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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

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

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 https://hotcheapeasy.wordpress.com/?s=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 nytimes.com which inspired this dish. You will note David Tanis recommends free-range birds; I used organic thighs from Costco with very good result.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/06/dining/chicken-simmered-and-chilled-city-kitchen.html?_r=1&ref=citykitchen

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 http://sangleefarms.com/. 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.

Vegetables

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.

myPod: Edamame (soybeans in pods)

8 May

A beloved bean

Boiling up a bag of edamame is even easier than making ice pops, so you could say this is something of a lame thing to post about, but I’ve really been meaning to share my appreciation for this useful food item for a while now. And today, Mother’s Day, when it happened to save this mom a lot of trouble over dinner, seemed like the right time.

At under $3 per bag of frozen (even organic!) edamames make for a reasonably priced appetizer or T.V. snack for two to four people. Soybeans are full of fiber and anti-oxidants and contain no animal fats (but do contain those all-important omega-3 oils). They are tasty and quick to get on the table, and shelled, can replace lima beans (which I hate) and peas (which I quite like) in many recipes.

But what I really love about them is how companionable they are. They remind me of an leisurely, chatty evening shelling pigeon peas around a hurricane lamp in the mountains of Dominican Republic when I was doing a little humanitarian work. They remind me of dining at an Asian restaurant in San Juan with my dear, departed friend, Frances Borden, in the early days of our friendship.  They are how my son and I might start a meal…popping beans right out of the pod and into our mouths (and laughing when the beans shoot across the room instead), or how we might sit around watching the news with my parents, the pile of full pods getting lower and the pile of empty pods getting higher. Farmer Steve got Leandro to try the fresh garden peas we were picking at our C.S.A. last year, because they look like edamame pods.

So get a bag and keep it in the fridge for the next time you don’t know what to do for dinner and need to buy some time, or you want something more virtuous than chips to accompany your favorite show or a movie night.

Boil up a quart or so of water and add 1 lb. frozen edamame in the pods. When the water returns to the boil, cook for three minutes, drain and serve.

Leftover beans can be added to salads (including rice and pasta salads), stir-fries and soups.

Stir-fried Vegetables (Faster and better than ordering out)

2 Apr

Saturday lunch -crisp and light and zippy

When I am in the mood for some crunchy, spicy Asian vegetables, my first instinct is not to pick up the phone, but to open the refrigerator door.

I am forever buying virtuous items that I mean to use right away, but that slip into the deep recesses in of my mind and the even deeper recesses of the fridge. A good stir-fry is a way to use up just about any crunchy vegetable in a way that will bring the virtue right back (nothing should go to waist or waste!).

Such was the situation today, when my dad started pulling out vegetables for a raw salad, and my mom and I convinced him it would have more flair in a hot and spicy variation.

So we got to chopping and measuring and whisking and in very little time (about 20 minutes) we were crunching and nodding and going for seconds. While there is a place in every household for Chinese takeout menus, it is so easy to make your own, without the gelatinous goopiness that passes for brown sauce, that this is really worth making part of your repertoire. I can see tossing in some peeled shrimp just as the vegetables have cooked in the first step….on this occasion, my dad seasoned and sauteed strips of chicken breast separately as the vegetables were cooking, rather than incorporate the chicken. As a result, the chicken played a gentle counterbalance to the sizzle of the vegetables.

Here’s what we did (adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Stir-Fried Broccoli)

Stir-fried vegetables in brown sauce (serves four for a light meal or as a side)

A:

1/2 Cup low sodium vegetable broth

2 Tbs dry white wine (or dry sherry, if you’ve got)

4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 tsp olive oil (or one toasted sesame oil)

2 tsp cornstarch

2 tsp Thai chili sauce (can be increased, depending on your sauce AND your tolerance for hot and spicy; the one we used is already prepared as a marinade, so is sweet. If you use straight Thai chili – like a sambal – it could be stronger!)

B:

6 cloves garlic, minced (you can play with this proportion, especially if your chili sauce has a lot of garlic)

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

2 tsp vegetable oil

C:

2 Tbs vegetable oil

2-2.5 lbs mixed stir-fry vegetables, cut into ¾ inch pieces (we used onions, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, red peppers, green peppers, but you can play around with this!)

½ tsp sugar

Whisk ingredients in A (broth, wine, soy sauce, olive/sesame oil, cornstarch and chili sauce) in a small bowl. In another small bowl, mix up ingredients in B (garlic, pepper flakes, and 2 tsp vegetable oil).

Now for the ingredients in C. Heat the remaining two Tbs 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 the garlic mixture (B), stir to heat, then mix with the vegetables. Add vegetable broth mixture (A) and stir for a bit less than a minute, or until warmed and the sauce gets a bit thicker. Serve with rice.

 

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