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.)

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.

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.

Mango Trifle

Fresh mangoes by Desirae Hayes-Vitor on Unsplash

Inspired by the Great British Bake Off to try some new flavors – I made Mango Trifle for Samir’s birthday dinner last night. The recipe is very easy and so delicious.

Ingredients

2-3 cups of cake (angel food, lady fingers or yellow cake, unfrosted) cut into 1″ slices
14 oz (or more) frozen mango pulp, or fresh mango chunks
Cardamom Custard (recipe below)
2 Tbsp rum
fresh mango chunks
whipped cream

Cardamom Custard:
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 cups whole milk (Can also substitute fat-free 1/2 & 1/2 for some of the milk.)
4 eggs, well beaten in a medium sized bowl

Blend sugar, salt, cardamom, cornstarch and whole milk in a large saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil stirring constantly. Once the custard reaches the boil, remove from heat and add 1 cup to the eggs in the bowl, stirring vigorously so the eggs don’t cook. Add another cup of milk mix to the eggs, and continue stirring.

Return the whole thing to the saucepan and put back on medium/low heat. Heat for 1-2 minutes until the custard is just starting to bubble a little. Don’t leave it for a second at this point or it will curdle. Remove from heat and let cool. It will thicken as it cools.

Toss mango in a bowl with rum and a little powdered sugar if needed. (Frozen mangoes are kind of hit and miss in terms of sweetness.)

To assemble:

Place cake in a thin layer on the bottom and sides of a large bowl or clear trifle dish. (Be a bit neater if using a clear trifle dish.) Place mangoes and rum liquid over cake, placing some on the outside so they show. Pour cooled Rich Custard over fruit and cake, cover and refrigerate at least a couple of hours until lightly set.

Just before serving, top with whipped cream and fresh mango chunks and dust with ground cardamom.

Palak Paneer

Beautiful Baby Spinach from Pille-Riin-Priske on Unsplash.com

I’ve always loved Palak Paneer, but had never tried to make it. We had Samir’s birthday supper last night and I made it, along with Biryani and a really delicious Mango Trifle, which I’ll add soon. Kumy made his amazing Potatoes, too.

I used a modified version of Swasthi’s recipe from IndianHealthyRecipes.com, which was excellent, if a bit confusing. Basically, you cook the spinach mixture first, and then the spice, onion tomato mixture. You add the spinach back in near the end, and Paneer goes in last, just before serving. It’s actually fairly easy.

It looks like a million ingredients, but they all go together beautifully.

Part 1:

2 Tbsp oil
4 green chilies (Long, skinny ones, seeded) or 2 small/medium Jalapenos, seeded
1 lb. organic baby spinach, washed and well-drained
20 cashews (unsalted or salted is fine)

Part 2:

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, whole
2 green cardamoms, whole
1″ cinnamon stick, whole
4 cloves, whole

1.5 cups onions, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 tsp crushed garlic

1 14 oz. can crushed or petite-diced tomatoes with juices in can. (Can carefully buzz with an immersion blender in the can if you want a smoother curry.)
1.5 tsp salt

1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
12 oz. Paneer, cut into 1/2″ cubes

In a dutch oven, heat oil. Saute chillies, cashews and spinach until spinach is completely wilted, but still bright green. Remove from heat, transfer into a bowl and let cool. Use an immersion blender or food processor to buzz the spinach into a smooth mixture.

Melt butter in the dutch oven and add the whole spices. Let cook until the spices are starting to sizzle a bit – maybe a minute or two. Add the onions and cook until golden – about 8-10 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes.

Add tomatoes with juice and salt. (If you used salted cashews, go easy on the salt.) Cook for several minutes until the tomatoes start to break down. If you buzzed the tomatoes, you’ll have a smoother curry. If you left the tomatoes in chunks, you’ll have a chunkier curry. Both are fine.

Add the garam masala and about 1 cup of water to the pan, and cook down until you have a nice, fairly thick gravy consistency. When in doubt – let it get a little drier. You can always add a bit of water at the end to loosen it up if you need to.

Add the spinach mixture and the dried Fenugreek leaves. Cook another 2-3 minutes to bring it back to the simmer. Taste and add a bit of salt if needed, and if it’s very thick, add a couple of spoons of water.

Add the paneer and mix gently to coat with curry.

Serve with Naan, or roti.

Vanna’s Nam Van – Coconut Milk & Fruit Dessert

Nam Van with Cantaloupe (Easter 2022)

Our dear friend Vanna is the most amazing cook.  Literally everything she makes is the best I’ve ever eaten – no matter what she’s cooking!

Last night she was in town and made supper for all of us, including one of my favorite desserts – Nam Van, and she shared the recipe with me.

Nam Van is a popular dessert in Southeast Asia, and it’s a fruity, coconut milky dessert that’s unlike anything you’ll ever try. More liquid than a pudding, it’s refreshing and not overly sweet. The green jelly make it a pretty light green color, too.

We are lucky to have a great Asian Market close by, so we were able to pick up all the components, but you can always order these items online as well.  All the fruit and coconut milk was Arroy-D, and the green jelly is Chin Chin brand.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup palm sugar (or 1/3 cup brown sugar)
1/2 cup water

1 can lychees in syrup  (save lychee syrup)
1 can longans in syrup
1 can rambutans in syrup
1 can toddy palm seeds
1 can jackfruit in syrup

3 cups of coconut milk (We used Arroy-D cartons.)
2 cups ice
2 cans Green Jelly (We got Chin Chin brand)

1 cup fresh cantaloupe chunks
1 cup fresh muskmelon chunks

Make a simple syrup with palm sugar and water, by heating them in a pan until it comes to the boil and the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

Open all the cans of fruit. Drain the syrup and rinse all the fruit.  Be sure to save the lychee syrup – you’ll add it back in later!

Palm seeds are oddly slick and sticky at the same time, but add a wonderful chewy texture. Don’t freak out – just put them in a colander and rinse them really well.

Place all rinsed, canned fruit into a large bowl.

Add the coconut milk, lychee syrup and about half the simple syrup. Stir the fruit gently until well mixed. Add ice and stir more until the mixture is a little chilled. Stir very gently and taste – adding more of the simple syrup as needed.

Shake the jelly out of the can, and cut it into 1/2″ cubes.  Cut melons into chunks and add both to the coconut fruit mixture, again stirring very, very gently.

Refrigerate at least a couple of hours.

To serve, add a little crushed ice to a bowl or cup and fill with fruit and coconut mixture. The ice helps keep it cool.

You could probably save time by refrigerating the cans and carton of coconut milk overnight so they’re cold to start with.  Still add ice to the mix and to the cup – this lightens the milk a bit.

Borracho (Drunken) Beans

I’d never heard of Borracho (Drunken) Beans until just a few days ago. This recipe is from Kiki810 on Allrecipes – with a few minor changes.

Kiki uses two cans of tomatoes and 1/4 cup of pickled jalapenos. Being as there a quarantine and all, I didn’t have that but thought a can of diced tomatoes and one of Rotel might do. I also added a little cumin and bacon for a more smokiness. The beer cooks out for the most part, but leaves a nice complex flavor.

You honestly don’t need to soak the beans overnight, and there is some consensus that the beans taste better if you don’t.

Ingredients:

1 pound dried pinto beans, washed
2 quarts chicken stock or water
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle dark beer (can also use  light beer)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz.)can Rotel tomatoes with jalapeno peppers (regular or mild)
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ Tbsp dried oregano
1 ½ cups chopped fresh cilantro (I used stems also, roughly chopped.)
1 strip of bacon, chopped or 1 Tbsp bacon drippings

Wash beans and put in a large pot, covered 1″ deep with boiling water. Simmer 2 hours, stirring from time to time to prevent beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot and add water as needed.

Add all other ingredients, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for another 1 1/2 hours. Liquid should reduce quite a bit – so it’s not soupy, but more stew-y.

Mash a few beans to thicken the sauce. Makes a great side dish, topped with a little cheese, more cilantro and sour cream. It’s also great as a taco with with cheese, sour cream, chopped fresh tomatoes and salad greens.

Leave out the bacon drippings for a great vegan version.

Thai Salmon Red Curry or Vegetable Curry

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Salmon by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

We love Mae Ploy Curry pastes, and Red Curry Paste is used in one of our favorite Thai dishes from a wonderful local Thai restaurant, Khao Niao Thai-Lao.  (If you are ever in Omaha, don’t miss it. It is amazing!) Salmon works beautifully in this curry, but you could really use any firmer fish, or no fish at all. It’s a great vegetarian Thai curry. 

The Red Curry Paste is pretty spicy – so go easy on it the first time.  Love the heat?  Go for the full 1 1/2 Tablespoons! Serve over rice.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup mushrooms, halved
1  to 1 1/2 Tbsp Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste (use less if you don’t like it too spicy!)
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup eggplant, cut into 1″ pieces
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in slivers
1 can coconut milk
1/2 can water
2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1/2 to 1 lb salmon fillet, skin removed and cut into 1″ pieces
Fresh lime juice (1/2 lime, plus more sliced for the table)
toasted cashews (optional, but wonderful if making a vegetarian version)
fresh basil (optional)

In a large, deep frying pan, heat oil and sautee onions for 3-4 minutes until softened.  Add peppers and sautee another couple minutes.  Add mushrooms and any other veggies (except cauliflower and spinach) and continue sauteeing 3-4 minutes until the water has released and partially dried up.

Form a well in the middle of the veggies and add a little more oil.  Add the curry paste and cook lightly for a minute or so.  Stir to combine with all veggies.  Add cauliflower and ginger and stir again. Add coconut milk, water, sugar and fish sauce.  Bring to a simmer and let cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add spinach and salmon and cook 3-4 minutes, or until salmon pieces are pink through.

Serve over rice, with a squeeze of fresh lime juice on top. Sprinkle with cashews and fresh basil if using.

Skip the salmon for a vegetarian version.  You can use other vegetables if you have them.  If using a stiffer veggie like carrots or potato, cook them in boiling salted water for several minutes until they are just about done, and then add them with the baby spinach.

So, so good!

Kale, Apple, Cabbage, Carrot and Goat Cheese Salad

This is based on a recipe from the Pioneer Woman and Natalie Perry, but features substitutions based on what I had in my pantry. It’s a really substantial and flavorful salad that was very satisfying as a main dish. Lots of bright flavors and colors!

Salad ingredients:
6 oz. baby kale
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 ounces grated cabbage and carrots – about 3 cups? Can also use brussel sprouts
2 medium apples, cored and diced
1 cup candied pecans (see note #1)
4 oz. goat cheese
1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or baked sweet potatoes (see note #2)
handful craisins

Dressing:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 tsp whole grain mustard
4 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

In a large salad bowl, add kale, lemon juice and first Tbsp of Olive Oil. Gently massage the kale for a minute until it has softened a bit and started to turn a little darker green.

Add the shredded veggies, chopped apples and candied pecans.

Make the dressing in a mason jar, shaking vigorously for 30 seconds until well combined. Add to the bowl, and mix gently until everything is coated.

Drop goat cheese, sweet potato (or butternut squash) and craisins on top and serve.

Note #1: To make candied pecans, in a small frying pan add pecans, 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has dried up. Be careful – it burns easily!

Note #2: peel and dice butternut squash into 1″ squares, toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Or, do the same for sweet potatoes. Roast at 425 until browned and soft about 15-20 minutes. Poke with a fork to make sure they’re done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.