Tag: vegetarian (Page 1 of 2)

Cornmeal-Crusted Okra

cornmeal okraEvery year for the past 4-5 years or so, I have signed up to receive a CSA (community supported agriculture) share for the late spring/summer/early fall months. What is a CSA? This means I pay a lump sum at the beginning of the season, and get a bag of produce every week, which varies depending on weather and availability. The farmer(s) decide what I get to eat, which means that the vegetables are currently in season, often at their peak, and amazingly fresh. This also means I have no say in the vegetables I get, but also means that I can plan meals around the vegetables, which sometimes actually helps me get a head start!

Most of the time there is no one at the CSA pick-up, or if there is, we keep to ourselves, check our names off the list, take our stuff, and leave. However, about a month ago, I bumped into a nice lady named Robin, and we chatted about what we wanted to do with such-and-such crops in the share that week.

I got stuck on okra, though…what to do with a big bag of okra, besides made gumbo, which I didn’t have time to do that week?

I’m from the South-let me tell you how to cook the okra, Robin said.

Ooh! Yes. This should be good.

Slice the okra into thin disks, coat with cornmeal, pan-fry on low, and season with salt and black pepper.

No egg?

Nope; the sliminess from the okra will help bind the cornmeal. When I was growing up, while our family said grace before dinner, my siblings would have their hands hovering over the plate, ready to snatch.

Skeptical but amused, I set out to make okra a la Robin. And let me tell you…I had no trouble seeing why her siblings fought over it! It disappeared in seconds, the first time I made it.

Just like with the beef and corn recipe, I lament not having been able to get this post out earlier, because I fear that okra will soon disappear from the produce aisles! No matter..if you can find okra, you should really make this recipe, especially because it requires less than 5 ingredients, even if you count the salt and pepper.

Wherever you are, Robin, thank you for sharing with me this simple but tasty preparation of okra!

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Three Cup Tofu (San Bei Doufu)

Tim and I have been eating lots of tofu lately. How much? Enough to buy the 6 lb packages of tofu! At about $5/pkg, it’s a pretty good deal, and there’s only one container to open.

Anyway, I have been substituting tofu for meat in several dishes and realized that it can be pretty darn good and fast, and requires less cutting board paranoia than when using meat.

We(I) had cooked Thai food for friends, and there leftover Thai basil but no more curry. Hmmmm…I saw my 3 lone blocks of tofu leftover, plus the basil. Three cup tofu? Could it be done? Read below to find out! If you are rolling your eyes at three cup tofu and are looking for three cup chicken, click here, if you please. Take notes that it’s almost exactly the same recipe..


three cup tofu

The drier your tofu is to start with, the faster it will brown up.

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Finally, a recipe

I’m back from the (blogging universe) dead!

Today we had a busy day; it started out with my husband T not going to play airsoft outdoors because it was 25 degrees out, so he went to the gun range with his trusty friend K instead.

I had choir practice today until 4, then visited the new Penzey’s at the Bourse (Independence Hall East and Randstead)- my first time at a Penzey’s, ever! It was nice but I decided to stick to purchasing “Western” food spices, because some of the non-Western spices like Sichuan peppercorns, were not only much more expensive than I’m used to seeing, but not as high in quality. (They contained quite a few of those black crunchy seeds) My favorite aspect of the store was being able to smell all the different spices. Something that I actually would have preferred would be the ability to scoop out whatever amount you desire, instead of just buying previously portioned out amounts, like 1, 4, or 8 oz, etc. I bought 4 oz each of cayenne pepper and Hungarian paprika, and each was around $5. Not bad, considering they will last me a very long time.

If you are looking to buy spices, I have had good experiences with myspicesage.com. They also sell stuff including matcha powder (it’s from China, so I am a little skeptical- though it has good customer reviews), spinach powder, beet powder, and tons of other types of powders, if you want to use them to color your frostings naturally. Lots of spinach powder can actually make your food taste like matcha, strangely. I speak from experience- I used it to color the frosting on my mom’s wedding cake, and people were asking if the frosting was green tea!

I came home and had some chicken leftovers, but needed some vegetables. I had bought a big napa cabbage, and had soaked mushrooms already, so it was easy to think of what to make.

Braised Napa and Shiitake Mushrooms
Da bai cai xiang gu
Makes 2 hearty vegetable servings
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Taro-Coconut Tapioca Dessert (xi mi lu 西米露)

Things have been pretty busy around here! Practices for the Mendelssohn Club choir have begun, I’ve been to New York City and Staten Island just in this month, and we’ve started to pack for our move to a smaller but less expensive apartment. It’s been 5 years since I’ve lived at the same place for more than a year, so I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking from the pantry and freezer the month or month and a half before we have to move. Tim was also working late most of this past week (and got free breakfast/lunch/dinner), so I had no one to help me eat all the food!

Today, I pulled out some taro I had frozen a while back. Taro is another ingredient that freezes quite well.  So, the next time you see pretty taro in the grocery store, buy it, freeze up what you don’t use, then make this easy Chinese dessert soup. Even though I call it a soup, it’s thicker* than a soup but thinner than tapioca pudding or a custard. You should totally make this dessert because it only requires using one pot! The version I make is not super sweet, and doesn’t skimp on taro or coconut milk taste. I hope you will try it out sometime 🙂 My neighbors had it- the parents loved it, but the 3 and 10 year olds had one spoonful each and decided they didn’t like it at all! Hopefully y’all will enjoy it like the parents did. Oh yeah! I also made this for our pastor’s ordination ceremony in a huge 16 or 20 quart pot, and there was none left at the end. :d

xi mi lu ximilu

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Homemade Soy Milk (dou jiang 豆漿)

Growing in southern California, I definitely took soy milk sources for granted. When I talk about soy milk, I mean the kind that made from just soybeans and water. I am not referring to soymilk like Silk, which adds carrageenan (for thickening) and “natural flavor”.

At 99 Ranch Market, a huge Chinese grocery store chain, there would be a few types of soy milk from local stores, and you could buy it in half gallons in the sweetened or plain varieties (we always bought plain, then added our own sugar). You could get hot or cold soy milk as part of a Taiwanese breakfast. My dad also went through phases of making soymilk. He would buy big bags of soybeans from Smart and Final to make oodles of soymilk. Eventually, he decided that he craved soymilk enough to invest in a soymilk machine. I sometimes wondered why he would make it, when we could buy it from the store!

Now that I’m older and enjoy drinking (plain, even! *gasp*) soy milk even more, plus the fact that soybeans are really inexpensive, I see more eye to eye with my dad on making soymilk. Another incentive is that the soymilk I make won’t have carrageenan or natural flavoring in it.

Also, for some math: I got some (organic) soybeans for $1.53/lb. For one batch of soymilk (Depending on your preference of thickness), it requires 1 cup of soybeans, which costs roughly 67 cents. Not bad, right? Read on to make EASY homemade soy milk!

Soy Milk dou jiang
Soy milk and Pepper wanting to be famous

Soy Milk

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Kohlrabi Fritters

I’m sure you have seen these “alien” looking fruit at the grocery store. Raw, they taste kind of sharp or peppery like turnips or radishes, with a crunchy texture. Cooked, the taste is a bit mellowed out.

I first received kohlrabi in my CSA with Highland Orchards (though have now switched to Lancaster Farm Fresh, which I prefer for its variety). I tried them raw, but for some reason wasn’t a bit fan of the raw taste. I know others enjoy it raw, so maybe I will go back to trying it uncooked someday. Until then, however, I look forward to kohlrabi because I can make fritters!

To me, these fritters taste like a cross between latkes and Chinese turnip cake, or luo buo gao (萝卜糕), both of which I really like. Just like latkes, I think these would taste delicious with sour cream or applesauce, but Tim and I have just been eating them with Carla Goncalves’ amazing Piri Piri sauce, which she kindly gifted us with for our wedding. (quick back story: Carla and her husband, David, used to own a Portuguese restaurant called KooZeeDoo which is now closed, but David is the exec chef at Morgan’s Pier as of May 1! Carla does desserts for Sunday brunch, and Carla is a pastry wizard, in my opinion)

Kohlrabi Fritters
Makes 8 mediumish fritters
inspired by http://www.acouplecooks.com/2013/01/kohrabi-fritters-with-avocado/ and http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/kohlrabi-carrot-fritters-recipe Continue reading

Zucchini and hazelnut salad

For the past birthdays and Christmases, my mom has been getting me cookbooks. This year, my mom got me Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi for my birthday. Thanks, mommy!

I am sick at home and wanted something easy to make. I feel very blessed to have so many generous co-workers who share their spring and summer bounty with me. Terry gave us two pounds of gorgeous and plump asparagus, which we ate in the form of shaved asparagus, and steamed with fried egg.

This past week, my co-worker Patti gifted me with a beautiful bag of large-leafed, plump basil, and a gorgeous mix of greens including green and red leaf lettuces and Tuscan kale. Oh, and spring onions, too! My boss got a mix of lettuces from another co-worker, and we have dubbed these kindly folks our farmer fairies. Sounds about right.

My first instinct when Patti handed me the lovely basil was to buy tomato and mozzarella to eat with our lovely extra-virgin olive oil from Los Olivos, CA, but my second thought was to try to use up what we had.  I remembered that we have a stockpile of hazelnuts from Costco in the freezer, as well as zucchini that needed to be used up. Aha, Yotam, thanks for saving the day!

The combination of the semi-licoricey basil, toasty hazelnuts, and juicy zucchini…is quite something. What a great way to use up lots of basil!

Zucchini and hazelnut salad

adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi
serves 1 generously

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Black Bean Burgers, Cabbage Slaw and French Fries

“Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart,
the more you eat the more you fart,
the more you fart the better you feel,
So eat your beans with every meal”

Besides the catchy song, there are three reasons Tim and I eat beans:
1) We like how they taste
2) They have lots of fiber- think digestion and fullness level! 🙂
3) They are less expensive than meat per serving

I wouldn’t compare the texture of these black bean burgers to that of hamburgers, but they are quite tasty! They remind me of the solid and toasty form of black bean soup.

Black Bean Burgers
There ARE buns beneath the black bean burger and avocado..

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Chinese Chives Scrambled Eggs – Jiu Cai Chao Dan

When I was in Taiwan on vacation, we stayed at the 台北國軍英雄館 (Taipei Hero Hotel) while we were in Taipei. The rooms are affordable and location is great because it’s within minutes (walking) to Ximending, a popular shopping/market area.

Anyway, there was a breakfast buffet that came with the room rate (otherwise it was something like 2 USD…what a steal!), and there would be a lady making fried eggs and scrambled eggs with lo2bo1gan1, or salted radishes. I had both egg options on 2 separate days. These pictures were clearly taken during some of my first days in Taiwan there, because I got greedy then realized it would be wiser to save room for lunch and goodies..

Taipei Hero Hotel Buffet

Taipei Hero Hotel Buffet

Hongdoutang- the only not so good item, because it was not cooked for long enough for the soup to get ‘sandy’!

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Marinated Tofu Liang2Ban4Dou4Fu

Saturday and Sunday lunches in my family were usually pretty sui2bian4, or whatever, because of activities or church right before. In our family, this dish was almost always an accompaniment to xi1fan4, juk, 稀飯, rice porridge, or whatever you want to call it. I guess we liked the combination of hot xifan and cold doufu (豆腐) together! Nowadays, I don’t eat xifan as much, but I still love this marinated doufu almost any time. It’s easy to make because the shelf life of most of the ingredients is pretty long! 

is probably one of my dad’s favorite impromptu dishes, because I always
remember seeing him open a package of tofu out of the fridge to make this.
Aside: What’s the best way to get tofu out of the box? Use a knife (the one you are currently using to prep your ingredients, preferably), and make 3 slices along the rectangular box that the tofu comes in. Peel off the plastic covering, and dump the tofu onto an expectantly clean hand or bowl. Use the tofu box to store your cut-up tofu. There is no other way! 

Anyway, my dad loves garlic, so you can bet that there would always be LOTS of garlic in any dish he made that called for garlic.
Sometimes we would have green onions in the house, sometimes not. I prefer it with!

Marinated Tofu

Kosher salt

1 package soft tofu (firm and silken could also work in a pinch)
1-2 thousand year old eggs (pi2dan4 皮蛋),sliced in half then in quarters (optional if you can’t find it or if you don’t like it)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Soy sauce
Preserved turnip (zha4cai4 榨菜) – 2-3 tsp, minced (optional)
Dried shrimp, finely chopped and sauteed in some oil- 2-3 tsp, minced (optional)
Dried Pork (rou4song1 肉鬆)- 2-3 tsp, added at the last minute (optional)

1-2 stalks green onions, diced or minced (optional)
1-2 sprigs cilantro, coarsely chopped (quite optional and not that authentic)

1) If you have time, carefully salt the soft tofu all around its sides, and let the excess water drain out. If you less time, use a clean kitchen towel or paper towel to gently squeeze the excess water. If you have even less time, just use the the tofu as is.

2) Add all the ingredients to the tofu. Salt generously- remember that tofu is pretty bland on its own, and that you are seasoning a huge chunk of it! Just a little soy sauce- not enough to make your tofu look brown, but just a little for more fermented goodness.

3) Mix everything together, and try not to pulverize the tofu so that it’s itty bitty chunks like cottage cheese..(someone in my family who will not be named used to do this, and it made me very sad..)

As always, feel free to adjust further for YOUR preference of salty/sesame oil/garlickyness. 
-American brands of tofu , like Nasoya, have odd specifications for tofu firmness. I remember getting what I thought was soft tofu, only to open the package and realize that the ‘soft’ tofu was a lot more like firm tofu than anything else.
-I like Nature’s Soy tofu because they are localish, claim non-GMO beans, and I know what to expect for tofu firmness. 
-Note the several different add-ins. Thanks, Mom, for the dried shrimp and dried pork suggestion!

I don’t know if I want to make this dish… 
spicy and pungent garlic nudges your tastebuds gently, and its trusty friend, the green
onion, lingers in the background. The 1000-year old egg has a fattiness
and creaminess to it that stars opposite the cleansing and light tofu.
-You know how people talk about ‘Chinese salads’ or ‘Asian salads’? That’s a myth. Most Chinese food is cooked; this is as close to you’ll get as a “salad,” as the garlic, green onion, and tofu are all ‘raw’!
-Don’t worry, 1000-year old doesn’t really mean that its been sitting for 1000 years. Its texture is similar to that of a medium-boiled egg, but it’s much more bold tasting than a ‘regular’ egg. 

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