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Sweet and Savoury

18 Aug

B and I have been trying (with mixed results) to eat better. I’m trying to eat less refined carbs (ohhhh, baked goods, cheesy pasta, how I love thee!) and he’s trying to drink less. A couple months ago, we bought some spelt berries at The Greener Grocer with the intention of replacing my pasta hankering. I never made the dish, but I’ve had great successes using it as a side grain for a veggie based meal and as an ingredient in a Mediterranean inspired salad (with cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta). I’ve also been experimenting with wheat and spelt berries as a morning grain. Bob prefers sweet morning grains, and I prefer savoury; hence, the dual breakfast.

I cooked the spelt berries as normal, in water, without salt, so both of us could use it. For B, I added a dollop of Fage Total 0%, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkling of cinnamon. For myself, I topped my berries with some leftover Maque Choux and since the heat from the Sriracha and fresh chili pepper crept up, a dollop of Fage Total 0% to cool it down. B ended up preferring my savoury version more than his sweet version. Since we got a big bag of wheat berries at Jungle Jim’s on our Cincinnati trip, I think I’m going to cook up a big batch and keep it in the fridge for quick breakfasts and snacking.


Maque Choux

13 Aug

A couple years ago, my friend over at Words and Nosh had a beautiful wedding in New Orleans. It was my first time having real Cajun/Creole food and I loved it! More recently, she posted a pic on her food blog of her maque choux and I was just drooling over it. As it happens, it’s sweet corn season here in Ohio and I had everything I needed either in my fridge or on the fire escape (have you seen my urban garden?). I trimmed down a couple different recipes I found online, omitted the cream and most of the butter, and used a lot of herbs.  Click through for the recipe and more pics, including one of the finished product! Continue reading

Putting the Pan in Pan-Asian: Leafy Greens

10 Aug

New theme! Putting the Pan in Pan-Asian! Get it? Har har, I’m so funny. This first installment is also known as “The Old Wives’ (太太) Tale Edition.”

When I moved back to the U.S. for high school, I had a really hard time getting adjusted to the veggies available in the dining hall. On the steam table, there were always perfectly cut carrots with murky peas or mushy zucchini with undercooked summer squash. Blech. The salad bar was a little better with fresh romaine, broccoli, cucumbers, shredded cheese, bacon bits, and seven types of goopey dressing. Mmmm, Aramark.

It would be a looooong time before I learned about kale, collard and mustard greens, and even longer until I met Elizabeth Telling’s braising greens. But what I longed for were simply sauteed/stir-fried spinach (菠菜), water spinach (空心菜), amaranth (苋菜), Chinese broccoli (芥蓝),  napa cabbage (白菜), Chinese celery (芹菜), bok choy (调羹菜), and on and on and on. I still have these longings and luckily there are a good number of Chinese groceries that I can now drive to. (!!!) It doesn’t make up for the fact that these greens are a PITA to trim and wash.

The pic up top is water spinach. In Chinese, it’s transliterated as empty heart vegetable. (Kangkong/kangkung in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.)  You can see why, the stalks are totally hollow, except at the joint with a leaf. Amongst more conscientious eaters in East and Southeast Asia, it’s rare that this leafy veggie is ordered outside of the home. Water spinach is particularly difficult to wash because it’s grown in mud and/or marshes. The hollow stalks are said to harbor lots of critters that make their home in swamp land, most prominently leeches and worms. There are a bunch of urban legends floating around about how someone ate unclean water spinach at a hawker stall and perished from leech breeding in the belly. Yeaaah.

For this batch, I spent quite a bit of time trimming and washing. First, I soaked the veggies overnight in water. In the morning, I trimmed: snapped off and discarded the toughest part of the stem, then for each leaf, I pinched off a stem segment about half an inch above and below the leaf joint. Lastly, I washed and rinsed twice, just to make sure I got all the mud and dirt out. Finally, my favorite style: sauteed with tofu roo (sauteed with belacan, fermented shrimp paste, also very good).  Let’s just say that cooked Chinese leafy greens aren’t exactly the easiest to photograph.

These greens above are amaranth. They are my father’s favorite greens in the whole world. It’s got the tannic quality like spinach but has a more vegetal flavor. Do you see those violet veins? Once amaranth is sauteed/stir-fried, it exudes this gorgeous magenta cooking liquid. Not sure if this is superstition or old wives’ tale, but it is said that this veggie is good for promoting blood flow and recouping lost blood (monthly bleeders, take note). I washed and rinsed these about three times to get the dirt off and sauteed them simply in garlic. I had almost no cooking liquid so no pics, but if you’re interested in a recipe and more pics of amaranth, Serious Eats recently featured them in their Seriously Asian segment.

Pickled Green Beans

3 Aug

Every summer, during green bean season, I like to make a big batch of pickled green beans. These aren’t the canning kind with a water bath process and meticulous measurements, just a quick pick to keep in the refrigerator. They are great for dressing up impromptu Sunday morning bloody marys, diced to throw into an Italian tuna & smashed cannellini salad (new post idea!), or alongside a crudite platter. I like using french beans because their curlicue tails look so delicate and classy! Continue reading

House Salad

29 Jul

I’ve long felt that the more ingredients in salads, the more exciting they are to eat. I’m talking grilled zucchini, julienne red bell pepper, peas, tuna, chipped extra sharp white cheddar, halved seedless grapes, basically, anything to up the nutritional value of salad greens. In my attempt to control my caloric intake, I’m letting all that go. Not only is cheese in salad a bad idea, but I was really losing out on the low-cal aspect of the salad when I started loading it up with a bajallion toppings.

So I’ve settled on this mix of four veggies: matchstick carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and spring baby mix. Tossed with a light homemade vinaigrette. If I can sub out one meal a day with this salad, maybe I’ll lose five pounds before heading back to Shanghai… Before I get the third degree from my mother about my eating habits.

House Dressing

1 clove garlic
1/4 small red onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 table spoon sugar
4 tablespoon olive oil.

Press the garlic and red onion through a garlic press. Insert into a bottle with the remainder of the ingredients. Shake well. Allow to sit in fridge overnight for the flavors to develop. Use as necessary! I probably use about 2 tablespoons of the dressing for a large salad. Yummers!