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Bok Choy, Carrot and Ginger Soup (just chop and simmer)

25 Oct

This was one of those late-season, gotta use up some veggies because tomorrow is another C.S.A. pick up, type of recipes that came together so quickly and made everyone so happy that I have to share it, even though it is embarrassingly easy and yes, I used a stock cube because I was out of chicken stock and my found veggie stocks didn’t seem the right flavor for this.

My parents went wild for this delicate soup.

My parents went wild for this delicate soup.

Bok Choy (Brassica rapa, Chinensis group) is also called chinese white cabbage and pak toi or variations thereof. There are also different varieties within this group; the one we get from Restoration Farm has kind of a bulb-like bottom (like fennel), wide stalks like chard, and green leaves like wings on either side. Look for firm yet tender stems and glossy, spot-free leaves. It is very versatile for salad, fried rice, stir fry and the like.

We loved this soup because it was so delicate and yet clearly expressed the flavors of the vegetables, the ginger, and the sesame oil. You can remove the ginger slices if you like; we didn’t. A couple of shrimp or shredded beef would not go astray here either! Done in a flash and ever so delicious!

I find this bok choy soup kind of pretty!

I find this bok choy soup kind of pretty!

Bok Choy Carrot and Ginger Soup (serves 4 as an appetizer; 2 as a very light main course)

4 Cups chicken or vegetable stock (or a stock cube and 4 Cups water)

1 knob ginger, roughly peeled and sliced in thin rounds

1-2 heads bok choy, bottom sliced off, separated and carefully washed*

½ Cup onion, sliced into half moons

2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias

¼-1/2 tsp sesame oil

½ – 1 tsp soy sauce (low sodium, if using commercial stock)

Place all ingredients in a soup pot. Add liquid to cover, if necessary. Bring just to a boil, lower heat immediately and simmer until vegetables are tender.

*My mom prefers the bok choy sliced smaller, but my dad and I like it whole. My son thinks it’s a joke that we would even suggest he try it.


Garlicky Ginger Chicken in a Skillet

10 Feb

It’s been a relatively lazy weekend, by which I mean relative to the insanity that is modern American family life: two days of catechism, basketball, LEGO class, church, and a movie. Even a visit to the barber! Plus catching up on laundry, cleaning, and of course, making meals and then washing up after them. (is it any wonder that I slept through a significant portion of the LEGO movie today? At the premium 3-D price, no less.)

Steamy in the skillet

Steamy in the skillet

But nevermind all that; I turned in my latest story for edible Long Island during the week and I don’t have any immediate deadlines for journalism or for my academic life – all grants and travel request forms and registrations and contracts have been taken care of. My grading is up-to-date and my lessons are prepped for the week (fellow educators will immediately understand how nice that feels).

So there was time to read with my son, make hot cocoa, watch some of the Winter Olympics together (the biathlon is so far my favorite), to catch up with some dear friends on the phone late into the night, read a bit for myself, simply stare into space. It was somewhat disconcerting.

A lighter view

A lighter view

None of which has much to do with this easy new dish that I put together this evening. It was a half hour in the making: the chicken and veg were done almost exactly when the rice was ready. It has a bit of Asian seasoning, which is a nice change-up from our mostly Latin and Italian flavors. You can spice it up a bit more; just watch the salt if you are using prepared sauces or don’t have low sodium soy sauce! Continue reading

A Natural Mosquito Repellent? We test it.

21 Jul

The mosquitoes have been rabid this year; in my neighborhood we now have daytime mozzies (for which we are once again blaming someone else — this time it’s the Asians because we are calling them Asian tigers (Aedes albopictus if you would like the scientific name). Kind of reminds me of the French pox, the Spanish flu, the German measles. We love to throw other nations under the bus for our epidemics, so ATTENTION INTERNATIONAL READERS: please let us know what plagues you blame on the Americans (particularly whether you actually name them the American something! I may be opening myself up for quite an onslaught, but I hope to be amused!)

Anyhoo,a friend on Facebook posted a suggestion for repelling mosquitoes from the I Hate Mosquitoes FB page. You are meant to stud halved limes with cloves. I always have both ingredients around and they looked very pretty in the picture, so I was all over this idea. The theory is that they are repelled by citrus, which seems reasonable enough, I guess!

I finally got around to trying it while staying last week at the waterfront Greenport home of Vincent and Carolyn Macchirole. The mosquitoes drove us away from the lovely seating area on their dock one dusk, so the next night we sliced and studded limes and laid them around the table. And the result?

It looks very pretty, but is it an effective mosquito repellant?

It looks very pretty, but is it an effective mosquito repellant?


Continue reading

Curried Cauliflower (Aloo Gobi without the aloo, or is it without the gobi? I forget)

29 Oct

(About to lose power! So let me post this quickly and wish us luck during Hurricane Sandy!)

I saw one of those manager’s specials at the local supermarket recently – a styrofoam and plastic wrap missile loaded with a pound cauliflower florets for about 99 cents, so I grabbed it impulsively, intentionally forgetting that cauliflower is not yet on my son’s List of Acceptable Vegetables. I can easily eat a pound of cauliflower on my own, I thought, if I don’t try to do it all in one day.

Cauliflower in the pot with spices

Then, a day or two later, there was the cauliflower, looking at me rather expectantly, mournfully, accusatory-like from its tightly wrapped package, while I prepared other vegetables from Leandro’s List of Acceptable Vegetables. We know the manager doesn’t put vegetables on special if they are at their peak of freshness, so the cauliflower needed doing before it fell off Natalia’s List of Acceptable Vegetables. Continue reading

Easy Stir-Fried Rice (with the secrets for tasty, good-looking egg bits!)

25 Sep

I have always loved stir-fried rice, but as I’ve gotten older, I am less and less satisfied with the greasy stuff at the Chinese takeaway. And as I’ve gotten older, I cook more meals and therefore have more bits and bobs laying around getting ugly in the fridge. You know, half an onion here, a bit of cold rice there, some veggie bits that aren’t quite enough for one serving on their own, but make a pretty good pile if thrown together. And I always have eggs.

Just pour the lightly beaten egg in and leave it cook on medium.

Stir-fry, therefore, is perfect. It uses everything up (virtue), fulfills my veggie quota (more virtue), and gives us a vacation from my usual seasonings to go more Asian (variety). And now that I know the easy secret of how to get the egg bits looking and tasting great, well I think I am positively gourmet. It’s already vegetarian; vegans can skip the eggs and pan-sear super-firm tofu instead. Continue reading

Cold Rice Noodle Salad with Creamy Tahini

17 Jun

Rice noodles are cool. They start out all stiff and fragile and white and, after just three minutes in boiling water, they turn glassy and soft and a bit sticky. I love their texture and their look, and they remind me of a beloved Filipino chicken and noodle recipe my mom used to make when we were kids, one she got from a very dear Filipino friend.

My son loves them plain; he has taken to burying the fresh peas from our garden under a pile of noodles and carrying on all sorts of conversations with pretend characters as they make their way to his mouth. I am sure there is a whole chapter in the Bad Mommy Handbook about the evils of letting kids play with their food, but I can’t bring myself to care. The last thing I want is for the dinner table– perhaps the last bastion of real family life left to us all — to become a battlefield.

So he plays with his plain rice noodles and peas (“Oh no, don’t let him find me!” says the pea. “I am going to eat you!” says the evil bad guy, played by my son) while I play around with making cool dressings for the part I want to eat.

This one was inspired by Lindsey at Makes and Takes and I modified to suit our tastes and what was available in our garden and pantry. You will note that I used Veganaise – this was a salad my dad promised to try (yes, he is still on his crazy ass diet, but he is not so militant anymore and for this Father’s Day he was downright anarchic), so I used the vegan mayonnaise as a consideration. It’s actually fine for things like this.

You’ll also notice the pea pod option. Leandro eats the peas from the garden, but not the pods (yet), so I took the pods he was emptying and added them. They are unbelievably sweet and crunchy right off the vine and fit right in with the other stuff.

Cold Rice Noodle Salad with Radish, Cucumber, Pea Pods, and Creamy Tahini Dressing


8 oz. rice noodles, prepared according to package directions and cooled.

5 small radishes, greens removed and cut into tiny matchsticks (about 2 Tbs)

¼ hothouse cucumber, cut into tiny matchsticks (about 2 Tbs)

(optional – a handful of peapods – peas removed – cut into tiny matchsticks; microgreens; toasted sesame seeds, matchstick carrots)


2 Tbs mayonnaise or Veganaise

1 tsp rice vinegar

½ tsp sugar

2 generous Tbs tahini

1-2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced fine

Sriracha or other Asian hot sauce, to taste (I did one generous squeeze)

¼ salt or to taste

Mix salad ingredients together in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Add dressing to bowl mix thoroughly, adjust seasoning, and serve.

Asian-Inflected Steak and Asparagus Bites

6 Feb

I was looking for organic steak at Fairway Market in Plainview – one of my favorite places to shop for higher-end yet still reasonably-priced staples like Spanish chorizo, olive oils, tomato in cans, organic eggs — but instead found an irresistible deal:  U.S.D.A. prime hanger steak for $6.99 a pound. The prime designation means a higher quality of steak with loads of marbling (yes, fat) and virtuous me didn’t stand a chance against cheapskate bloodthirsty carnivorous me, so I bought 1.5 lbs and started to plan.

My friend Ashley was coming over, so I knew I’d have some support staff for child care AND prep, so I chose to do something I’ve been hankering after for weeks: Asian-flavored steak with asparagus. It is just slightly labor-intensive, but a show-stopper and I really should have given it to you earlier as a Super Bowl option, but better late than never.

We did half the meat that night, after the little guy was down (with a belly full of pizza and a promise of steak the next day). Must confess, once the pretty pictures were taken, we heaped all of the bites haphazardly on a plate, each grabbed a fork, and fell in like starving raptors from the Cretaceous Period.

The rest – two small steaks — I cooked whole the following evening on the broiler at our friend, Pam’s, without the asparagus (Yes, Leandro got his!). They were just as tasty, but almost 24 hours in the marinade did leave them almost too tender. The following recipe can be jiggled; use the greater amount of asparagus if you want to do all of the steak in wraps.

Anyhooo, I will be doing these the next time I entertain. I hope you will too!

Asian steak and asparagus bites

(factor in minimum marinating time of 30 minutes)

3 cloves garlic, minced fine

2 inch of ginger, peeled indifferently, and grated (about 1.5 packed Tbs; add more to taste)

2 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbs rice vinegar

4 Tbs soy sauce

1 – 1.5 lbs hanger steak (or other fairly thin, tender boneless cut)

1 – 2 lbs asparagus spears, washed, woody stems snapped off, and chopped into 2-inch pieces

Mix all ingredients except meat in a plastic freezer bag or a bowl. Add steak, coat thoroughly and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Reserving marinade, slice marinated steak ACROSS THE GRAIN* into thin slices and then cut the slices into strips suitable for wrapping artfully or not so artfully around asparagus spears. Lay steak and asparagus bites onto an oven rack with a catch dish underneath. Pour remaining marinade over and salt to taste. Cook for 5 minutes on each side (7-8 for well done) and serve.

*Cutting steaks across the grain cuts through the fibers that hold the muscles together and shortens them so the meat can barely hold together, thus, tenderness. This is especially necessary with my favorite muscle-y cuts: skirt steak (churrasco), flank steak and hanger steak. When raw, you will see natural lines across the meat. Slice against them (at a 90° angle, if I have understood Kenji at Food Lab (Serious Eats) correctly).

Two-fer Tuesday: Chickpea and Tahini II and Balsamic Dressing for Tomatoes

30 Aug


Sometimes it just takes a little change to make a big difference in flavor. Here are two quickie recipes — one a salad and one a dressing for those crazy seasonal tomatoes that you no longer know what to do with  — that are variations on stuff I do regularly, but with a new ingredient that updates it, keeps it from getting stale.

In the chickpea and tahini salad, I add ginger and soy sauce to my basic tahini dressing for a slightly Asian flavor. For the dressing, I use balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar as well as a dash of agave nectar; a little sweetness harmonizes with sweet seasonal tomatoes, but also mellows out their acidity.

These can be done in a flash and will complement any summer meal or be a light dinner in themselves with some crusty bread.

Chickpea and Tahini Salad II

1 Tbs lemon juice

1 Tbs tahini

1 tsp soy sauce

1 28oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs red onion (a quarter of a medium red onion), sliced thin

1 Tbs cilantro

1 tsp grated ginger

Mix or whisk lemon juice, tahini and soy sauce together in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix well.

Balsamic dressing for tomatoes

1-2 Tbs Balsamic vinegar (I prefer less)

8 Tbs olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

½ tsp agave nectar

Salt to taste (start with a pinch – 1/8 tsp and work from there)

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and pour over tomatoes in whatever quantity you like. Sliced red onion goes very well. You can serve with mozzarella and basil as a caprese salad, or over pasta for a summer buffet dish, hot or cold. Dip crusty bread into the liquid….

Cool Off with Cold Chicken Chinois

10 Aug

The hot weather begs for cold chicken that you can really get your hands into.

This is yet another New York Times-inspired recipe for which I happened to have some — but not all – of the ingredients on hand so I had to adapt. I very much liked the Asian inflections in the chicken, but what I noticed most was how moist and tender the chicken stayed and how well it absorbed the flavors with the long, slow simmer. I will be trying the same technique with different seasonings in the cooking liquid in the very near future. In the meantime, do try the wrap idea at the bottom; we took it to the pool for a light evening meal and it was just the thing.

I simmered this one at night when the temperature had dropped, since it was going into the fridge for the next day anyway! Link to the original NYT article at the bottom!

Chilly Chicken Chinois

(factor in overnight refrigeration)

1 lb. boneless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper

1 two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thick

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1 star anise

2 scallions

Season the thighs generously with salt and pepper. Place in a heavy pot and add enough cold water to cover. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise and scallions. Bring to a gentle boil, scooping out any foam. Turn heat to very low, cover and simmer ever so gently for an hour.

Transfer the thighs to a bowl to cool. Skim the fat off the surface of the remaining liquid. Reduce the liquid by half over high heat (5-10 minutes), then strain it over the thighs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serving suggestions: Sprinkle with cilantro, slivered scallions and sesame oil. Or….

Quick chicken wrap ideas

Spread a wrap or your choice with mayonnaise. Add cucumber, sliced lengthwise, pieces of chicken, slivered scallions and cilantro. Add a sprinkle of lime/sesame oil and a drizzling of Asian Stir Fry Sauce roll up and serve.

You can do the same by substituting hummus and roasted vegetables for the mayo, stir-fry sauce and cucumber.

Article from which inspired this dish. You will note David Tanis recommends free-range birds; I used organic thighs from Costco with very good result.

Asian Stir Fry Sauce (this time with vegetables and your choice of noodles or rice)

27 Jul

One of my favorite prepared sauces comes from Sang Lee Farms in Cutchogue, on the North Fork of Long Island Their Asian Stir-Fry Sauce is all organic and adds incredible Asian pop to stir fry dishes, without the annoying cloying sweetness and goopiness of other seasonings in a bottle.

However, I run out of it pretty fast, so I am in the process of trying to recreate it at home. I haven’t quite got it, but this version is very yummy and does the job pretty damn well. When I hit exactly the combination I want, I will make larger batches, but for now, the amount in this recipe will season a couple of pounds of vegetables – enough for two to four people, depending on what you serve it with.

We used soba noodles (Leandro’s request, cause the curly noodles and Japanese writing on the package caught his eye and he absolutely loved them). We also had enough left over to drizzle over some cold chicken wraps I made the next day (and which will be the next post, haha!).

Do you make your own stir fry sauce? Please add your ideas in comments in this post!

Soba noodles make a worthy (and fun) accompaniment to stir fry veggies

Asian Stir-Fry Sauce

¼ Cup soy sauce or tamari (preferably low-sodium)

½ tsp crushed garlic

Scant ¼ tsp sesame oil

¼ tsp grated ginger

½ tsp lemon juice

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate overnight if possible.

When you are ready to cook the dish, begin preparing a cup or two of white rice or a package of soba noodles or other pasta of your choice, following package instructions.


2-2.5 lbs mixed stir-fry vegetables, cut into ¾ inch pieces (we used onions, carrots, some leftover chard stems and a beautiful purple pepper, all from Restoration Farm, plus broccoli from the supermarket)

Generous ½ tsp sugar

Heat the  vegetable oil in a 12 inch skillet with a heavy bottom, until just rippling and just beginning to smoke. Add vegetables and sprinkle the sugar over, coat with the oil and cook, stirring frequently, for about eight minutes, looking for caramelization on the vegetables. Lower the temperature to medium if you get a lot of sticking.

Push vegetables to the side and add a tablespoon of the stir-fry sauce , stir to heat, then mix with the vegetables. Add two to three more tablespoons as desired, being wary of making it too salty.

Serve over rice, noodles or pasta.

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