It’s Planking Season!

July 6, 2008

You know how some things are so fad-like that you never want to touch them until years later when people aren’t really interested in them anymore? That’s kind of what I feel about cooking fish on planks. Planking is so… well… 1997 Emeril.

Still, what is old is new again, and just because I deem it so, it’s cool. It’s also a way to add a lot of flavor to a dish without adding a lot of extra calories in the process.

This weekend we visited our friends the Liebermans on Long Island. Mark Lieberman is my oldest friend, who I’ve known for 30 years. He was my best man at my wedding way back when, so when he tells me we have to come over and eat his planked fish, well, then I guess we better.

If you don’t plank, you’re gonna walk the… well you know.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more planking action.

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Who says Latinos only eat carbs?

June 17, 2008

My Brooklyn homegirl Daisy Martinez prepares some nice Latino salads on the CW11. Click on the photo to view the video.


Nice Weather = WEBER (XIII): Father’s Day 2008

June 15, 2008

This year, Father’s Day was a little bit different. We usually do the steaks and hamburgers and hot dogs and chicken on the grill thing, with baked potatoes, beers and the usual stuff at my in-laws (my own parents now live in Florida, free from the ravages of brutal New York winters). However, Rachel and her mom decided that we would have Father’s Day at our home this year, so we cooked for the occasion — in our now more health-conscious style.

For appetizers, I bought some Quahog clams at the Asian market, cooked them a bit on a grill until they opened and yielded their juices, and then chopped them up with some garlic, scallion, chile pepper, cherry tomatoes, and mixed them up (with the clam juices) with cubed whole grain bread in order to make a stuffing, which I sauteed in a pan. I then placed several cooked shrimp in each metal tray and scooped the stuffing on top, to make my own version of Baked Stuffed Clams.

After baking in the Weber for a few minutes to get a nice brown crust on top.

Ready for some more Father’s Day vittles? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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LARB!

June 13, 2008

Ah yes, the pleasures of the Thai Yum. When it turns summer and disgustingly hot, and you feel like your energy has been sapped from the oppressive weather, spicy and tangy Asian salads can be a refreshing and satisfying boost — and for the most part, they’re pretty healthy too.

Larb is one of my favorite Thai dishes. Chances are, if I am going to a Thai restaurant for the first time and they have Larb on the menu, its what I am going to be ordering — it’s one of those “benchmark” dishes because its so simple to make. Anyone can make a good Larb at home, because it doesn’t require difficult to obtain ingredients (fish sauce is easy to get these days) or technical skills to prepare. Larb was a huge subject of interest back when I was still involved on eGullet — it was one of those huge monster threads that kept on going, and going. The general rule of thumb is that If it’s a protein, you can larb it. I have to give fellow blogger tommyeats the credit for starting it, it was inspired genius.

Larb, Laab, Larp… doesn’t matter what you call it, let’s eat it! Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Re-engineering the Classics: Charlie Deal’s Kung Pao Chicken

May 3, 2008

I’ve been wanting to do a post series on re-doing classic dishes in a healthier way for some time now. To start it off, I thought nothing would be better than giving props to someone who I thought that nicely re-engineered one of my favorite Sichuan Chinese dishes, Kung Pao Chicken.

Charlie Deal’s Jujube Restauant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is known for its inventive Asian Fusion cuisine. The dish which struck me the most there was his Kung Pao, which is radically different and much more healthier than the one that is made in most Chinese restaurants, which typically has a great deal of oil and not really that much vegetable content in it, if at all. Most versions as served in the United States at Chinese-American restaurants just consist of Chicken, Peanuts, Hot Peppers, and maybe some chopped up celery as an accent flavor. In my opinion, the definitive version of the dish is published in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land Of Plenty, which is one of the best and most authentic Sichuan cookbooks there is.

Here’s one of my favorite traditional versions, from Chengdu 1 restaurant in Cedar Grove, NJ:

IMG_7890

As you can see, it’s in a brown sauce, thickened with cornstarch, with basically no vegetable content in it other than water chestnuts and maybe some onion. It’s tasty, but not optimized for my current diet. It’s also heavily dependent on sopping the sauce up with rice, which leads to more carbyness ingestion.

Here’s another variation that I had at a Korean-Chinese place that I really enjoyed. Again tasty, but healthy, no.

Here’s another really good version of the classic at Mary Chung’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There’s no veggies in this at all. I can’t believe I used to eat like this all the time.

Here’s Charlie Deal’s version at Jujube Restaurant. The difference is dramatic — the vegetable to protein ratio is much higher, and he is using a lighter sauce, which is essentially just soy, Chinese Black Rice Vinegar (which gives the dish its amazing tang and brightness) and seasoned with Sichuan Peppercorns, a small amount of sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and dried Sichuan hot peppers. Another thing I like about this dish is that during dinnertime he does it in a completely vegetarian version using Soy chicken, which cuts down on the fat tremendously.

I loved this dish so much that I ate it on two of the three visits that I made to the restaurant so far. I also was determined to try to replicate it at home and make it part of our usual Asian stir fry night repertoire.

To make my version of this dish, you will need the following

8 oz “Soy Chicken” or Firm Tofu (that has had the water pressed out of it)
12 ounces Chicken Breast, cut up into small pieces (or omit to have completely vegetarian)
1 Bunch Scallions, chopped, whites and greens separated
1 large thumb Ginger, minced
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 small Napa Cabbage
1lb of Baby or Shanghai Bokchoys or one big regular Bokchoy, chopped, hard and leafy parts separated
8oz of Mungbean Sprouts
8oz of Snow Pea Pods
1 oz peanuts
1 Tbsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 Tbsp Sichuan Peppercorns
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
10-15 Dried Sichuan Red Chiles or any other small dried red chile
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Chinese Black Rice Vinegar (Chinkiang grade preferable)
White Pepper to taste

Want to learn how to make this great dish? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more..

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Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms a la NYT

March 19, 2008

When we were called and asked to prepare a dish for Kim Severson’s “Fat Pack” article in the New York Times that the photographer could watch me cook that very weekend, we took one look in the refrigerator and noticed we had a package of great, big, phallic King Oyster eryngii mushrooms, along with our usual staples of soy sauce, hot chile peppers and scallions.

“How about grilled King Oyster Mushrooms?” Rachel said to Phaedra, the NYT Dining Section photo editor.

“Great! We’ll be there Saturday morning at 9am”.

The resulting recipe that was used in my photo that accompanies the piece — which was originally intended to be published but ended up on the cutting room floor — pretty much came together last minute as the photographer was setting up. My idea was to replace the fattening butter yaki that typically is used as the prime flavor component of this dish with something more like a teriyaki sauce or a Korean BBQ marinade, but with an Awase Miso and fresh chili punch, and using a small amount of molasses instead of sugar.

Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms

1 bunch Scallions
2 tsp Awase Miso paste
1 tsp Ginger, grated
1 clove Garlic pureed
1 small Hot Red Pepper, minced
1/4 tsp White Pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp Molasses
2 Tbs Soy Sauce
1 Tbs Rice Vinegar
2 Tbs Chicken Broth (optional, use water if a vegetarian dish is desired)
1 tsp Roasted Sesame Oil
1 pound King Oyster Mushrooms
1/2 tsp Sesame Seeds

Clean scallions and separate the white part from the green. Slice the scallion greens and reserve for garnish. Mince the scallion whitesand put in a bowl with the miso paste, grated ginger, garlic, minced red pepper, white pepper, molasses, soy sauce, rice vinegar, broth or water, and sesame oil. Stir to combine.

Begin heating your grill pan or outdoor grill. Lightly spray the grate with cooking oil, or use a silicone basting brush to apply a scant amount of oil.

Slice the king oyster mushrooms lengthwise into 1/3 inch thick planks. Brush one side of each mushroom slice with the glaze as you place it, glaze side down, on the grill. Then brush the tops of all the slices. Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side, turning when the underside is well marked and basting to use up the glaze.

Serve hot or at room temperature, garnish with reserved scallion greens and sesame seeds. Serve with brown rice as a side dish (serves 4) or main course (serves 2). The leftovers are great sliced and added to a salad.


Soup, Glorious Soup: Part 2, Beans and Grains

March 17, 2008

In Part I of “Soup, Glorious Soup” Rachel presented a variety of recipes for lentil soup. Now, she’ll share some ideas for using other legumes and whole grains in soups.

Chunky Bean and Vegetable Soup

The first recipe is for split pea. Split pea soup has always been one of my favorites – I make a vegetarian version that you’d swear was cooked with a ham hock. And, contrary to popular belief, it’s hardly necessary to soak beans before cooking them, as you will see in the second recipe. I just simmer for an hour or so before adding the other soup ingredients and my mixed bean soup is perfectly tender. The third recipe below is for an addictive minestrone. Finally, I present Mushroom Barley. I brought this soup over to a friends house for part of a dinner we were making together. Jason’s friend went crazy over it, the wife has asked for the recipe for her mother – she said it tasted just like her grandma’s. Even the kids liked it, and it’s vegan!

If you don’t read the rest, there’s NO SOUP FOR YOU! Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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