Napa Cabbage & Noodle Salad

This is a tangy and delicious cabbage and noodle main dish salad, based on Hannah Che’s recipe from The Vegan Chinese Kitchen Cookbook. It’s perfect for a late summer evening supper, because it’s easy, super fast and has a dressing that is unbelievably good – plus it’s gluten-free and vegan. If you can’t get Napa cabbage, Romaine lettuce works, too.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 head Napa cabbage, cut in half lengthwise
1 small cucumber, julienned
1 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 cups fresh rice vermicelli noodles (Pho noodles) or Mung bean vermicelli noodles.

1 medium carrot, julienned
1 scallion, cut into 1/8″ rounds (both white and green part)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 chopped cashews or peanuts

Dressing:

2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar (cider vinegar would also be fine, I think)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 large garlic cloves, crushed

DIRECTIONS

Cut cabbage lengthwise a few times, then cut very thin slices. Add cabbage and and cucumber into a colander and toss with the salt. Leave to drain.

Start water boiling in a small saucepan, add noodles and cook 5-10 seconds. Drain and rinse with cool water. Cut noodles into smaller sections with a scissors. If you are using other noodles, cook as directed on the package, then drain and rinse with cool water. You want to end up with about 1 1/2 cups cooked noodles.

Mix dressing ingredients well in a small bowl. Taste and add more soy sauce if you think it needs it.

Gently press cabbage and cucumber to remove some of the water. You can also squeeze it gently in your hand. Place in a large bowl, and add noodles, carrots, scallions and cilantro. Pour dressing over and toss to coat Toss into a large bowl, and top with nuts.

Serve immediately. Yum.

Spring Roll Peanut Sauce

I am practicing making Vietnamese and Thai Spring Rolls and once I’ve got it truly mastered, I’ll add the recipe. But I have to share this Peanut Dipping Sauce now, because it is just so good.

We’ve been using it as a dipping sauce for baby cucumbers and carrot sticks and it is absolutely irresistible.

Ingredients:

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
2 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar (apple cider vinegar would probably be fine, too)
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 pieces of palm sugar (about 2 1/2 Tbsp) or 2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1/3 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy – both are fine)
Warm water as needed

In a large mortar and pestle, start by smashing the garlic cloves. Add vinegar, soy suce and palm sugar, and stir, crushing the palm sugar until it’s mostly broken down. Or just add the brown sugar.

Add sesame oil and peanut butter and mix in the mortar bowl, until smooth and creamy. Add warm water a teaspoon at a time until the consistency is a thick but smooth sauce. Check flavorings and add a little soy sauce or sesame oil if it’s tasting too sweet.

Can keep refrigerated for a week. You may need to add a little more warm water to loosen it up after it’s been in the fridge overnight.

If you don’t have a large mortar and pestle, you can always crush the garlic and just mix everything in a small bowl.

Palm sugar adds a wonderful flavor, but if you can’t get it, just use a little less brown sugar. (Brown sugar is sweeter than palm sugar.)

Cucumber, Tomato and Avocado Salad

This is a really interesting recipe from the New York Times, that replaces the oil in the dressing with the buttery fats from ripe avocadoes. I have made this a few times and tweaked it to a recipe that we just love. I used mini cucumbers, which stay really nice and crunchy, but you could also use regular cucumbers, scooping out the soft, seedy part. It’s bright, colorful and delish!

Ingredients

1 lb. mini cucumbers (6 small)
1 package grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (2 cups?)
2 very ripe avocados
Juice of one medium lime
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder

Directions

Peel cucumbers in alternating strips and slice into 1/2″ slices and place in a medium serving bowl.(You can also just halve the cucumbers lengthwise and slice into 1/2″ half circles.) Add tomatoes.

Mix juice and spices in a small bowl, and toss with veggies.

Just before serving, cut avocadoes into 1/2″ cubes and toss fairly vigorously with the salad. The avocadoes must be really ripe, so when you mix them in they break down a bit and coat the other veggies.

Check seasonings and serve. Keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Oven-roasted Asparagus

Beautiful image from Oklahoma Academy Country Store on Unsplash

I planted Asparagus in a back corner of my garden several years ago and always kind of forgot about it, until it was a giant mass of ferns. Yesterday, I checked and there were 7-8 beautiful little stems coming up! So I harvested them and we had them for supper last night, using a recipe from Allrecipes.com. Really fresh asparagus is such a treat!

Ingredients

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1½ Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, trimmed into bite-sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 425. Mix everything in a bowl, and add asparagus. Pour out onto a baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes (longer if the stems are thicker). Remove from oven, and splash with just a bit more lemon juice.

Mustafa’s Daal (Lentils)

After visiting Kumy’s Mom at the beginning of last year, we were reminded how incredibly delicious Pakistani food is!  We were also lucky enough to learn how to make Daal from Mummy’s cook, Mustafa, who is an amazing cook.

It’s a fairly easy recipe, and uses a “bagaar” to add flavor.  It was one of the first things we made when we got back.  I’m happy to say it was just about as good as Mustafa’s and a welcome reminder of our visit back “home”.

Ingredients:

1 cup Masoor Daal (small, round, split red lentils)
1/2 cup Moong Daal (small, oval split yellow lentils)

4 cups water
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (add more if you dare – it was originally 1 1/4 tsp – but that was too hot!)
1/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 cup diced onions
3/4 cup diced tomato  (Can also substitute 1 can of Rotel Tomatoes for the tomato and jalapeno.)
1/2 jalapeno, diced, optional
1/4 cup cilantro, rough-chopped, optional

Bagaar:
2 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/4 tsp whole cumin
3 dry red chilis/peppers (small, round ones, but you can use two long red ones instead.)

Wash both daals well, swirling and rinsing until the water is mostly clear. Add to a large pot. Then add water, garlic, salt, cayenne, turmeric, onions and tomatoes. Cook 30-40 minutes.

Whisk well and add water to get a thick gravy consistency, as needed. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the daal, but be careful not to over do it. Add Jalapeno and Cilantro, and cook 10 minutes more.

In a small frying pan, heat the oil and add the rough-chopped garlic, cook for a minute and then add the dry red chilis/peppers and cumin seeds. Cook 30 seconds more and pour oil mixture right into the daal. Stir to combine and serve with basmati rice or Naan. Can also add a squeeze of lemon when serving if you wish.

Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

My dear friend Tammy came over yesterday and we made dinner together. Fresh asparagus from the garden, roasted butternut squash salad, and this amazing salmon dish, cooked in a cast iron skillet. We ate in the backyard as the sun slowly set and it was truly magical.

Tammy actually made the salmon dish and it was just incredible! Kumy said, “this is it – we don’t need to try any other salmon recipes” and I have to say I agree! We got the recipe from Katerina on Diethood.com, with a few modifications.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 (6 oz. each) skin-on salmon fillets
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

For the Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

1 Tbsp butter
1 cup half & half
1/2 Tbsp all purpose flour (or 3/4 tsp cornstarch for a gluten-free version)
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 big cloves garlic, roughly minced
1 tsp dried dill
3/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat and add the olive oil. Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper and add the salmon fillets, skin side down. Let cook for 6 minutes without moving or lifting the fish.

Gently flip the fish over and let it cook 2 more minutes, then remove to a plate.

While fish is cooking, whisk together the half & half, flour, cheese, lemon juice, garlic, dill and thyme in a small bowl. Add ½ tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper to start. (You can always add more salt and pepper at the end.)

Remove any skin that has stuck to the skillet, and reduce the temperature to medium. Add the butter, let it melt and then pour in the sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, whisking constantly for a minute or so until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the fish carefully into the sauce, skin side down, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Leave the tops of the salmon uncovered so it looks pretty.

So good!

Brazilian Seafood Stew (Moqueca)

I made this remarkably delicious stew last night and it’s a keeper. With a coconutty, fresh lime and cilantro focus, it’s light and the fish and shrimp taste wonderful with it. I’ve tweaked a recipe originally from the New York Times, and everything is very easily available except Dende oil. It may be worth ordering some – since I will definitely make this again.

Ingredients

12 oz peeled, deveined shrimp
12 oz cod fillet, cut into 1″ pieces
kosher salt
2 limes (juice of one and the other cut into wedges)
2 Tbsp olive oil (Or Dende oil – traditional but less easily available)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 large bell peppers, cut into 1/4″ slices, and halved
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes, drained and juice reserved (Or 1 lb. tomatoes, cut in 1″ wedges, and 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, whole and pricked all over with a a knife.)
1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
steamed rice for serving

Directions

In a bowl, squeeze the juice of one lime and add 1 tsp salt. Place fish chunks in bowl and let marinate.

In a large, deep frying pan, heat olive oil. Add garlic and cook for a minute, then add onions and cook another few minutes. Turn heat up a bit and add the peppers and drained Ro-tel tomatoes. (Save the juice!) Saute for 5 minutes or so, until the peppers are starting to soften.

Reduce heat and add the coconut milk, the Ro-tel juice and simmer about 10 minutes. Add half the chopped cilantro, and the shrimp and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gently place fish and marinade into the pan, and cook 2-3 more minutes until fish is cooked through. Taste and add salt if needed.

To serve, place some steamed rice in the bottom of the bowl and ladle stew over. Top with a squeeze of fresh lime and more chopped cilantro. Delish!

Chicken Karahi (Stew)

I’ve always loved Chicken Karahi from when we lived in Karachi, but really never made it until I snagged a Shan Masala mix for it. It’s a surprisingly easy dish and Kumy and I both loved it with fresh hot Roti (like whole wheat tortillas.) Another good Shan Masala mix – though it’s pretty spicy when made as directed on the box. I might try doing half the mix in the box if you don’t like things too spicy, or using just one chili.

Also – you’ll note that the recipe on the box calls for 1 1/2 cups of oil, and a 1/2 cup of butter, but have mercy – that’s just too oily! The oil and butter are important to this recipe though, so 1/2 cup of oil and the 1/4 cup of butter are about right.

Ingredients

1/2 to 1 box Shan Karahi Seasoning Mix
3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 Tbsp crushed garlic, or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp ginger, julienned
5 tomatoes, diced
4 little green chillies
(You can also substitute 1 can Rotel and ½ can diced tomatoes for the tomatoes and chillies.)
½ cup olive oil + 1 Tbsp olive oil
½ stick butter
3 Tbsp fresh chopped Cilantro

Mix crushed garlic, grated ginger and shan masala mix in a medium bowl. Add chicken chunks and stir until everything is well coated. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan, and add meat mixture. Stir fry 5-6 minutes on high heat. Reduce heat and add juliened ginger, cvoer and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.

In a separate pan, heat a Tbsp of olive oil, and saute tomatoes and peppers for a minute or two stirring frequently. Reduce heat and cook 5-6 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cooked tomatoes and peppers to the chicken mixture, and increase heat to medium. Cook stirring gently but frequently to prevent burning.

Stir in butter and garnish with Cilantro.

Serve with Naan, roti or tortillas.

New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John

It’s a Southern tradition to eat Hopping John (Black-eyed Pea Stew) on New Year’s Day for good luck all year, and this year, I’m not taking any chances!

I started with Ree Drummonds recipe. Ree adds a ham hock and says that you can also add a can of diced tomatoes, or a few cups of torn-up Kale. I skipped the ham hock, but may try the tomatoes or kale the next time I make it. If you don’t like black-eyed peas, it’s also good with black beans – it’s a great, comforting dish perfect for a cold Winter’s Day!

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter (or 2 Tbsp bacon drippings & 2 Tbsp olive oil) (Or just 4 Tbsp olive oil for a vegan version)
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 14-oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock (or veggie stock for vegan)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Good pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
White rice

Heat butter or bacon drippings and oil in a cast iron skillet. Add, onions, bell pepper and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add black-eyed peas, chicken stock and seasonings. Don’t add the vinegar yet! Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook 30 minutes. Remove lid, stir and let cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add vinegar and stir. Check seasonings. Serve in a bowl over hot rice.

Baked Apple Oatmeal

Another MelsKitchenCafe recipe – and I like this because you can prep it ahead of time and it isn’t overly sweet. It makes a great breakfast on a cold morning, but you could even use this as a treat with afternoon tea. Or as a weeknight dessert, served with a dollop of sweetened, whipped cream.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned regular style oats
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground Nutmeg
1/4 – 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 T butter, melted, (omit for a vegan version)
2 large apples, cored and chopped (no need to peel) (I used Gala, but really you can mix it up.)

Mix oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. If you like things a bit sweeter, use the larger amount of brown sugar.

Mix the milk, egg, vanilla and melted butter, and pour into the oats. Stir gently to combine

Place chopped apples in the bottom of a 9×9 cake pan, (or a 9×12 pan as shown) and top with the oatmeal mixture. You can cover and hold this overnight, or you can bake it straight away at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Delish!