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.

End of Summer Pasta with Zucchini and Spinach

Last night, as I started making Mushroom Ravioli with Spinach from JuliasAlbum.com for a potluck at a friend’s house, I realized that what I thought was ravioli in the freezer was actually Chinese Dumplings and the mushrooms were sludge.

But I did have some nice pasta, fresh spinach and a giant zucchini from my neighbors Amy and Steve, so I switched it up and made Pasta with Zucchini and Spinach. It was delicious and bonus point: another way to enjoy excess end-of-summer zucchini!

Ingredients:

1 lb Trottole or any other nice chunky pasta, cooked al dente
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
a sprig of Rosemary and a few sprigs of Thyme, or a generous pinch of dried Rosemary and 1/4 tsp dried Thyme.
4-5 cups thinly sliced Zucchini (If really large, cut into quarters first.)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
5 oz. spinach (I’d be happy doubling this.)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed or 1 generous tsp garlic powder
1 large pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente stage and drain, saving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

In a large frying pan, heat butter and olive oil on medium heat with Rosemary and Thyme. Add zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes with the oil they came in. Sauté for several minutes, until the zucchini have broken down quite a bit and are mostly translucent. They will reduce a lot in volume. Remove herb stems.

Add garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Then add spinach in batches, continuously stirring and folding so the spinach wilts.

Add in the pasta and 1/4 cup of pasta water to start and stir to coat the pasta with the veggies. Add more pasta water if it seems too dry. Check seasonings and serve immediately.

For a vegan version, skip the butter and just use olive oil.

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.

Classic Pork (or Vegan) Stew from Southern Boys Dishes

With the arrival of Fall weather, I’m starting to think of stews again. I made this stew a while back and it was delicious! One of those recipes that you save in your inbox so you remember to make it again – rich, hearty and super flavorful.

Looking at the recipe recently, I realized it could be made vegan super easily – by substituting Seitan for Pork. Or you could honestly leave the meat out altogether and just enjoy it as a hearty veggie stew!

Ingredients

2 ½ pound boneless pork roast, cut into 1″ cubes
Or, for a vegan version, use 2 lbs. Seitan cut into cubes
1/4 cup flour
2 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small leeks, white and green part thinly sliced
1 cup chopped shallots
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4″ pieces
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1″ cubes
2 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
10 oz button mushrooms, halved
Chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. In medium bowl, toss pork or Seitan cubes in flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Place one half on the pork or Seitan in an even layer in the dutch oven. Do not overcrowd. Brown for two to three minutes. Turn each piece and brown for two to three minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining pork or Seitan, transferring to plate when browned.
  3. Add leeks, shallots, and garlic to dutch oven and saute for two to three minutes until the leeks are wilted. Add wine and stir to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove browned bits.
  4. Add carrots, potatoes, chicken or veggie stock, tomatoes, vinegar, bay leaves, basil, oregano, thyme, two tsp salt, and one tsp pepper to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, mixing well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes.
  5. Add pork to the stew, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
    (If using Seitan, see note below.)
  6. Add mushrooms and continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately garnished with chopped parsley.

Note: I believe Seitan can be added in the last 5 minutes of cooking, since it’s basically just being rewarmed. The gravy and delicious flavors will be coat the Seitan so it should be fine. (I’ve never cooked Seitan for a long time in liquid, like in a slow cooker though I’ve seen some recipes for it, so you could definitely try it.)

Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata Breadcrumbs

Feeling absolutely starved this afternoon and I remembered I had a big bag of Cauliflower Florets in the fridge. I’ve been wanting to roast Cauliflower and found a truly wonderful recipe on Food52.com.

Cauliflower in all it’s glory by Jennifer Schmidt on Unsplash

Ingredients:

2 large heads cauliflower. broken into florets or 1 large bag cauliflower florets
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp Kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley

Set oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl mix ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper. Add cauliflower and stir well to coat. Pour into a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is starting to get nice brown bits.

Meanwhile in a frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and add panko and ¼ tsp salt. Gently sauté for several minutes until breadcrumbs begin to brown. Reduce heat and add lemon and garlic. Gently sauté a couple more minutes and remove from heat.

Put cauliflower in a serving dish and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle parsley over and serve. So good!

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.

Fresh Mint & Lemon Iced Tea

The mint in my garden is already 10″ tall and of course spreading with reckless abandon. I love mint and have decided to let it “own” a patch of ground by the porch, since it’s worth it to step outside and grab some whenever I need it. After all, what other herb grows by the square foot? (If you want to corral it – it also grows well in a low flat pot.)

Mojitos, anyone?

Another great way mint can be the star of the show is with Fresh Mint & Lemon Iced Tea, which is only lightly sweetened, but incredibly refreshing – especially on a hot day. Plus it’s caffeine free.

Ingredients:

4 cups water
2 peppermint tea bags (we like Celestial Seasonings)
1-2 cups of fresh peppermint sprigs (stems and leaves are fine – no need to remove leaves)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the teabags, sugar and fresh mint and remove from heat. Cover and let steep 10 minutes or so. Stir and then strain into a pitcher. Add 2 Tbsp lemon juice and fill the pitcher with ice.

Stir again, then check the taste – adding more sugar or lemon to taste. Pour into glasses half-filled with ice and garnish with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint if desired.

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!