. Koreans seem to be quite fond of savory pancakes (called Pajeon or Pa Jon), and it’s something I’ve been wanting to try out a recipe for for quite a while, so inspired by the upcoming addition to the Food & Wine kiosk, I pulled out my Korean cookbooks and settled on a dish from the Kimchi Chronicles book.

The Kimchi Chronicles Cookbook

The Kimchi Chronicles is a PBS series starring Marja and Jean-Georges Vongerichten (with Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman, and his wife Deborra-Lee Furness also along for the ride while actress Heather Graham also makes a few apperances). The series chronicles Marja discovering her culinary roots in Korea (she is the daughter of a US serviceman and a Korean woman who was adopted and raised by a family in the United States). Her husband Jean-Georges is one of the most famous chefs and restauranteurs around, and adds his knowledge and his own spin the the traditional recipes. I can recommend both the show and the cookbook to those interested in the foods of Korea. You can check out the Kimchi Chronicles at their website.

After that long preamble I’m getting hungry, so Let’s Cook!

Korean Seafood and Scallion Pancakes

Ingredients

Pancake Parts

For the Pancakes:

2 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/4 Cup Rice Flour (available in Asian markets, or check the “health food” area of you local market)

2 Tsp Coarse Sea Salt

2 1/4 Cups Cold Water

8 oz Containers of Oysters, drained

1/3 Lb (give or take) Medium or Large Raw Shrimp

1/2 Cup Scallion (aka Green Onion) Pieces (cut into about 1.5″ long pieces)

Vegetable Oil for frying

For the Scallion Dipping Sauce:

Saucy Goodies

1/2 Cup Soy Sauce

1/4 Cup Sesame Oil

2 Tbl Rice Vinegar

2 Tbl Gochugaru (Korean Red Pepper Powder, available at Asian markets. This is good stuff – I use it a lot in all types of cooking, it’s worth finding.)

6 Scallions, thinly sliced

Procedure

Start by making the dipping sauce – simply whisk all the ingredients together and set aside. You can make this a day or two ahead and stick in the ‘fridge if you’d like (it probably even gets better…).

For the pancakes start by shelling and deveining the shrimp and cutting them up: if medium size just halve, if large split lengthwise and then cut in half.

Whisk the AP and rice flours along with the salt together in a medium to large bowl (the rice flour adds a bit of extra crispiness to the pancake when cooked).

Whisk in the water until the batter is smooth.

Batter up!

Add the seafood and scallion pieces…

See food?

and stir to mix well.

Ready to cook!

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high. Add about a cup of the batter (try to get an even amount of the goodies in each pancake) to the hot skillet.

Cook until browned and crispy on one side, about 2 to 4 minutes depending on the heat, the thickness of the pancake, etc. Carefully flip over to cook the second side.

Gettin’ crispy!

After the second side is done (another 2 – 3 minutes), remove to a paper towel lined plate and start on the next pancake, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

Seafood and Scallion Pajeon, Scallion Dipping Sauce and Soju… Oh My!

Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

Show me the oyster!

Some notes:

I found the large (1 cup of batter) size pancake a bit hard to turn (of course if you have to break it into pieces to turn it’s not a big deal). Try it for the first one, and if you have the same issue, just make smaller ones. Like “regular” pancakes it may take one or two to get it right… the first ones are for the chef… ;-)

You can certainly vary the seafood used, if you’re not fond of oysters you can sub more shrimp, or add scallop pieces (but I really like the oceany, almost meaty, flavor the oysters add to this – mussels would be nice too). All scallions can be used for a strictly veggie-version (and the all-scallion pancake seems to be a popular and very traditional dish in Korea).

The scallion dipping sauce is a nice thing to add to your repertoire – it can be used with pot-stickers and even just simple cooked/roasted chicken.

The original version of the recipe is, of course, available in the cookbook, but is also on the Kimchi Chronicles website.

This is sure worth giving a try! I liked it a lot and will be making it again! If you whip it up be sure to let everyone know what you think in the comments!

The Food & Wine Festival at Epcot is now less than a week away! We’ll soon see how the pancake at the South Korea kiosk is!

Now, as always, back to the kitchen!

Happy Birthday Julia!

August 14, 2012

This Wednesday, August 15, 2012, would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child.

Julia was more than just a “TV Chef”, more than a personality… long before there was Giada, Alton, Rachael and even Emeril there was Julia – “The French Chef”.

Julia was a force of nature, a big person in more than stature… she very much taught America how to cook, and by extension exposed us to much of the rest of the world.

If you cook, if you eat, Julia has has an influence on your life.

I’m not eloquent enough to pay proper homage to this great woman, this great American… I’ll just say thank you Julia. Like so many I wish I could have shared a table with you, and even more so wish I could have shared a kitchen with you…

Happy Birthday Julia! We love you… Bon Appetit!

With thoughts of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival already running through my mind (yes, I’m already counting down, see Is it too early? if you don’t believe me…), I decided to finally try a recipe we saw demoed at last year’s festival: Spicy Durban Style Chicken.

Spicy Durban Style Chicken

Sanaa, the restaurant at the Kidani Village section of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, is one of my (and Miss Bonnie’s) favorites on property.

So when we saw that Chef Bob Getchell, who has headed the kitchen at Sanaa from day one, was doing a demonstration one day at the Food & Wine Festival we signed up right away.

He showed how to make one of the more popular (and spicy) dishes from the “Slow Cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well Seasoned” section of the Sanaa menu – the dish is right up my flavor-alley – a bit Indian, lot’s of spice, a bit hot – so without much further ado, let’s cook!

Okay, here’s a little bit of ado…

I’ll give you the recipe pretty much as presented, but as Dedicated Readers should know by now, I didn’t exactly follow the recipe to a tee… so I’ll give you some notes and comments where I varied from the recipe…

Okay, so now we can cook!

Spicy Durban Style Chicken

Ingredients

For the Dry Masala (Spice) Mixture:

2 Whole Star Anise

1/2 Tbl Whole Cumin Seeds

3 Whole Bay Leaves

4 Green Cardamom Pods (you may have to find an Indian market for these puppies…)

1/2 Tbl Ground Cinnamon (I also added a couple of whole cinnamon sticks during the cooking as you’ll see below)

3 Tbl Ancho Chili Powder

2 Tbl Chili Powder (the recipe doesn’t specify anything more than this, so I used the typical blended chili powder from the grocery, but if you have other specific, pure powders in addition to the Ancho, I’m sure that would be great)

2 Tbl Madras-style (hot) Curry Powder

1 Tbl Turmeric Powder

Some of the goodies…

For the Curry Sauce:

1 1/4 Lbs Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, cut into bite-sized (about 1″) pieces

1/4 Cup Canola Oil

1 Cup Diced Onions (the recipe specifies yellow, but whatever you have around should be good)

2 Jalapeno Peppers, seeded and minced (or keep the seeds in if you like it hotter, of course I used 3 peppers…)

Hi there, Hot Stuff!

2 Tbl Ginger-Garlic Paste (I’ll show you how to make that later)

3 Cups Canned Crushed Tomatoes with their Juice (I used a 28 oz can of San Marzano Tomatoes and crushed them by hand and saved the extra liquid to use in place of the water called for in the recipe)

Water as needed, about 1/2 Cup

Salt and Freshly-ground Black Pepper to taste

1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro

and most of the fresh stuff…

Procedure

For the Dry Masala (Spice) Mixture:

Put the star anise, cumin seeds, bay leaves and cardamom pods into a heavy, dry skillet and turn the heat onto medium high.

Stir and toast until fragrant and slightly browned…

be careful not to let the spices burn – stir often and reduce your heat if needed – if you do burn them, discard and start over. When done, remove the spices from the skillet and allow to cool.

The toasted whole spices

Put the toasted spices into a spice grinder (an inexpensive coffee grinder, kept to use just for spices, works great)…

and grind into a powder.

The now-ground, toasted spices

Measure out the rest of the Masala spices…

The dry Masala Spices

add the ground toasted spices, and put all back into the dry skillet.

Final toasting of all the spices

Heat and toast the spices as before until fragrant. Stir constantly and be careful not to burn. When it’s smelling good remove from the skillet and allow to cool.

For the Chicken Curry:

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven until close to smoking.

Meanwhile, salt and pepper the chicken pieces and when the oil is hot, add some of the chicken to the pan.

Cooking the chicken pieces

You’ll want to get a nice browning on the chicken pieces, so don’t crowd the pan and turn/stir-fry the chicken as needed. Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably need to brown the bird in two or three batches.

When browned, remove the chicken pieces and set aside for now.

If you want, now add a couple of cinnamon sticks to the oil and stir a few seconds until the sticks start to unfurl.

An extra bit of cinnamon goodness…

Next add the chopped onion and jalapeno…

and cook over medium high until the onions start to get translucent.

Then add the ginger-garlic paste and stir well for about a minute…

Adding the ginger-garlic paste

then add the dry spices.

Getting your spice on…

Mix all well and cook another minute while stirring constantly.

It may not look so pretty at this point, but all the toasting, stirring and cooking will make a big difference in the finished sauce.

Add the tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer.

Cook over high heat for three or four minutes, stirring frequently. If it seems a bit dry add some tomato juice or water (or even some of the beer you may be sipping on while you’re cooking).

Add the chicken to the sauce

Add the water (or tomato juice, or even beer or dry white wine) and stir well.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is tender (the recipe says 10-15 minutes, but you really can’t simmer this too long…), stirring occasionally. The sauce should be fairly thick, but adjust to your liking (simmer longer to thicken, or add more liquid for a more wet sauce… duh…). Taste for seasoning and salt and pepper as needed. If you want more heat you can add something like Sriracha or other hot sauce now, or allow each diner to add at the table as desired.

A little herbage at the end…

When ready to serve, stir in the cilantro.

Spicy Durban Style Chicken served with Basmati Rice and Roasted Cauliflower

Serve with rice (plain Basmati is fine, but would also be killer with Coconut Rice) and veggies of your choice (Simple Roasted Cauliflower would be a nice compliment to the spicy curry). A little sprinkle of cilantro to garnish won’t hurt a thing…

This same sauce is also used at Sanaa for the Spicy Durban Shrimp, so you can easily change the protein as you desire. It would even be great as a vegetarian dish – maybe use some roasted veggies in the sauce (cauliflower, carrots, etc.) or with some other protein source (such as seitan or tempeh).

With all the grinding and stirring and such, this certainly isn’t quick weeknight fare, but the results are well worth the effort. You can certainly make the spice mix a day or two ahead, and like most other “stewy” dishes, this seems to get better a day or two after it’s made, so make plenty and have leftovers.

I haven’t tried it, but I can’t see why this shouldn’t freeze pretty well.

At the demo, the dish was paired with a real nice Riesling from Loosen Brothers Winery in Germany.

A not-overly sweet Riesling (or other white wine) paired very well with the spicy curry – beer will also go well.

This is another one I hope you try – and as always, please let us know what you think in the comments section!

Back to the kitchen, see you soon!

Oh yeah, here’s how to make the Ginger-Garlic Paste (it’s real hard, hope you can follow along…). Take five or six big peeled garlic cloves and cut into chunks. Take some pieces of fresh peeled ginger that looks to be about the same volume as the garlic and cut into pieces about the same size as the garlic. Stick these into a mini-chopper/processor and add a tablespoon or so of olive oil.

Making Ginger-Garlic Paste

Process until the pieces make a fairly wet paste, added more oil as needed.

Any leftover paste will keep covered in the fridge for a few days, add enough extra oil if needed to keep all the paste covered.

Okay – now back to the kitchen again!

Dal – one of the staple foods of millions worldwide… like other peas, beans, legumes and their ilk, these little split goodies provide a cheap and fulling source of protein and nutrition to untold numbers of people on a daily basis.

I approached cooking dal with a bit of trepidation – I knew they would be good for me, and certainly at least palatable, and I’d probably be proud of myself for eating it and having something else in my “healthy diet” arsenal… but I didn’t expect them to be down-right better-than-just-edible… and that’s what these are: Delicious Dals.
Dals are best know as a part of Indian cuisine, so of course I looked to Suvir Saran for recipes and pulled out my trusty copy of “American Masala”. I tried his “not-so-dull dal” and was, well, blown away. I was amazed that such simple ingredients produced such wonderful results! I doubted it was actually as good as I thought it was, so I shared the results with several people, and all agreed that it was an exceptional-tasting dish!

I played with the recipe a bit, using some of Suvir’s recommended alterations/additions to the basic recipe, made a little tweak or three of my own, and what you have is the recipe below. So let’s tarry no longer: Let’s Cook!

Delicious Dal

Ingredients

Most of the suspects...

3 Tbl Canola Oil

2 Tsp Cumin Seeds

1 Tsp Mustard Seeds

4 or 5 Dried Red Chilies (if you’re a bit of a wussy about heat, you can cut don’t to 1 or 2, but don’t omit them totally – remove after initial frying if you want)

A pinch (1/16th of a Tsp?) Asafetida Powder (from the Indian market, don’t sweat it if you don’t have, just omit it)

12 Fresh (or Frozen) Curry Leaves, torn into small pieces (optional, also from the Indian market)

The seeds and such...

1 Red Onion, quartered and cut into thin slices

1 Jalapeno, finely chopped (remove seeds and ribs if you want to reduce heat – again don’t omit totally if you like a mild dish, just use half a pepper sans the insides)

Sliced Red Onion and Chopped Jalapeno

1 Tbl Kosher or Sea Salt

3 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 1/2 Cups Dal, rinsed and drained well (I used Masoor Dal, but you can use Channa Dal/yellow split peas, or even the regular lentils that you’ll find in the grocery should work well)

1 Can (14.5 ounce, or thereabouts) Diced Tomatoes (if you like even extra heat, you won’t hurt my feelings of you use that can of Rotel you have in the cupboard)

1 Container (32 oz) Vegetable Stock (or Chicken Stock/Broth if you don’t care about the dish being 100% vegetarian, you can even use all or part water if you must – it will still turn out nice)

Juice of 1/2 a Lemon (plus more for serving if desired)

Chopped Cilantro, if desired for serving

Procedure

Heat the oil is your large cooking vessel of choice over medium-high heat (I used my mother’s cast iron Dutch oven as usual).

Add the cumin and mustard seeds, the dried peppers and the curry leaves (if you have). Stir for 1 – 2 minutes until the spices darken slightly and become aromatic -  be careful as the mustard seeds will want to fly out of the pan – use a splatter screen if you have one.

If you’re using asafetida, add and stir for a few (20 or so) seconds.

Put in the onion and jalapeno and stir until staring to get soft, a couple of minutes.

Add the salt and garlic, and stir and cook until all is getting happy, soft and aromatic…

It's smelling good in here...

Stir in the drained lentils and cook for a minute or so…

add a half-cup of the broth and deglaze the pan until the liquid is pretty much all cooked off.

Add a couple of cups of the broth and the tomatoes (no need to drain) and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, partially cover, and cook about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Covered partially...

Add more broth as needed to just keep the ingredients covered…

yep – we’re basically gonna cook these puppies like a risotto…

Uncover and add the lemon juice…

Continue to simmer uncovered, adding more broth if needed, until the lentils are tender but not turned to mush.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed…

but I’m betting you’re going to be amazed… at most you may want a bit more salt…

You can fish out the dried chilies if you like (they will provide quite a jolt to someone who bites down on one unexpectedly).

I like to make this dal very thick (maybe the consistency of cooked oatmeal?) – many dal recipes are much more soupy, and meant to be eaten as such. If you want you can add more liquid during the cooking process and serve the stuff in a bowl (add some rice, dunk some bread into it… can’t be bad). You could also make this as described above, and later add extra broth or water to all or part of it if you decide you want it thinner.

You can serve this along with some rice and a veggie dish (or two, add some bread if you’d like) and eat very well and healthy for very little money…. this can also be a hearty side to some protein item like a grilled chicken or fish.

Delicious Dal, along with some brown rice and a stir-fried cabbage dish

Sprinkle on some cilantro if you’d like… squeeze a bit of lemon… some plain yoghurt wouldn’t be out of line either…

Please, make this. Maybe I’ve over-hyped it, but damn… it’s good…

Once again, I’m heading back to the kitchen… see you soon!

So kids, here’s another of my “go-to” recipes… when I’m not sure what to fix, and I want something that’s pretty easy to make, fairly healthy, and of course, tastes great, I often come back to this. It’s good hot, warm, or cold. It can be a main dish or a side… it’s great leftover for lunch at work… you figured out yet that I really like this stuff???

This recipe is based on Peanutty Noodles from the “Cooking Light Complete Cookbook”, but like many other recipes, I’ve probably never made it exactly the same way twice (which is one of the great things about it – you can vary it depending on what you have on hand, or feel like, as we’ll see).

So, let’s waste no more time… Let’s Cook!

Spicy Peanut Pasta

Ingredients (see notes below for many options)

1 Lb Whole Wheat/Whole Grain Pasta (I like a wider Linguine for this, but pretty much any style you like will do)

2 Tsp Grated (or very finely minced) Fresh Ginger

3 Finely Minced Garlic Cloves

1 Cup Chicken or Veggie Broth

1/2 Cup Smooth Peanut Butter (I use reduced fat for this, but use what you like)

1/4 Cup Soy Sauce

3 Tbl Rice Wine Vinegar

2 Tsp Asian Chili-Garlic Sauce (such as Chili Paste with Garlic or Sambal Oelek,  more or less to taste)

1/4 Tsp Salt

1 Cup Red Bell Pepper, cut into small strips

1 Cup Onion, cut into small strips

1 Cup Broccoli, florets cut into small pieces

1 Cup Mung Bean Sprouts

1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro

Canola Oil, as needed for cooking

Some of the goodies...

Procedure

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

While pasta is cooking, heat some oil in a wok or other large cooking vessel (I used my trusty dutch oven). Stir-fry the onions, bell pepper and broccoli until just tender but still very crisp.

Remove from the pan and set aside.

Return the pan to the stove and heat about a teaspoon of oil on medium and saute the ginger and garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, chili-garlic sauce and salt. Stir/whisk until blended and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed (more vinegar, hot sauce, sugar if too tart…). If it seems too thin, add more peanut butter – too thick, more broth.

Remove from heat and add the pasta. Toss to coat with sauce, then add the stir-fried veggies and mix well.

Mix in most of the sprouts and cilantro (save a bit of both for garnish).

Plate, garnish, serve… then thank me…

This recipe is pretty much infinitely variable as to the “mix-ins” (the sauce is the real key) – pretty much any veggies you like will work – I add matchstick carrots often – sliced or shredded green onions often make it in at the end. A drizzle of sesame oil (I use the hot. chili-infused type often) wouldn’t be out of line…

If the extra protein mood strikes you can add firm tofu, cooked chicken or shrimp…

This works well warm, room temp, or cold… please give it a try and post your comments!

Now back to the kitchen! See you soon!

Most everyone that cooks much has a few “go-to” recipes in their repertoire – maybe it’s the can’t miss special dish to impress guests, or that healthy version of a classic that still tastes good or the one you know you can make easily on a busy evening and still feel like you’ve made something special, or maybe it’s one that’s all of those… and that’s what this recipe is…

Like many (okay, probably most) of us, I really have to try and watch what I eat most of the time (try to ignore the specialty hot dogs you’ve seen the pics of from Disney for now), but I still have to have something full of flavor not to feel too deprived. I came across the basis for this recipe in Rocco Dispirito’s “Now Eat This!” cookbook where he takes “150 of America’s favorite comfort foods” and lightens them up to under 350 calories a serving… some of the techniques for mimicking fried foods look to be a bit tedious, but some have some genius substitutions that really bring down the calories (and fat) while still producing a darn tasty dish. When I first tried his recipe “No Cream-No Cry Penne alla Vodka” I was doubtful, but when I took my first bite I was amazed at the flavor! I was wondering if I’d sampled a bit too much wine and it had blurred my judgment, so I took some leftovers the next day to Mistress Sandra and Co-Worker Kelly for their assessments (not telling them it was a “sorta-diet” dish) and it was met with raves… when I made it for Miss Bonnie, well, we’ll just say she was grateful… around these parts it’s even now just known as “The Pasta” (as in, “I’m making The Pasta tonight”, to which the response is usually “Yummm!”).

So now that I’ve built this dish up so that it could never live up to the hype I’ve given it… Let’s Cook!

Not-quite Penne alla Vodka

Ingredients

1 Box Whole-Wheat Penne Pasta (usually about 13 – 14 ounces)

1 Jar of your favorite Marinara Sauce (usually about 24 ounces, pay attention to labels if you’re really watching the calories and fat – of course your homemade red sauce would be great too!)

1/2 cup or so Tequila (optional, see below)

Pinch (okay, 1/8 to 1/4 Tsp depending on your spice desires, you can always add more) of crushed Red Pepper

1 container (7 ounce) of 2% Plain Greek Yoghurt (this is the genius sub for the cream, trust me…)

1 Cup (or a bit more if you like) chopped Fresh Basil (don’t make it if you don’t use this or I’ll hunt you down and hurt you)

Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste

8 Tbl Shredded (or grated if you prefer) Parmesan (or Parmigiano-Reggiano) Cheese (fresh please, not the stuff from the can!)

Procedure

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions until still fairly firm (probably 8-9 minutes). Drain.

While the pasta is getting ready, put the marinara and red pepper into a large skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

If desired, add the tequila to the jar and shake (put the, lid back on, of course!) to get out any remaining sauce…

and add to the skillet…

Now we must note that in his recipe Rocco (quite accurately) states that the traditional ingredient of vodka “is colorless, odorless, and without much flavor – not really attributes of a superstar ingredient”, so he simply omits it (and it flavorless calories) from the dish… well, Dedicated Readers know I can’t omit any alcohol, so I decided to add the all-time Eating (and Drinking) Around the World favorite: Tequila! We can move on now…

Simmer the sauce, stirring frequently, until a bit thickened and hot – 5 minutes or so. Remove from the heat.

Put the yoghurt in a bowl and stir a bit to loosen it up. Add about 1/2 cup of the sauce and stir it in well to temper the yoghurt (and prevent it from curdling when added to the hot sauce).

Now stir the yoghurt mixture into the marinara until smooth.

In a large bowl put the drained pasta, the sauce, basil and most of the Parmesan (reserve a bit for topping each serving)…

and now mix your little heart out… taste and stir in salt and pepper as desired…

Put into a bowl, sprinkle a bit of parm on top, serve and wait for the accolades!

A nice green salad and a glass of wine and you’ve got a great meal!

This dish is wonderful as is, but often I’ll doctor it up with additions…here some cooked chopped kale and sauteed mushrooms are joining the party…

Kale really ups the nutrition ante – you can also add it to the pasta for the last minute or two of cooking and it will be done… chopped/sliced fresh spinach can be added to the hot mixture at the end if you like… if you really feel the need some animal protein, cooked chicken breast can been folded in as well…

Give this a try – it’s one of my favorites, and almost semi-healthy! Would love to hear your thoughts after you try it! And yes, there even is a very tenuous and oblique Disney relation (for me at least) to this recipe (if you insist on knowing, ask and maybe I’ll add it to the comments…).

Now back to the kitchen – see you soon!

It’s hard to believe that for someone of my Advanced Age it’s taken so many years to come to appreciate the virtues of roasting veggies… steamed, stir-fried, ignored was my usual course of non-meat cooking… but in recent years I’ve had quite the revelation…

I’m sure most of us have had roasted tubers of some sort, or other vegetables perhaps, along with a roasted meat dish – but the wonderful things that happen to many veggies when put into the oven are hard to beat – flavors are concentrated, the natural sugars come to the front (can you say “caramelization”? I know you could…) – damn good things happen – and it’s easy…

The recipe below (and really, it’s as much a technique as a recipe, as you’ll see) is based on the Cardamom-Roasted Cauliflower recipe from Suvir Saran‘s “American Masala”, but I get real lazy on the seasonings… (forgive me Suvir). I’ll refer you to his book (which you should own, if you don’t already) for the original recipe. And I’m going to give you some options, alternatives, etc at the end, so now, Let’s Cook!

Simple Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients

1/3 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (give or take, plus a bit more to grease the baking dish)

1 Head Cauliflower, cored and broken/cut in medium-size flowerets

1 Medium Red Onion, quartered and cut into thick slices

1 – 1 1/2 Tsp Garam Masala

1 – 1 1/2 Tsp good quality Curry Powder

Coarse Salt (Kosher or Sea), for sprinkling

Procedure

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Add the Garam Masala and Curry Powder to the oil in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk well and throw in your veggies…

Stir until the cauliflower and onion are evenly coated with the seasoned oil (you may need to add a bit more oil…).

Lightly grease a large roasting pan and add the veggies to same. Stick in the oven… (duh…)

Stir every 15 minutes or so until tender and done to your liking…

about an hour total. Add a nice sprinkling of salt and you’re ready to eat…

And here it is served alongside some lovely Coconut Rice.

So like I said – this is more of a technique than anything – you can adjust the seasoning to whatever you like – add other veggies as desired… carrots, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms… of course different things will cook at different times – you may need to add the other veggies later in the cooking time. If you’re experimenting and not sure, cook the other veggies in a separate pan (and remove from the oven earlier or cook longer as needed) and put together just at the end until you feel good about when to add other items. Even the onions can be varied – as the recipe is presented the onions will get soft and caramelized – but if you want them more firm, add about half-way thru – or do both – some at the start and more during the cooking… it can’t be wrong… You can also stir in some chopped cilantro, parsley, green onions, whatever at the end to finish things off…

Cook, experiment, it’s all good, and in this case, good for you!

Back to the kitchen – see you soon!

Let’s Cook! Coconut Rice

January 19, 2012

Hi all, and Happy New Year! Yeah, I know it’s a little late for that, but we here at Eating (and Drinking) Around the World have been a bit busy the past few weeks… two half-marathons, a birthday, and much research for future posts (that means there has been a lot of cooking, eating, and of course, drinking since we last visited…). Okay, enough of the excuses… let’s start the year with one of my favorite recipes: Coconut Rice.

Dedicated Readers won’t be shocked that this is yet another creation from Suvir Saran’s “American Masala” cookbook. If you’re not familiar with Suvir (and you should be), take a look at my intro to his cornbread recipe here.

This recipe is one of those that everyone seems to really enjoy and it consistently garners compliments. It goes well with many types of food: Indian of course, but also great with Thai dishes or really most anything that calls for a side of rice – I’ve even served it alongside White Barbeque Sauce Chicken to raves! And even better, it’s easy to prepare and pretty much fool-proof. My version below varies just slightly from the original (which I’ll give you some notes on at the end), so now, Let’s Cook!

Coconut Rice

Serves 8

Ingredients

1/4 Cup Canola Oil

1 Medium-size Red Onion, thinly sliced

1 Tbl Mustard Seeds

2 Tsp Cumin Seeds

2 Cups Basmati Rice

1/4 Cup Shredded Coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

1 Can (13.5 oz or so) Coconut Milk (regular or light – be sure to use the stuff from the Asian section, not the sweet stuff from the drink mixer aisle)

2 1/4 Cups Water (about, see below)

1 Tbl Sea or Kosher Salt

Procedure

Shake the can of coconut milk well (before you open it please) then pour into a large measuring device and add enough water to total 4 cups of liquid and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Add the onions, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and saute until the onions start to soften and the seeds are fragrant – 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the rice and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice changes color a little and starts to smell good.

Stir in the coconut and cook another minute or so.

Add the liquid and salt and stir well. Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes (it will stay warm a bit longer than that if needed).

Fluff with a fork…

and serve!

Suvir’s original recipe adds optional torn curry leaves (12 of them, heated with the onions) and uses a bit more salt (1 1/2 tablespoons). He also only uses 1 cup of coconut milk to 3 cups water, but I like to just use up the whole can. The recipe also calls specifically for unsweetened coconut, but it can be hard to find at times – I’ve made it many times with the sweetened version and it comes out great, so I’d say use whatever you can find.

You can certainly “fancy” this up if you want to… maybe add some sauteed mushrooms, little English peas wouldn’t hurt… stir in a little chopped cilantro, or even a bit of mint…

This recipe does make a gracious plenty, but it will keep well for a couple of days, and if you bring a bit extra to friends at work the next day they won’t hate you for it…

Coconut Rice served here with Mongolian Cauliflower (another great recipe for another day)

Add this one to your repertoire… you’ll find yourself making it often!

Back to the kitchen – see you soon!

Here’s a healthy, warming soup – perfect for those cold winter nights (or at least as cold as it’s been here in Florida this year…).

The recipe comes from the December 2011 issue of Runner’s World magazine. The article by Jessica Girdwain features several healthy soups, all of which sound really good… I tried the one in question, not intending for it to be a blog recipe, but when I posted the picture of the finished product on Facebook there were several requests for the recipe, so here you go!

It was one of the rare times I didn’t take photos while cooking, so this time you’ll have to settle for a less-than-fantastic pic of the dish at the end, but I’m sure you’re all bright enough to figure out the steps without the usual visual aids… so now, Let’s Cook!

Spicy Sausage Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

4 oz (should be 1 link) of a Spicy, Cooked Chicken Sausage, sliced thin

1 Lb Sliced Mushrooms (your choice)

1/4 Cup Water (hope you have this on hand…)

1/4 Tsp Dried Thyme

1/8 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes

4 Cups Chopped Kale Leaves

1/4 Cup White Wine (plus more for the cook as needed)

2 1/2 Cups Chicken Broth (plus more as may be needed)

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 1/2 Cups Cooked Wild Rice

Procedure

Over medium to medium-high heat, saute the sausage in 1 tablespoon of oil until brown.

Remove the sausage and add the mushrooms and cook until softened.

Add the water and deglaze the pan.

Add the thyme, red pepper, kale and wine. Cook until the greens are wilted – about 4-5 minites.

Add the broth and salt, bring to a boil and reduce the heat and simmer about 15 minutes.

Stir in the sausage and wild rice and simmer at least 5 more minutes. If not “soupy” enough, add more broth as desired.

Serve with a nice whole grain bread for dunking…

Spicy Sausage Mushroom Soup

Yummm (forgive me for quoting Rachael…)!!!!

Tasty, and good for you, give it a try!

We’re back to the kitchen, see you soon!

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