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Archive for April, 2012

After I gave birth, my neighbor Liling brought over food, including a side of broccolini.  We are a house of broccoli lovers, especially Rice Kernel.  (In one of his favorite books, The Berenstein Bears’ Go Out To Eat, he never understands why Mama Bear has a hard time getting her cubs to order and eat their broccoli.)  But as much as we enjoy and cook broccoli, we often neglect its cousin, broccolini, which has similar, but subtedly different, texture and taste profiles. 

Much more tender and slightly peppery with none of broccoli’s cabbage-like flavor, broccolini is a more elegant vegetable.  It is a hybrid cross between broccoli and Chinese gai lan (also known as Chinese broccoli).  It has long, slender, juicy green stalks with tiny clusters of florets and is less fibrous than broccoli.  So there’s no peeling of the stalk necessary here!  This is a simple recipe to serve as a side dish – you can add a dash of red wine vinegar – or top with some toasted breadcrumbs for flavor and crunch.

Garlicky Broccolini

Ingredients

2 pounds Broccolini (about 4 bunches)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Broccolini and cook until bright green and barely crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  2. In a very large skillet, heat the olive oil with the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to high, add the Broccolini and toss to coat with the oil. Add the reserved cooking water and toss occasionally, until the Broccolini is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and transfer to a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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It’s Easter weekend.  In years’ past, we’ve organized Easter egg hunts around the neighborhood.  But with the growing number of kids on the block and a 7-week in tow, it’s the last thing on my mind.  This year, we’re joining some friends in a city Easter egg hunt put on by Rice Kernel’s favorite people: firemen.

Ham is always traditional for Easter.  But it’s just going to be the four of us this year and no one wants to be left with ham for a whole week.  To keep some ham on the menu though, this recipe infuses scant chunks of salty, delicious meat throughout a hash of sweet, fresh corn and crunchy, mild cabbage.  It’s perfect as a side on Easter – or as a use-up for that leftover roast in the days to come.

Cabbage, Corn and Ham

Ingredients

2 ears corn, shucked
1 head cabbage
1/2 – 1 cup diced ham

Directions

  1. In a skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Brown ham for 3-4 minutes, until carmelized.  Stir halfway to prevent burning.
  2. Add corn and cabbage and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, until vegetables are wilted but still have some crunch.  Serve immediately.

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Beautiful, fiber-rich eggplant.  Underused in our house, but appreciated by my Dad and FHE very much.  I can’t get Rice Kernel to eat it, no matter what I do to dress it up or conceal it.  (When eggplant is on the menu, I do what I swear I’ll never do - cook Rice Kernel a separate dish, usually broccoli or a cucumber salad.)  As for myself, eggplant needs a lot of flavor for me to enjoy (and overlook the texture!).  This is a recipe the adults always appreciate.  Best served with white rice, you can add some extra flavor to the rice by cooking it in chicken stock and/or coconut milk (equal parts).

Spicy Eggplant Tofu

1 tbsp chili sauce (any Asian brand you like – I’ve found some organic ones at a local Japanese market)
1 tsp sugar or honey (or more to taste)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil
10 oz tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
3 red chiles, cored, seeded and cut into very thin slices
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into triangles or squares
4 Asian eggplants, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Salt or soy sauce, to taste

Additional vegetables of your choice (I used a few leaves each of bok choy and napa cabbage)

 
  1. In a bowl, mix chili sauce, sugar, and sesame oil; set aside.
  2. Heat tbsp olive oil in a large pan or nonstick wok over medium-high heat. Sauté tofu about 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan.
  3. Reduce heat to low and add remaining tbsp olive oil, garlic, and chiles; sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and eggplant. Raise heat to medium. Stir-fry 10 minutes, flipping eggplant after 5 minutes to cook on each side. Add oyster sauce mixture; stir well. Add tofu to pan and mix. Serve with rice.

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One of my favorite and easiest dump cake recipes is this one, a coconut mochi cake recipe.  But it is a bit heavy, with two cans of coconut milk and a stick of butter.  This recipe is far lighter, but just as addicting for the mochi-lovers in our family.  At room temperature, the cake takes on its characteristic chewiness.  When it’s warm, it’s softer and slightly gooey.  While it will keep a few days, it is best eaten within a couple of days as the mochi will become harder.  To reheat, simply toast in the oven for a few minutes.

Note: We happened to have some red bean paste in the fridge (also long overdue), but I’m beginning to wonder if a similar-textured substitute could be used.  Peanut butter anyone?

Red Bean Mochi Cake

Ingredients

1 lb sweet/glutinous rice flour (Mochiko)
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups milk (or water)
1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 – 1 cup red bean paste (storebought or homemade)

Directions

  1. Mix together all the ingredients except the red bean paste.  Stir in the red bean paste.  Bak at 350 degrees in a 9 x 13 pan or 2 loaf pans for 45 min – 1 hour.  Cake is done when you can insert a knife cleanly

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Rice Kernel loves sausage.  At one particular eatery, all he knows to order is pasta with chicken apple sausage.  It’s not something I buy often, but sausage is something that Rice Kernel and FHE are happy to see on the menu.  This is a lightened version of a breakfast/brunch favorite using chicken sausage and a mix of vegetables, including peppery arugula.  Think your toddler won’t eat arugula?  Just mix it with a bite of custard-soaked bread and savory sausage.

Arugula and Chicken Sausage Strata

Ingredients

Custard

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Bread & filling

  • 4 cups whole-grain bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1/2 pound, 4-6 slices)
  • 5 cups chopped arugula
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas and/or corn
  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken sausage, (5 ounces)
  • 3/4-1 cup shredded cheese, your choice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat an 11×7 glass baking dish or 2-quart casserole with cooking spray.
  2. To prepare custard: Whisk egg whites, eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper.
  3. In a pan set over medium-high heat, cook onions for 3-4 minutes.  Add sausage and cook until brown.  Toss in frozen vegetables and heat through.  Then fold in arugula.  Cook until slightly wilted.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine bread with vegetables and meat. Add the custard and toss well to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and push down to compact. Cover with foil.
  5. Bake until the custard has set, 40 to 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and continue baking until the pudding is puffed and golden on top, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

To prepare ahead of time, assemble through through step 4; refrigerate overnight. Let stand at room temperature while the oven preheats. Bake as directed.

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