Monday, April 21, 2014

Stir-Fried Broccoli Rabe (serves 3-4 as part of a shared meal)


When I cook I try to use all the edible parts of my vegetables.  For any tough stalks I peel away this layer so that I can use them for cooking.  For the broccoli rabe I remove the tips, cut the stems and peel the stalks.  This process takes a little time but in the end you will yield more food for your meal!

It is probably best to start eating all edible parts if you have not done so.  Yesterday while driving home I heard disturbing news on National Public Radio (NPR) that California is having major problem with drought (which should not be news since CA is a desert) and many farmers are not receiving the necessary water for farming.  If you want to listen to the full report you can click on the link California's Drought Ripples Through Businesses, Then to Schools.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsps oil
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and roughly chopped
2 Tbsps chopped scallions
2 Tbsps chopped red or white onion
1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed, stems/leaves removed, peeled the stalks, cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch lengths
3 Tbsps water
1 Tbsp oyster sauce

Method:

1) Heat oil in a large pan or wok over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot add ginger, garlic, scallions and onion, saute about a minute.
3) Add broccoli rabe stalks first, saute about 2 minutes.
4) Add the flowering tips and the rest of the leaves/stems, water and oyster sauce.  Saute about 3-4 minutes or until the stalks are cooked to your preference.

peel the tough stalks
(and discard the peels)
cut everything in 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces
and keep "like pieces" in separate piles



*When cutting up the vegetables keep the "like pieces" in separate piles.  One pile for flowering tips, another for the leaves/stems, and another for the stalks.  This way when you cook you can cook the thickest parts first (giving it longer time to cook) and the thinnest parts (such as the leaves) last.  This way everything is cooked somewhat evenly.
*The broccoli rabe has a slight bitter taste.  You can blanch them in gentle boiling water prior to cooking to remove some of the bitterness. 

Beef Tongue in Tomato-Sofrito Sauce (serves 3-4)


Tongue dishes are not so common on restaurant menus these days especially in the United States. I am assuming the reason may be due to a lack of demand from the consumers!  Many years ago while traveling in Panama this tongue dish was on the restaurant menu, walking distance to my hotel.  I am glad I tried it.  It turned out so tasty that I want to duplicate this recipe at home!   Over the years I have made this dish a handful of times.  Each time I tried to use different ingredients to achieve similar flavors.  The last time I made a similar dish I used goat hearts. Instead of tomato base I used sauerkraut.  Today's recipe I did not use sazon seasoning, which has unnecessary chemicals with potential for harm such as monosodium glutamate (MSG). 

It is difficult to find tongue in my local market.  However, I purchased the tongue from Cracked an Egg FarmThe tongue had to be scraped clean, boiled, and then peeled prior to using.  The preparation took a little work but it is well worth it.  I normally eat this dish with rice.  However, you can eat it with anything you prefer.

Beef Tongue in Tomato-Sofrito Sauce:

Ingredients:

1 beef tongue
2 Tbsps oil
2 tsps annatto seeds
2 chopped garlic cloves
1 recipe of Cooked Home-Made Sofrito Seasoning (recipe follows)
2 C home-made tomato sauce (preferably home-made)
1 tsp salt (or according to your taste)
1/2 tsp black or white ground pepper (or according to your taste)
Chopped cilantro, garnish (optional)

Method:

1) Add about 2 teaspoons of salt to the tongue and scrape it with a knife to clean it.  Rinse well.  In a pot large enough to hold the beef tongue add enough water to cover the entire tongue.  Gently boil the tongue for about 30-45 minutes.
2) Once the tongue is partial cooked, remove from heat, let cooled completely and peel (anything that is white will need to be removed) and trim away any soft tissue.
3) Thinly slice the tongue.
4) In a large pan render the oil and annatto seeds in medium high heat for about 2 minutes.  Once the oil turns orange remove the seeds and discard them.
5) Add the garlic and sliced tongue.  Saute about 10 minutes or until all the meat is no longer pink.
6) Add sofrito seasoning, tomato sauce, salt, and white pepper.  Saute another 5-7 minutes.

*You may add hot chili pepper at the end if you want this dish to have a little kick.
*If you don't have tomato sauce you substitute with 2-3 large peeled, de-seeded, and chopped  tomatoes for this dish.  You can adjust the cooking time for the tomato according to your preference.
*The precooked tongue weighed about 1.8 pounds.  After boiling and peeling it, the sliced tongue yielded about a pound.
*You may purchase annatto seeds from an Asian or ethnic food market.

Cooked Home-Made Sofrito Seasoning:

Ingredients:

2 Tbsps oil
1 C chopped onion (I used white and red)
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 C chopped scallions
1/2 C chopped sweet pepper
1/2 C chopped cilantro
1/2 C chopped culantro (ngo gai in Vietnamese or racao in Spanish)

Method:

1) Heat oil in a medium size pot over medium high heat.
2) Once the pot is hot, add onion and garlic.  Saute for about 2 minutes.
3) Add scallions and pepper, saute for about 2 minutes.
4) Add cilantro and culantro, saute about 2 minutes.  Turn off heat and cover.

crocus from my yard
(Seacoast NH--2014)
magnolia blossom
(Newport, RI--2014)
*I took the above photos of the flowers in the last few days.  I see these flowers as promising signs of Spring.  However, the weather around this area can change quickly, 80 degrees one day and the next snow!  It's hard to believe but we had this exact weather less than a week ago!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Home-Made Basic Tomato Sauce


Today I have lots of tomatoes, in fact I have 7 pounds!   I figure since I am going to take time to make the sauce then the more the better.  I like to make a simple sauce without adding water, salt or other ingredients.  This way I can use it later as a base for other dishes.  The sauce can be made chunky or smooth, depending on your preference.  I keep it chunky so I have more options later.   I normally freeze this sauce if I do not use it right away.  It is good for several months.

Ingredient:

Whole tomatoes (the more you have the better!!)

Method:

1) Lightly score each tomato in a cross.  Blanch them in gently boiling water for about 30 seconds and remove them from the pot.  Continue to do this until all the tomatoes are blanched.
2) Take a knife and peel off the tomato skin.  It should remove easily.  If the skin does not peel off then dip the tomato back in the water for a little longer.
3) Cut each peeled tomato in half and scoop out the seeds into a strainer over a bowl.
4) Use a spoon or spatula and try to squeeze as much juice from the seeds as you can into the bowl.
5) In a large pot add the skinned and deseeded tomato halves and juice.  Once the liquid starts to boil then turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and let cook for about 40-50 minutes.
6) Turn off heat and roughly mash the tomato.  I try not to mash it too much since I like to have some chunks.
7) Once the sauce has cooled, fill each container, jar or plastic bag 3/4 of the way and freeze what you do not use.  This sauce keeps for several months in the freezer.
8) When ready to use just thaw the frozen sauce in the refrigerator overnight.




*The three photos (seen above) are artwork outside an old diner that no longer exists.  However, the art is colorful, well done and depicts a lively scene (RI, 2014).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Boiled Peanuts

boiled peanuts
Growing up I ate my fair share of boiled peanuts as an after school snack. During a few road trips down South (United States) I remember seeing numerous road signs for boiled peanuts.  The first time I saw these signs I was very excited since I have never seen it sold anywhere in the US especially living in Maine!  I remember stopping to purchase some, I opened up the hot shells and popped one in my mouth to find the nut to be just mush.  I guess the nuts had been boiling all day!   

I was in an Asian grocery recently and bought a 2-pound bag of raw peanuts. It took a bit of time to boil them but that was worth it. They tasted as good as I had remember them from my childhood living in the Mekong Delta (Vietnam).

Boiled Peanuts 

Ingredients:

2 lbs raw peanuts, rinsed
1 tsp salt (optional)
Water

Method:

1) In a large pot add the peanuts.
2) Add salt (if interested) and water.
3) Cover the pot and let the water boils gently, add more water as needed during cooking, cook about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the nuts are soft to your liking.

Vegetarian Stew (enough to serve about 10!!)


I have different vegetables including home-made roasted peppers and home-made tomato broth in my kitchen. I had no idea what to do with these items.  Sometimes I just have no inspiration on what to cook or eat.  I admit as I was cutting up the vegetables I still had no idea what I was going to do with them.  As I was boiling the sliced mushrooms and Asian eggplants in water and was feeling very lazy and unmotivated I decided to make a large pot of vegetarian stew.   So...here it is!

Ingredients:

5 Asian eggplants, trimmed, washed, thinly sliced
2 king mushrooms (about 1 lb), washed, thinly sliced, stack the slices and cut into thirds
3 C water
3 C roasted peppers, roughly chopped
32-oz tomato broth*
1/2-1 white onion, grated
1 1/2 tsp salt (or according to your taste)
16-oz blanched spinach, roughly chopped
Black or white pepper, garnish (optional)

Method:

1) In a large pot add eggplant, mushrooms and water over medium high heat.  Partially cover the pot.  Once the liquid starts to boil, turn heat down a little to a gentle boil, cook about 10 minutes.
2) Add roasted peppers, tomato broth, onion, and salt.  Let cook for another 19 minutes.
3) Add spinach, stir the pot a few times and let cook for another minute.

with grated cheese
*For the tomato broth I basically chopped 6 de-seeded tomatoes and 1 onion, added 2 cups of water and boiled it down for 1/2 hour.  I cooled the contents down and then put it through a ricer.
*I had a bag of mini sweet peppers and was going to stuff them.  However, I got busy and as they sat in my refrigerator they were starting to look rather sad, a bit wrinkly with even a few mild dark spots.  I decided to roast them.  The roasting time is less since they were so small.  However, because of their small size they were a pain to remove the skin and seeds--just very time consuming.  If you are roasting peppers for the first time I highly recommend you roast bell peppers, the larger the better!  Although having gone through the process of roasting these tiny (size of my thumb) peppers I must say I would be happy to roast bell peppers (size of my fist) any day!
*The Asian eggplants are the ones that are slender, long and lavender in color.  When these are cooked the skin turns brown.  
*I had other plans for the spinach so I blanched them and then rinsed them in cold water.  However, while making this stew I wanted to add something green so I used them.  You can add the spinach as you are reheating the stew to serve.  This way the green will stay bright and pretty each time you eat.
*I added shredded chicken and grated cheese to the soup for something different.  I think this is a good stew to make the next time I have vegetarians and non-vegetarians at my dinner table!

Crab and Asparagus Soup (serves 6 as part of a shared meal)

crab and asparagus soup
Crab and asparagus soup is a classic Vietnamese dish.  In Vietnam the word for asparagus is called măng tây which translates to Western bamboo shoots.  I rarely see this soup on a Vietnamese restaurant's menu.  I am not sure the reason, perhaps the crab is too costly (my opinion).  My dear mother gets the Maine crab from the fisherman she knows.  She buys buckets and I mean buckets (5-gallons each) of them and shells them herself.  Fortunately she is very good and quick at picking out the crab meat.   She would wrap the meat tightly in plastic several times and store in a ziploc in her freezer.  When she and my father visit any of their children (now scattered in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) she would bring many huge coolers (I am not exaggerating) full of her home cooked food, hand-picked crab meat/lobster meat for us, and if it is summer bags of home-grown vegetables and herbs.

Maine crabs are not as well known as the lobsters.  However, it is a secret in our family (maybe not such a secret anymore since I started this blog!).  These crabs contain lots of sweet juicy meat.  My mother would agreed with me that Maine crabs have more meat and are tastier than the Maryland crabs.  The best way to eat crabs is when they are just pulled from the ocean within 24 hours!

Many years ago when I lived in Minnesota working as a Registered Nurse for the Mayo Clinic I was too poor to go out to eat.  There were also no Asian restaurants at the time.  This was the time I started cooking and experimenting with food more.  At the time my good friend, Thảo who was doing her fellowship in gastroenterology was too busy to eat or cook.  Every so often we both would get together, cook and eat.  I remember we made this dish once and that was the first time I had this soup.

Crab and Asparagus Soup (serves 6 as part of a shared meal)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
2 lbs asparagus, peeled the base and trimmed the tough parts, cut each stalk into 1-inch pieces
32 oz low sodium, low fat chicken stock (or make your own)
32 oz water
1 duck egg (whisked lightly)
14 oz crab meat (preferably not from a can)
1 Tbsp fish sauce (or to your taste)
2 Tbsps cornstarch mix with 2 Tbsps cold water (thickening agent)
1/3 C chopped scallions
1/4 C chopped cilantro

Method:

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
2) Once the pot is hot, add onion.  Saute about 2 minutes until soft.
3) Add asparagus and saute about 5 minutes.
4) Add stock and water.  Once the liquid starts to boil, turn heat down to low and cover the pot for about 15 minutes.
5) Uncover the pot, turn heat back to medium high, once the liquid is hot again, stir the pot in a steady circle and slowly pour the egg in.  This will cause the egg to be more stringy instead of lumpy.
6) Add the crab meat last and gently stir the soup so the crab meat will not break.
7)  Turn off heat, add fish sauce, thickening agent, scallions and cilantro.  Stir a few times to mix everything well.

*If you are serving this dish at another meal or the next day you can garnish a little sliced cilantro and/or scallions on top of the soup to brighten the dish a little.
*If you are interested in a thicker soup then use more cornstarch/water mixture.


with shrimp balls
*If you want to add the cooked shrimp balls to this soup to make it extra special then add about 40 balls (or about 14-oz of shrimp balls) under step 6 (add together with the crab meat).  The shrimp balls came from my mother.  She made them using Maine shrimp.  She kept them frozen in bags and distributed them to my brothers and me.  Even though my brothers and I are somewhat capable of cooking she thinks we don't have time to cook or do not cook enough. She made food for us despite working full-time. Now that she has retired she has been taking classes in college, working towards her own degree in business, and she continues to cook for all of us.

Peruvian-Style Scallop Ceviche (makes 4 appetizers)


scallop ceviche
scallop ceviche
A few months ago my husband and I went out with a few friends for Peruvian food and one of the dishes we ordered was seafood ceviche.  I was horrified that this restaurant with beautiful interior and white linen tablecloth would actually serve fake scallops, probably made from fish.  They were cut in perfect round pieces to resemble scallops.  No one at our table seemed to notice or mind so I did not say anything.  No, I am not going to tell you the name of the restaurant on this blog.  Today I decided to make similar style ceviche but using REAL scallops harvested locally!  I added the mini sweet peppers for color and texture.  I also found the special dried maiz mote pelado (which is called giant white corn in English)  for sale at Shaws (market) in Boston.  They made this dish extra special.  I put the finished product in colored martini glasses making it more fun to devour these appetizers!

Peruvian-Style Scallop Ceviche (makes 4 appetizers)

Ingredients:

12 sea scallops, tough muscles removed, picked out any white sand, washed, diced each one into 8-12 pieces
1/2 C dried giant white corn (maiz mote pelado), soaked overnight, cooked for about 20 minutes or until softened, trimmed off tips
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp chopped scallion
Zest from 1/2 lemon 
1 red mini sweet pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow mini sweet pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon (about 2 1/2 Tbsps), plus more
1/2 tsp salt (plus more right before serving)
1/2 tsp white pepper (plus more right before serving)
Thin lemon wedges, garnish (optional)

Method:

1) Put the scallop, corn, cilantro, scallion, zest, mini peppers, onion, juice, salt, and white pepper in a large bowl and mix well.
2) Divide the portion into 4 serving plates or glasses.  Squeeze a little more juice, grate a little more zest, add a pinch of salt and white pepper over each plate or glass.  Garnish each with a lemon wedge or anything you want.



*If at all possible use a microplane to zest the lemon rind.  I like a hint of the zest taste and the specks of yellow make this dish pretty.
*The maiz mote pelado (giant white corn) are grown in the Andes Mountains.  The dried corn will cook faster if you soak them overnight.
*If you are serving ceviche for a party, you can add the lemon juice right before serving.  Mix everything and then put the contents in a smaller bowl.  Add ice to another bowl (larger than the content bowl).  Then put the content bowl on top of the ice bowl to keep the dish cold.
*I used frozen scallops to make this ceviche.  The process of freezing will kill many of the bacteria.  If you are immunosuppressed you should not be eating raw seafood.  If you are unsure please check with your health care providers before consuming any raw seafood.  Never eat raw seafood that has been handled poorly, not refrigerated properly or been harvested in dirty water.

 reflections (Boston, 2013)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sauteed Shrimp with Roe (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)


I have eaten sauteed shrimp with roe many times over the years.  In Vietnam this dish is known as tôm kho tàu.  Every time I make this I play around with different ingredients.  My mother often makes this classic dish with Maine lobsters and it is always amazingly tasty.  In the Mekong Delta my relatives made it with the local jumbo prawn.  If you come across any shrimp with the heads on, and the heads have a bit of red coloring then most likely it contains some roe. This is the best type of shrimp for this dish.  This dish will have a natural bright red color and it's not just pretty to look at but also delicious.  There are many ways to eat this dish but I like to eat this dish with warm bread so I can soak up the sauce.  I have made a similar dish for my 100th blog posting called Sauteed Shrimp, Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger.  

Ingredients:

2 Tbsps olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, smashed, minced
1 1/2 Tbsps grated ginger
lb large shrimp with roe (removed shells but keep the roe)
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar

Method:

1) Heat oil in a medium size pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot add garlic and ginger.  Saute for about a minute (try not to burn the garlic).
3) Add shrimp and saute about 4 minutes.
4) Add fish sauce and sugar.  Saute about another minute or until the shrimp is just cooked.



*I am sure there are many ways to peel shrimp.  I normally start with the head.  Gently remove the shell covering the head and leave the roe and liver.  Proceed to remove the rest of the shell from the body and tail.  Inspect the head closely and remove the mouth piece if it is still attached.

tulips blooming in Boston this week
(April 2014)

snow in seacoast NH today (same week),
just one hour North of Boston
(April 2014)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stir-Fried Soybean Sprouts (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)

stir-fried soybean sprouts
I grew up eating mung bean sprouts.  However, I did not start eating fresh bean sprouts until I was an adult.  Prior to this I would eat the sprouts but only if they were partially cooked.  I just did not like the taste of fresh sprouts.  In recent years I have discovered a wide variety of sprouts, from micro sprout greens to soybean sprouts and enjoyed eating them, whether cooked or fresh.  I have even grown the sprouts myself.  Check out my previous blog posting on Growing Your Own Sprouts.  Here is one of the many preparations that I prefer to eat soybean sprouts.  I find them to be nutritious (containing vitamin C, calcium and iron) with a nutty taste and crunchy texture.  

Stir-Fried Soybean Sprouts (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Tbsps oil (any kind you have available and prefer)
1 bunch scallions, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch lengths
3 large garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, and chopped or sliced
1 tsp grated ginger
12-oz soybean sprouts, washed and drained
2 Tbsps oyster sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1/8 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch mix with 1 tsp cold water (thickening agent)
1 tsp sesame oil

Method:

1) Heat oil in a wok or large pan over high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot, add scallions, garlic and ginger.  Saute about a minute, avoid burning the garlic.
3) Add sprouts and give it a few tosses.
4) Stir in oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar.  Toss the contents a few times and let it cook about 2 minutes.
5) Add thickening agent, give it a few tosses.  Turn off heat.
6) Add sesame oil and give a few tosses or stirs to mix everything together.

soybean sprouts
*If you do not grow these sprouts yourself then you can buy them at an Asian market.

Satay-Inspired Lamb Hearts (serves 2-3--appetizers)


satay-inpired lamb hearts
About a month ago my husband and I visited Sherrie's Cracked an Egg Farm (in Barrington, NH) with our cooler.   If you ever visit a farm I highly recommend bringing a cooler just in case you find something interesting!!  We bought a dozen duck eggs and as many of the hearts and tongues she had that day.  They were all packaged nicely with labels in a freezer.  After I got home I kept the hearts and tongues in my freezer.  Last night I took the lamb hearts and thawed them in the refrigerator overnight.  This morning at the last minute I had an idea to make this dish inspired by a satay (skewer grilled meat) dish.  Satay is popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.  I sauteed all the ingredients and put it over warm bread instead of the usual tradition of putting the hearts on skewers to grill.  My method is simple, quick and delicious!

Satay-Inspired Lamb Hearts (serves 2-3--appetizers)

Ingredients:

3 lamb hearts, thinly sliced (about 0.50 lb)
15 crushed roasted peanuts
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped lemongrass
1/8 tsp whole anise seeds
2 Tbsp oil (olive, vegetable, canola or peanut)
3 Tbsp chopped onion
2 Tbsp chopped scallions
1 small fresh sweet pepper or chili pepper, de-seeded, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric 
1 tsp fish sauce
1/8 tsp sugar
A pinch of salt (if desired)

Method:

1) Roast the peanuts, crush and set aside.
2) Thinly slice the lamb hearts and set aside.
3) Gently crush garlic, lemongrass, and anise seeds together (using mortar and pestle or what tool you have in the kitchen) and set aside.
4) Heat a medium size pan with oil over medium high heat.
5) Once the pan is hot, add garlic, lemongrass, anise seeds, onion, scallions, peppers, cumin, and turmeric.  Saute for about 2 minutes.
6) Add the hearts to the pan.  Saute about a minute.
7) Add fish sauce and sugar and saute until about another minute or until the heart slices are no longer red.  Add a pinch of salt if desired.  Remove from heat.
8) Sprinkle peanuts on top and serve immediately.

thinly sliced lamb hearts
satay lamb heart on warm baguette slices
*It is easy to slice the hearts thinly if they are partially frozen.  This is a great trick to slice any meat very thinly.
*This recipe is adaptable for any type of meat if you do prefer not to use hearts or do not have access to hearts.  The cooking time is dependent on the type and thickness of your meat.