Archive for September, 2011

Luscious Spanish Rice

This is a simple and flavorful recipe for Spanish rice, a favorite in our family.  It is prepared by browning the rice first with onions and garlic, before cooking it in rich chicken stock and tomato.  The browning is essential to the nutty flavor of the rice.  While Elise at Simply Recipes says you can use chicken bouillon to flavor the cooking liquid, nothing will add the depth and richness of homemade stock.  Don’t let its simple appearance fool you – this side dish can certainly stand alone.  But, if you know us well, it’s usually a side to be served alongside fajitas or pulled meat, vegetables, and some spicy refried or whole beans.  Yup, that’s what for dinner tonight.

Spanish Rice adapted slightly from Simply Recipes


2 tbsp – 1/4 cup olive oil (you determine how much oil you wish to add)
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic clove, minced
2 cups of medium or long-grain white rice
3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if vegetarian)
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste or 1 cup of diced fresh or cooked tomatoes, strained
Pinch of oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 chili pepper, minced (optional)


  1. In a large skillet brown rice in olive oil, medium/high heat.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook onion rice mixture, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes, or until onions are softened.  (If using chili pepper, add now.)
  2. In a separate sauce pan bring stock to a simmer.  Add tomato sauce, oregano, bay and salt.  Add rice to broth.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover.  Lower heat and cook 15-25 minutes, depending on the type of rice and the instructions on the rice package.  Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Note:  I find that a rice cooker also works well.  Simply place the toasted rice/onions in the rice cooker and add tomatoes, stock, etc.  Set it and forget it!

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Is soup, by itself, dinner-worthy?  I think so.  FHE might beg to differ.  Rather, he might turn to me 2 hours later and say, “I really want a burger.  Or pizza.  Or sushi.  Or meeeaattt.”  I chuckle, offer him fruit, and kindly remind him that (1) I’m cooking and (2) the only place open is fast food and that’s not going to sit well for his 5 a.m. training session. 

This soup is definitely dinner-worthy.  Or lunch-worthy.  Or breakfast-worthy.  It is creamy, sweet, and smooth – but sinful only in description and title.  Made with a base of flavorful chicken stock and reduced-fat milk, there are chunks of sweet potato, fresh corn, sweet onions, smooth white fish, and a touch of warm heat from the cayenne.  I thought FHE would casually suggest a few strips of crumbled bacon but, in fact, we all thought it was perfect as is.  This soup will be making plenty of future appearances.

Lightened Corn and Fish Chowder, adapted from Cooking Light


3 ears of fresh corn, husked and silks removed
1-15 ounce can cream corn
1-2 medium potatoes (I use sweet potatoes), diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups reduced-fat milk
1 cup homemade or store-bought chicken stock (or omit and use 3 cups milk)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 chopped onion, chopped
2 cups white fish, chopped (uncooked) or chopped roasted, skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 tsp cayenne
Ground black pepper, and salt to taste
Cheddar cheese, for garnish
3 scallions, sliced, for garnish
3 slices bacon (optional), for garnish


  1. If using bacon, fry the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove from the pan, leaving the drippings, and set aside.
  2. Place the potatoes and onions into the stock pot and cook over medium heat until the onions have softened, 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
  4. Pour in the milk, chicken stock, cream-style corn, thyme, cayenne, salt, and pepper, stirring well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add corn and fish/chicken. Cook over low heat until heated through, about 5 minutes. Garnish with scallion, bacon, and cheddar cheese.

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Wheat-Oat-Flax Buns

While our entire family is in love with the lighter brioche bun, I came across this whole grain bun recipe that the grain lover in me had to try.  There’s no denying the satisfaction of a mostly-white flour bun, but this beautiful wheat, oat, and flaxmeal recipe is pretty darn good for a whole grain alternative.  Now, I have to admit, FHE was probably thinking “hockey puck” when he saw them emerge from the oven.  Truthfully, they don’t rise much and they are denser than other mostly-white rolls.  But you’ll be amazed by the result.  Soft, moist, and flavorful with a crunchy base, these are versatile enough as a stand-alone dinner roll or as a hamburger bun.  It might just convert whole wheat / whole grain haters in your family.  Might, I said. 

Wheat-Oat-Flax Buns, from King Arthur’s Flour 

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose or bread flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup (4 ounces) White Whole Wheat or Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup whole flax meal
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup canola oil or melted butter
1 large egg yolk, white reserved for topping
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 to 7/8 cup lukewarm water (start with 3/4 cup)


  1. Combine all the ingredients with 3/4 cup water.  (You may need less or more depending on how humid the environment is.)  Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes, to give the grains a chance to absorb some of the liquid.
  2. Then knead – by hand, stand mixer, or bread machine – to make a smooth, soft, elastic dough.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it’s risen.  (Mine did not rise noticeably but King Arthur Flour’s website says they should….) 
  4. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 12 pieces (about 72g each) and shape each one into a round ball.
  5. Use your fingers to pull and flatten each ball into a circle about 3″ across.
  6. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for about 90 minutes, until noticeably puffy.
  8. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  9. Next, take the egg white you reserved while making the dough, and whisk it with 2 tablespoons cold water.  Brush the buns with the egg white/water mixture.  Sprinkle with whole flax seeds or rolled oats, if desired.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes.  To keep their bottoms crisp, transfer them to a rack to cool.
  11. Buns freeze beautifully.

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Unanimously “yummy” in our house.  Why is there no picture of the burger, just the slaw, you ask?  Well, Rice Kernel and I ate first, as we often do on the weekdays.  When FHE came home, he cooked and gobbled up the remaining burgers before I could get my hands on them.  That’s proof this is worth a try! 

Asian Hamburger, adapted from Ming Tsai

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 cup scallions, white and green parts, cut 1 1/6 inch thick
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons naturally brewed soy sauce
Kosher salt to taste
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

  1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, salt, and pepper and mix lightly. Divide the mixture into 8 equal parts and roll each into a ball.
  2. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the burgers and cook until golden, 4 to 5 minutes.  Turn and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes.  Allow the burgers to rest for about 4 minutes.

Roasted Peanut Asian Slaw, adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

3 cups green cabbage, shredded (about half a small cabbage)
3 cups red cabbage, shredded (about half a small cabbage)
2 cups fresh vegetables (napa cabbage, bean sprouts, bell pepper strips, snow peas, shredded carrots)
1/4 cup green onions, minced
1 lime, segmented and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
Cilantro, optional
Sesame seeds, optional

1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 -1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

  1. In a large bowl, combine the cabbages, spinach, green onions and lime segments. Toss.
  2. In a small bowl or food processor, combine the oil, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, sesame oil, ginger, brown sugar and soy sauce.
  3. Toss the slaw with the dressing, season with freshly ground black pepper, and add the roasted peanuts.

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A minimalist dish that can hardly be considered a recipe.  This was a burst of freshness for the the remaining beans in our garden.

Green Beans with Lemon, from Mark Bittman


3 pounds green beans or snow peas, trimmed
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
3 lemons

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it (you may use the same water in which you blanched the potatoes); add the beans and cook until bright green and tender, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook.
  2. Drain the beans, then plunge them into a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking. When they’re cool, drain again. Zest the lemons and julienne or mince the zests. Juice the lemons.
  3. When you’re ready to serve, place the oil in a large skillet and turn the heat to medium high. Add the beans and cook, tossing or stirring, until they are hot and glazed with the oil, 3 to 5 minutes. Toss in a serving bowl with the lemon juice, top with the zest, and serve

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One of Rice Kernel’s favorite raw vegetables – peas from the pod.  He convinces my MIL or one of us to buy them by the poundful from the farmer’s market.  He doesn’t guzzle them with the enthusiasm he used to, so when the peas become slightly weepy in the fridge, this is one of my favorite (and most simple) use-ups.

Jasmine Rice with Fresh Peas and Lemon, from Epicurious


1 3/4 cups water (or stock)
1 1/4 cups jasmine rice, rinsed well, drained, or long-grain white rice (I use half brown and half white)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shelled fresh or frozen peas
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp grated lemon peel


  1. Combine 1 3/4 cups water, rice, and salt in large saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand covered 15 minutes. Fluff with fork. Cool.
  2. Cook peas in medium saucepan of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain. Rinse under cold water. Drain.  (Lazily, I often just steam them in the same skillet as step #3.)
  3. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add all but 2 tablespoons green onions; sauté 30 seconds. Add rice and sauté until heated through, stirring to break pieces, about 4 minutes. Add peas, lemon juice, parsley, and lemon peel. Sauté 2 minutes to blend flavors. Transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining green onions.

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This savory pork, shrimp, and vegetable filling is seasoned with ginger, garlic, and scallions – the most traditional filling for jiao zi.  My neighbor mentioned her family had been making these traditional dumplings with zucchini this summer.  I was skeptical at first but she was adamant they were delicious – and more nutritious.  In fact, the vegetable blends into the filling and is barely recognizable in taste or appearance.  Gound beef or lamb, both typical in northern Chinese cooking, can be substituted for the ground pork and shrimp. 

Why no pictures?  It was back-to-school night and I simply forgot….

For the filling
1 cups finely chopped napa cabbage (I used half napa and half shredded zucchini)
12 oz. ground pork
8 oz. peeled, deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry
1-1/2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. toasted Asian sesame oil
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
Wonton wrappers
To finish
Vegetable oil, as needed (for pan-fried dumplings)
Kosher salt, as needed (for boiled dumplings) 
1 recipe or Scallion-Soy Dipping Sauce, optional (below)

In a medium bowl, toss the cabbage with 1 tsp. salt and set aside for 30 minutes to shed moisture. Wring out in a clean kitchen towel to extract as much liquid as possible.  (If using zucchini, wring out the zucchini to extract most of the liquid.)

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage with the pork, shrimp, scallions, garlic, Shaoxing, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Stir until well mixed. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Spoon 1 to 2 tsp. of the filling onto a dough circle, fold it in half, and then if you’re going to boil the dumplings, seal it by pinching along the curved edge. If you’re planning to pan-fry the dumplings for pot stickers, make your first pinch at the center of the curved edge and then pleat toward the center on both sides to create a rounded belly. This wider shape allows the dumplings to sit upright in the pan and form a flat surface for browning.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. As you work, arrange the filled dumplings in a single layer without touching on large plates, so they don’t stick together.

To cook: either boil the dumplings…Bring a large (7- to 8-quart) pot of salted water to a boil. Working in 2 or 3 batches to avoid overcrowding, quickly add the dumplings one at a time, making sure they don’t stick to each other. Lower the heat to medium and continue to boil, gently stirring occasionally, until the wontonsfloat and are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve immediately with your choice of dipping sauce.
…or pan-fry the dumplings Heat 2 Tbs. vegetable oil in a heavy-duty 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working quickly and in batches if necessary (adding more oil for the second batch if needed), arrange the dumplings belly side down in concentric circles starting from the outer edge. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in about 1/2 cup water or enough to come about a third of the way up the sides of the dumplings, bring to a boil, cover, and cook until all of the water has been absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking just until the dumplings are dry and crisp on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Loosen the dumplings from the pan with a spatula. Invert the pan over a plate to flip the dumplings, browned side up, onto the plate (or transfer with a spatula). Serve immediately with your choice of dipping sauce. 
Make-Ahead Dumplings can be frozen (raw).  Do not thaw before cooking.

Ginger-Scallion Dipping Sauce

3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. hot chile oil or toasted Asian sesame oil
1 1-2 inch slice ginger, minced
1 small scallion, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and then stir in the oil and scallion.

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