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Apricot and Edamame Stir-Fry

Who doesn’t like a good stir fry? They’re flexible, relatively quick and absolutely packed with different flavors and textures. This stir fry is loaded with shelled edamame, bamboo shoots, and fresh ginger.

Serves 2

Assemble the Following:

  • 2 TBSP. Soybean Oil
  • 1/3 C. Onion, Minced
  • 2 Large Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 1/2 Inch Fresh Ginger Root, Minced
  • 1 1/2 C. Bok Choy or Cabbage, Chopped
  • 1/2 C. Red Bell Pepper, Coarsely Chopped
  • 1/4 C. Fresh Cilantro
  • 1/4 C. Bamboo Shoots
  • 1 C. Edamame, Cooked and Shelled
  • 1 C. Broccoli, Blanched
  • 1 Scant TBSP. Soy Sauce
  • 1 TBSP. Apricot Preserves
  • Pinch Cumin
  • 1 TSP. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 TBSP. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2/3 to 1 C. Cooked White Rice

Do This With It:

  • Heat wok or large heavy skillet with oil, very high heat.
  • Add Onions and Cabbage, fry until tender.
  • Add Red Pepper, garlic, and most of the ginger, fry until tender.
  • Add Cilantro, and Bamboo Shoots, reduce to medium heat.
  • Slowly stir in Soy Sauce, reduce to low heat.
  • Add Edamame and Broccoli.
  • Add Apricot Preserves, stir or toss until thickened and reduced.
  • Add dried spices and remaining ginger, remove from heat.
  • With wet fingertips mold heaping tablespoons of rice into little balls for plating.

Notes:

  • I leave the peel on my ginger; you get a much bolder flavor this way.
  • I remember now when Alton Brown did a show on Stir-Fry, he emphasized the importance of having every ingredient ready to go before you even heat the oil. Well, he wasn’t kidding. The good news is I think I may have broken a world speed record for shelling Edamame.
  • You can just pile the stir-fry on a bed of rice and forgo the rice-balls, but they add a flair to the presentation don’t you think?

Orzo Salad with Pole Beans and Sautéed Veggies

Summer is the perfect time for a cold pasta salad. Served with burgers off the grill, or by itself this take on pasta salad is just as refreshing as it is filling. It keeps well, so make a little extra and enjoy over the next few days. Planning a barbecue or a picnic? Make this a day ahead and refrigerate overnight to really let the flavors marry up and combine.

Serves Four as a side-dish, or Two as a main.

Assemble The Following:

  • 1/4 C Orzo, uncooked
  • 1/4 C. Finely Minced Onion
  • 1/2 C. Scallions or Spring Onion, Coarse Chop
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Roma Tomatoes, Cubed
  • 1/4 C. Black Olives, Rough Chop
  • Handful of Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 C. Italian Pole Beans, Blanched and Shelled
  • 3/4 C. Vegetable Stock
  • Italian Seasoning, Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan and Asiago  Cheese Blend

Do This With It:

  • Bring Vegetable Stock to boil.
  • Sautee onion and 1/4 C. Scallion in olive oil until tender.
  • Add Garlic, and Italian seasoning.
  • Before garlic browns, add 1 C. Hot vegetable stock, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, and slowly cook until all the stock has been absorbed by the mushrooms, remove from heat.
  • Cook Orzo in remaining vegetable stock until al-dente.
  • Drain Pasta and rinse, toss with a little olive oil and allow to cool.
  • Combine cooled vegetables, pole beans, olives, remaining 1/4 C. scallion, and cilantro. Toss gently.
  • Refrigerate 1-2 hours to allow all the flavors to really get to know each other.
  • Serve with sprinkling of cheese and topped with more scallion greens.

Notes and Abstract:

  • I misjudged the pole beans big time. 1 Cup is what I was shooting for before I shelled them. Needless to say, four large handfuls of the beans before cooking and shelling yielded only about 1/4  Cup.

Chickpea and Potato Stuffed Pasta

So you’re down to the nitty gritty on groceries in the house. It’s five million degrees outside, making the normally reprehensible task of going to the market carry the added risk of spontaneous combustion. It’s time to get creative. I wanted to stuff pasta with something, but I only had lasagna noodles. As for the stuffing, I could only produce potatoes and garbanzo beans and some leafy greens.  Meager beginnings, at best. The end result however was delicious, with seasonings and flavors that evoke Indian Cuisine. When I’m better prepared, I’ll try this out with puff pastry.

Assemble the Following:

  • 1 Large Potato, diced
  • 2 C. Cooked Garbanzo beans
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 C. Red Onion, diced
  • 1/4 C. Red Pepper
  • 1/2 C. Cilantro
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • Dried Ginger, to taste
  • Dried Cumin, to taste
  • Dried Parsley Flakes, to taste
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Lasagna Noodles, fully cooked

Do this with it:

  • Sauté the potatoes, pepper, garlic and onion in olive oil until tender. Drain and reserve the oil.
  • Combine spices garbanzo beans, cilantro and sautéed potatoes, garlic and onion in a mixing bowl and mash until smooth and well combined.
  • Lay noodles flat on the work surface and spoon 1 TBSP of the stuffing onto the ends of the noodles.
  • Roll noodle ends over stuffing, add more stuffing and continue to roll making a spiral.
  • Heat the reserved oil and fry the noodle spirals, turning regularly until crisp on the outside.
  • Plate with fresh vegetables, or slice into sections to serve as an appetizer.

This would also make a really nice ravioli or shell pasta stuffing. Additionally I found that if you add all purpose flour to the stuffing mix, you can fry it into little balls or patties.

Tuna Burger

Inspiration hits at the strangest of times. As I sat here in my office, blithely minding my own business and working on improvements to this very blog I was suddenly stricken with burger fever. I wanted cheese, and something sandwiched in the Kaiser rolls I got at market this week. Staring into my freezer did no good. When Dad is home I have to remember that I am cooking for two, and his dietary needs are strikingly different than my own. These tuna burgers could very easily please most anyone. They are easy to make, and full of a few different kinds of protein. I don’t eat fish, eggs or cheese very often. However, when I do I make it so good it’s almost too much to abide! This tuna burger is sure to please even the most discerning palate.

Assemble the Following:

  • 3/4 C. Albacore Tuna
  • 3/4 C. Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 C. Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Fresh Egg, Beaten
  • 1/4 C. Portobello Mushrooms, finely minced
  • 1/4 C. Scallion Greens, finely minced
  • 1/4 C. Red Onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 C. Cilantro, finely minced
  • 1 TSP. Recaito
  • 2 TBSP. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 TBSP. Canola Oil
  • 1/2 TSP. Butter.
  • Curly Parsley for garnish
  • Onion Kaiser Rolls
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Do this with it:

  • Sauté scallions, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and cilantro in olive oil and butter until tender
  • Remove veggies from heat, and cool.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine egg, cheese, and Recaito. Blend thoroughly before combining with cooled veggies, bread crumbs and tuna.
  • Make two large 1/2 inch thick patties out of this mixture.
  • Heat canola oil in heavy skillet. Fry patties for five to seven minutes on each side.
  • Toast Kaiser rolls in oven. Melt cheese over bottom halves of rolls.
  • Serve, topped with parsley. Pair with sweet potato fries.

Perfect Pork Chop Marinade and Gravy.

My father has come home from several long weeks out on the road. He is (DEFINITELY) not a vegetarian. So in the spirit of tolerance, understanding and kindness I willfully submitted to his demands for pork chops; on Meatless Monday no less. It has become very important to me to see to it that my Dad is as well fed and nourished as possible when he’s at home and it had been weeks since he had a proper meal. So I spared him the statistics about what his meat consumption was doing to his body and to the environment, and just made the damned pork chops. The best I could. Apparently I’m still pretty good at meat preparation, and I didn’t even gag one time while I was preparing his meal! I took inspiration for the marinade from classically Asian recipes, but finding myself without any of the necessary ingredients, I got reckless with it. Needless to say the pork chops, and the gravy were well received. Dinner was quiet, and there was very little left on his plate. Both good signs. I served the pork with steamed broccoli, fried potatoes and simple risotto.

Assemble the following:

  • 1/2 C. Water
  • 1/2 C. Spicy Brown Deli Mustard
  • 1 TBSP. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 TBSP. Minced Garlic
  • 1 TSP. Marjoram
  • 1 TSP. Ground Coriander Seed
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 medium White Mushroom, sliced
  • 2 Fresh pork chops

Do this with it:

  • Combine all ingredients except the mushroom and olive oil to make the marinade.
  • Marinate pork in shallow bowl, for at least thirty minutes.
  • Remove pork from marinade. Retain. Sear meat in heated olive oil, three minutes per side.
  • In separate pan heat retained marinade over very high heat. Add mushrooms and reduce to make gravy.
  • Bake chops at 325° for fifteen to twenty minutes, until tender and done.
  • Serve pork chops over risotto with gravy.

Summer Vegetable Stock

Making stock used to be a regular part of my routine. However, I’ll admit that I’ve been using the store bought stuff for the last six months or so. Hello sodium city!!!! With all this time on my hands lately and a renewed interest in my own kitchen, I recalled how easy it is to just make your own. This recipe yields as much as your stock pot will hold. In this case it’s roughly a gallon and a quarter (I tend to spill some of it while packaging it for the freezer). I have a six quart stock pot, and use a pasta strainer so that I can easily remove the vegetabilia. Adjust amount of veggies for a different sized pot. Made with veggies that are available at the local market, this stuff is useful in the preparation of risotto, soup, pasta, fish, or anything that calls for a cooking liquid. Hell, I’ll occasionally heat some up and drink it from a coffee mug all by itself. Freezing in individual portions allows for quick and effortless use.

Assemble the following:

  • 1/2 C. Red onion
  • 4 Ribs Celery
  • 4 Large Carrots
  • 4 Medium Portobello Caps, sliced
  • 1 CL Garlic
  • 1/2 TSP. Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1/2 TSP. Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 TSP. Dried Sage
  • 1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pinch of Salt

Do this with it:

  • Very coarsely chop vegetables into large, inch sized chunks.
  • Heat Olive Oil in heavy skillet, sauté garlic and onion until caramelized.
  • Fill large stock pot with water and add all vegetables, seasonings and a pinch of salt.
  • Bring to rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour, covered.
  • Strain vegetables from liquid, and allow to cool.
  • Discard the veggies, unless you like celery.
  • Fill quart-sized freezer bags with the stock, refrigerate overnight, and freeze.

Experiment: Pastry Filling

I still have yet to make this into a pastry, but it is delicious as a spread on a sandwich. This spread/filling was inspired by my desire to make something similar to Samosa. I don’t yet know what I will do with it, but it certainly does refrigerate well!

Asemble the following:

  • 16 Oz black beans, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 C white rice, cooked
  • 1 medium red potato, finely cubed
  • 1 c French’s fried onion
  • 1 cl garlic finely minced
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Crushed Red pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Do this with it:

  • Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet.
  • Sauté garlic and potato until golden brown, drain and allow to cool.
  • In medium mixing bowl combine rice, beans, fried onion, potato and garlic. Mash until evenly combined.

Star Tuna Salad

I’ve been at war with tuna salad lately. After being thoroughly disgusted with a local sandwich shops refusal to toast the bread for my tuna salad sandwich, I told Jersey Mike exactly where to stick what, and came home and set to work on perfecting the simple art of Tuna Salad. It seems silly to put so much energy into something that is so simple, but I wanted the ultimate tuna salad. I wanted a tuna salad that would reduce your grandmother to tears of gastronomic joy. After the third preparation of merely palatable salad, I realized I forgot to ask the most important question. What is tuna Salad? Mayo, Celery, and Tuna right? Suddenly my mind went blank. There’s nothing to deconstruct here, nothing to pick apart and build differently. So I threw it all out, the tuna salads that I had made, my pre-conceived notions of what it should be, and the memories of what I had eaten in the past. Strictly speaking, tuna salad has only been a flavorless, drab means of conveyance for protein intake. Well, not anymore.

First of all, I would like to meet the person who decided that tuna salad and mayonnaise are permanently conjoined so I can punch them in the stomach. Every deli in town (including the one I work for) uses mayo in their tuna salad. Why? Mayo is nasty, it’s heavy and slimy and in just one cup you have seventy one percent of your RDI of Sodium and a whopping 118 percent of your RDI of fat. Now obviously you don’t eat a whole cup of mayo each time you chow down on a tuna salad, but why bother with the mayo at all? Hold the 796 Calories (692 of which are from fat) and opt for a more flavorful and healthier alternative. Much better flavor can be had by leaving out the mayo and substituting it with a simple balsamic reduction, a favorite salad dressing, or just straight up olive oil. Second, Celery is for making stock and soup, not for eating. Sure, it’s low calorie, and has Vitamins A, C, and B6, and its good fiber, but it’s also disgusting. That’s a total trump right there. Eating healthy must taste good, and there is nothing about celery that stimulates my palate.

Armed with this analysis, and a healthy dose of courage (booze) me and my best friend and culinary confidant Chasity set out to create the perfect Tuna Salad last week. I don’t keep mayonnaise in the house so you won’t find any of it in this recipe, instead there’s a tangy balsamic reduction, and star shaped pastina. We eschewed celery for fresh spinach and threw in some creamy Havarti cheese. Gone is the sensation of eating a mayonnaise sandwich. Hello tuna salad bliss.

Assemble the following:

  • 6 Oz. Tuna
  • 3 Tbsp Star Shaped Pastina, cooked and drained
  • 1 Cup Fresh Spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 Clove Garlic Finely Minced
  • 1/4 Cup Havarti Cheese
  • Sliced Pepper Jack Cheese
  • Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • English Muffins
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Do this with it:

Make a simple Balsamic Reduction.

  • Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over medium heat.
  • Saute garlic until golden brown.
  • De-glaze pan with Balsamic vinegar and reduce.

Now, put it all together.

  • Combine Tuna, cooled Pastina, Spinach, and Havarti in mixing bowl with Balsamic Reduction.
  • Grill English muffins and melt Pepper Jack Cheese on them.
  • Top with Tuna Salad, and a few fresh spinach leaves.
  • Enjoy!

Notes and Abstract:

  • Pastina is one of those pastas that cook in the blink of an eye, by virtue of its size (it’s tiny). It’s also difficult to drain, so set a coffee filter in your colander so you don’t end up throwing half of it down the drain.
  • I used canned tuna for this, obviously fresh would be better. If you can tell me where to get fresh tuna at 1 AM on a week day in the Sand Hills of NC, please feel free to do so.
  • Don’t like tuna? Substitute chicken for the tuna. I won’t eat it but who cares?! There are lots of things I won’t eat.
  • Yes, I did write 700 words about tuna salad. I’m an over thinker. That’s why it tastes so good.

Kitchen Essentials: Mushroom Stock

Assemble The Following:

  • 1 Large Red Onion Cut into sixths, bulb intact
  • 5 Large Carrots quartered, skin intact
  • 5 Large Celery Ribs, Halved
  • 5 Stalks Bok Choy
  • 1/4 Lb. each of Cilantro and Parsley
  • 2 Lbs. White Mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size, cleaned
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 4 Qt. Water

Do This With It:

  • Sautee veggies in 5 Qt. stock pot, until onions are tender, and greens are wilted. About Ten Minutes.
  • Cover with water and bring to rapid boil for an ten to fifteen minutes. Reduce Heat.
  • Simmer for an hour.
  • Strain vegetables from stock pot.
  • Add Mushrooms (in increments if using a small stock pot).
  • Simmer on low heat until mushrooms are reduced by half, roughly one hour.
  • Strain stock through a fine cloth to remove smallest particles.

As with all stock recipes, any vegetables you have on hand will work just fine. This Makes about four quarts, or sixteen cups. Freeze in one to two cup portions in vacuum packages.

Gluten Free Forty Days: Day Two

Going through my cooking notebooks can sometimes be torture.  More often than not, I’ll forget to write in a crucial ingredient or technique. Re-creating a dish can become an arduous cycle of test-fail-trash-start over. It’s a pain; throwing away food is expensive and wasteful. On the other hand, every so often I come across a couple of pages of notes that are thorough enough that I can make a cohesive recipe out of it, so it can be easily re-created. It also happens that this recipe is completely gluten free, making it perfect for GF40.

Day two of GF40 is all about this hearty gluten free lasagna, made without uncommon pastas or ingredients that are expensive or hard to find. I made this delicious rendition of lasagna several months ago, after being inspired by a similar recipe I found online. I used Shitake mushrooms in substitution of ground meat, which provide a rich woody flavor. The zucchini gives the dish a smoky overtone that is well complemented by the creaminess of the eggplant and the feta. I hope you enjoy this lasagna explosion as much as I did!

Lasagna On Portobello:

Assemble the following:

  • Shitake Mushrooms, fine chop
  • Roasted Zucchini
  • Roasted Eggplant
  • Fresh Scallion, finely chopped
  • Fresh Parsley, julienned
  • Garlic, finely minced
  • Feta Cheese Crumbles
  • Fire Roasted Roma Tomato Marinara (Kitchen Essentials)
  • Large, Fresh Portobello Mushroom Caps , cleaned, stems removed
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Ground Sea Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Do this with it:

  • Preheat oven to 375° F
  • Heat a few TBSP olive oil and sauté garlic. When golden, reduce heat to very low and add scallion and parsley, cook until parsley has wilted.
  • Add Marinara. Heat slowly.
  • Add Shitake mushrooms, cook briefly until mushrooms are reduced.
  • Remove from heat and to separate container, allow to cool
  • In baking dish greased with Olive Oil place Portobello Caps hollow sides up.
  • Create layers of Feta, marinara, vegetables and parmesan.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake in preheated oven for fifteen to twenty minutes.

For tips on roasting Zucchini

For tips on roasting Eggplant

Fire Roasted Roma Tomato Marinara Recipe

Notes and Abstract:

  • Roast the eggplant until it is still slightly firm. Roasting too much will yield a mushy eggplant, which does have it’s uses just not in this preparation. If you’re using a large eggplant, pull one half from the oven while it’s still semi-firm. Let the other half roast fully, then toss it in a blender or food processor with some fresh minced garlic for a great puree that can be used to cream up mashed potatoes, embolden a soup, or any number of things. The puree will store well for a few days, but I wouldn’t recommend freezing it.
  • Be sure the Portobello caps are very clean and dry. Briefly bathe them in slightly salty water and pat dry with a towel. For more room for more layers use a paring knife to carefully score the underside of the cap in a diagonal pattern, and remove the ribs gently with a spoon. Be careful not to scoop too much out, just remove the ribs.
  • If you aren’t a vegetarian, forget the shitake mushrooms. Use some high quality ground beef or poultry. Better yet, get a decent cut of steak and slice it into thin strips and cook in the marinara until rare. It will cook through to done in the oven, or if you like your steak less done, add it as a layer all by itself.
  • The Marinara can be made into different things by virtue of the fact that it takes on the flavor of the spices used in it. For this recipe use your favorite fresh Italian or Mediterranean herbs in the marinara.