‘Shroom Insanity

December 30, 2007

I like mushrooms. A Lot.

I do know some people that hate mushrooms, I guess because of texture reasons. Some are legitimately allergic to them. But those of us that truly love mushrooms — that could eat obscene amounts of them in a single session — we’re a unique and proud bunch.

Mushrooms, those weird and wonderful fungi are not without their health benefits either. They’re very low in calories (as they are about 80 or 90 percent water) and high in fiber. They are naturally high in potassium as well as riboflavin and niacin, and especially high in selenium, a powerful antioxidant that is sort of a sidekick to Vitamin E that protects your body’s cells against free radicals which can cause cancer. Additionally, white button mushrooms, criminis and portabellas contain substances called aromatase inhibitors which prevent both prostate and breast cancer. Shiitakes contain Lentinan, which appears to stimulate the immune system and protects against flu and other infectious diseases, as well as suppress tumoral activity. Those of you that hate the ‘Shroom should take all of that under consideration.

In any case, health benefits aside, Rachel and I just love ‘Shrooms. So we were happy to find a dish out of the Reversing Diabetes Cookbook called Mushroom Madness that used a lot of them. We decided to improve this recipe a bit by amping up the Asian condiments and the garlic and ginger, and using even MORE mushrooms.

‘Shroom Insanity

2 Tbs. Soy Sauce, divided

1 tsp. of prepared Chinese Chili Paste

1 tsp. sesame oil

8 oz. of Pressed Tofu or “Soy Chicken” (or any Vegan meat substitute, such as Wheat Gluten), sliced

4 Cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 large thumb of Fresh Ginger, grated

6 cups sliced Mushrooms (We used Shiitakes, Enoki, King Oysters. But White Mushrooms, Portobella, Crimini, or any kind of edible mushroom in combination is good.)

1 bunch of green onions, whites and greens separated, chopped.

1 cup Bean Sprouts

1 can of water-packed Bamboo Shoot Tips, drained. If you can get fresh hearts of bamboo (like you can during the wintertime) even better.

6 Tbs. Broth (Chicken, Vegetable)

1 Tbs. Dry Sherry

1/2 Tbs. Oyster Sauce or Mushroom Oyster (Vegetarian) Sauce

1/2 Tbs. Hoisin Sauce

1/2 Tbs. Black Bean Sauce or Chinese Fermented Black Beans

1 tsp. Cornstarch

1 Tbs. Cold Water

Combine sesame oil, 1 tbs of Soy Sauce and chili paste in a container with a tight fitting lid. Add pressed tofu, shake evenly to coat. Marinate while preparing other ingredients (at least 10 minutes), shaking and inverting container 2 or 3 times. Remove tofu from marinade and drain.

Mix broth, sherry, 1 T of Soy Sauce, hoisin, oyster sauce and black bean paste in a small bowl and set aside. Mix cornstarch and water together in a small bowl.

Brush about 1 tsp sesame oil in hot wok (use a silicone basting brush, or use spray oil). Add scallion whites, cook until translucent. Add garlic and ginger. Add tofu, stir fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from wok.

Brush a little more oil on wok. Add mushrooms and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Pour in sherry/broth/condiment mixture, simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bean sprouts, bamboo shoots (unless they are the fresh ones, in which case, you should stir fry them with the ‘shrooms), cooked tofu, and most of the scallion greens, reserving some for garnish.

Pour cornstarch mixture into wok, stirring constantly until sauce has thickened.

Serve over brown rice and garnish with scallion greens, with steamed Chinese green vegetables on the side (Gai Lan, Choy Sum Chinese Bokchoy, Mustard Greens, etc) with a drizzle of Oyster Sauce.

The Wonderful World of Tofu

December 27, 2007

A Simple Stir-Fry of Seasoned Firm Pressed Tofu with Ground Chicken and Chopped Vegetables.

When one thinks of Vegetarian and Vegan cuisine, most carnivores immediately snicker and think of Tofu — those big tasteless blocks of soy protein. And knowing that I probably would now be eating a lot more of this stuff than I used to, I started researching what I could do to make this highly malleable and versatile ingredient into something tasty.

Tofu comes in a number of different forms — in its most unprocessed state, they are simply blocks of bean curd, which come in different firmness levels. Personally, I prefer to buy firm or extra firm tofu, because it can handle much more man-handling when cooking so it doesn’t completely fall apart. I also like to buy firm-pressed tofu that has been seasoned (usually with a Chinese five spice blend or smoked, giving it a flavor similar to ham) which I typically buy from Asian groceries. This is particularly useful in stir-fries where you want sort of a meaty texture to complement vegetables or small amounts of meat to be used as flavoring. A third form, and less known to Westerners, is dried bean curd skin. In Japanese cuisine this is known as Yuba. In its most unprocessed form, it comes as dried “sheets” which in turn can then be reconstituted to use as wrappers or even cut up as “noodles”.

Want to enter the wonderful world of Tofu? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Pomegranate: The Festive Fruit

December 22, 2007

It’s that won-derful time of the year — the time where everything is jingly and bright and lit up. Okay, maybe I don’t have Christmas decorations in my house due to my cultural background, but I still love the red and green ornamentation of the holiday season. And I like it even better in my food.

Pomegranate, a fruit extremely high in vitamin C, vitamin B, and high in antioxidants, is also great for sprucing up all sorts of meals, and not just salads. It’s also very decorative and adds a great acidic “punch” to dishes that are heavily protein and vegetable oriented — the kind of stuff that I am eating a lot of now.

Want to know what to do with the jewel of fruit? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Ch-Ch-Chhhaaaaanges (and Low-Carb Sides for Turkey Day)

November 20, 2007

I’m sure many of you have been wondering where all the delicious Off The Broiler posts have gone in the last month or so. While I could make a number of excuses about how my new job and my current consulting gig on Wall Street has limited my WordPress and stomach time, the reality is that as of about a month ago, for a number of reasons of a personal nature, I — along with my wife Rachel — underwent major lifestyle changes. I decided that after being obese for 20-something years that I had finally had enough and I was going to do everything I could to eat and live better. This included major changes to my diet as well as starting an exercise regimen, as well as enlisting the services of our new personal trainer and natural bodybuilder Dustin DeMercurio who you will be hearing a lot more about in the future.

I’ve thought about how this was going to impact the blog, and what it was going to do to my reader base, who is used to seeing the likes of overstuffed fatty deli sandwiches, chili dogs, pizza, and any number of things that for the lack of a better description, I can no longer eat, or at least not in quantities exceeding tasting size portions. I seriously thought about shutting Off The Broiler down for good, and perhaps starting a new blog focused on cooking, eating and living healthy. But then I realized that Off The Broiler was my brand, and realized I could still continue to make the content interesting and creative, the food delicious, and of course the pictures appealing. And I am sure many of you are in the same predicament I am in.

So the blog is going to change in a fairly organic way — whatever I am cooking and eating will still strive to be delicious, but we also don’t want to promote an un-healthy lifestyle either – and aside from some backlogged content we have that we are going to be releasing that will fill rainy days and such, we are going to try to keep everything low on the glycemic index, low carb, and stay within the bounds of unsaturated rather than saturated fats. And yes, we still will be going to restaurants — good ones — and will be taking food photos and writing about the meals we eat. But everything is going to be done in moderation, and you should be well aware we’re only going to be tasting starches and desserts and not eating them wholesale. What we’re likely to order will reflect the healthier options on those menus. I’d also like to add that this is going to be the beginning of a very long learning process, and I am anything but an expert on nutrition — while I am currently doing my research, and we are tweaking recipes, this next six months or so should be considered a transitory period. I am learning, maybe you guys will teach me some new stuff, and vice-versa. That’s what this whole blog thing is supposed to be about in the first place.

So, now that I’ve sent all of you into a state of shock, let’s get to the issue at hand — Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and probably one where people tend to over-do it the most. I certainly intend on enjoying myself, but there are serious limitations on my favorite Turkey Day foods — I can’t eat much of stuffing, mashed potatoes, or any of the other heavy carbs. If I’m lucky, I’m going to be able to taste a spoonful or two of each. And I need to avoid excess sugar like the plague. Sayonara, Pecan Pie, Cranberry Sauce and Candied Carrots. Turkey? That I can eat as much of as I want.

These Turkey Burgers over a Brown Rice and Whole Wheat Couscous Bake were a dry run for Thanksgiving.

So lets get right to the chase — stuffing replacement. Any way you try to get around it, if you don’t have some kind of carb or grain, then you are going to feel utterly deprived on Turkey Day — I don’t care what kind of diet or restrictions you are on. So if you are going to have carbs, well, then make it COMPLEX carbs. Stuff with a lot of fiber content and that is considerably lower on the glycemic index than the traditional options. And oh yeah, it has to taste good.

Thanksgiving Brown and Wild Rice Dressing

1C Diced Onion

1C Diced Celery

1C Sliced Mushrooms

4C of cooked Lundberg Farms Wild Rice Blend (available at Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Amazon.com )

2C cooked Whole Wheat Couscous (available at Whole Foods) or Quinoa

Chopped Fresh Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme

Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

Saute vegetables in 1Tbsp olive oil or Smart Balance Butter Substitute spread. Add herbs, salt and pepper, then remove from heat. Gently combine with cooked rice and couscous. If rice and couscous are warm, serve immediately. This can be made ahead for reheating later — if you like crispy edges a la Stove Top dressing, bake in casserole dish for 20 minutes. Also can be used to stuff a turkey.

This Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Apples was lifted directly from Martha Stewart, with modifications.

To go along with your ersatz Stove Top, you’ll want to have some vegetables. Obviously, mashed potatoes inundated with butter is not the ideal side if you are looking to lose weight. Glazed and Candied carrots and yams are also not ideal unless you completely suspend the idea of glazing them with sugar sauces and instead cook them plainly or with herbs, garlic and olive oil. Green vegetables, particularly ones that are high in Alpha Lipoic acid such as cruciforms like Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts, are beneficial to the metabolic process and if prepared properly, actually taste really good.

I don’t typically regard Martha Stewart as a huge font of knowledge for all things healthy, but in this case, her Brussels Sprouts recipe is a real winner if you make a few minor changes — for starters, we’re going to switch out the regular bacon for Turkey Bacon to give us that smoky taste. We’re in the middle of evaluating a number of these, but we can say that we like Trader Joe’s brand so far and should be fairly easy for you to get. We’re also going to roast the sprouts instead of saute them.

If using frozen Brussels sprouts, 2-1 lb bags of the petite kind are best. If you are using fresh, you may need more than 2 lbs, because you’ll have to trim the stem, outer leaves and may lose some if they are bad inside. Cut large sprouts in half or quarters, leave small ones whole.

If you have to use dried thyme, as opposed to fresh thyme sprigs, add about 1 tsp with the apple & vinegar.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Turkey Bacon and Apple

4oz Turkey Bacon

2Lb Brussels Sprouts

10 Thyme Sprigs

1 Granny Smith Apple

2tsp Cider Vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat your oven to 400 F. Dice or cut turkey bacon into strips. Spread out bacon on a half-sheet pan or roasting pan and cook in oven for 10-15 minutes, until mostly cooked and it has rendered fat. Remove cooked bacon and set aside. Drizzle whatever rendered fat there is over the sprouts. If there’s a lot of rendered fat, you don’t have to use all of it, but I seriously doubt that’s gonna happen with Turkey Bacon. You might want to drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the sprouts as well so they caramelize nicely.

Add the sprouts to the pan and roast for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and carefully using a spatula, turn and mix the sprouts so that they roast evenly. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

While the sprouts are in the oven, peel and dice your apple. Mix with cider vinegar (and dried thyme if you are using that instead of fresh sprigs) and set aside.

After the sprouts have roasted for about 30 minutes, add the cooked bacon and diced apple, stir to combine, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Add fresh ground pepper to taste, be careful with adding salt as the bacon adds a lot of saltiness. Best served immediately.