Since it's Chinese New Year this Friday, February 16th (Year of the Dog), here's a take on a popular Chinese recipe that can be made in your own kitchen in under 30 minutes.
The BF and I love take-out Chinese, but I don't like the abundance of added thickeners, i.e., flour, cornstarch, etc. So I frequently make our own Chinese food at home where quantites can be better controlled. (Side note: BF also loves sushi and poke bowls that you can easily make at home, and you can see a poke bowl option here www.moveablefeast.me/blog/ahi-poke-bowl-with-kohlrabi-rice.)
My parents instilled my love of Asian food at an early age, as my dad lived in Shanghai for 10 years, so mom lovingly and expertly prepared Japanese and Chinese food for the five of us (two brothers, two sisters) when she could.
Until I turned 10 years old, we went to one of our two favorite restaurants (Pagoda and Forbidden City) in Portland every Saturday night. The owners knew us by name and watched us grow up. They laughed as my mom dipped pacifers in sweet and sour sauce to quiet the infants.
Every Saturday morning, we shopped at the local Japanese Grocery store called Anzen (100 year old store, now closed). I remember the scent and otherwordly yellow glow of the pickled daikon radish, gallon jug of sweet soy sauce, burlap bag of rice. And I remember the rice-paper-wrapped candy that my dad would give us if we behaved while waiting for them in the car.
This terrific recipe was adapted from The Woks of Life. A word about king trumpet mushrooms (smokefree.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/07/14/king10001_2.jpg) from Judy Leung, "King mushrooms seem to be named as such because of their massive stems. These are substantial and very versatile mushrooms–you can pan-fry them, stir-fry them, braise them, steam them, or grill them...it's a great candidate to serve as a meat substitute."
Specifically, I added a few ingredients that I like in Kung Pao Chicken–water chestnuts, zucchini and shitakes. I also substituted cashews over peanuts as that's my personal preference, but feel free to use peanuts if you like.
NOTES: It's important to dice the vegetables according to the directions below. Everything will cook faster and evenly if you do. King trumpet mushrooms should be in the produce section of your local grocer (they're at my Safeway, Whole Foods, and Costco).
Adapted from: The Woks of Life
Number of servings: 4
On this Valentine's Day, are you aiming for someone's heart through their stomach? Don't let the ingredients and directions of this recipe scare you, this is actually way less daunting than it appears. [Ed. Note: But you don't have to disclose that information if you're truly looking to impress.]
The key to the torte's simplicity is that it's made from just three ingredients: chocolate, butter, and eggs—and it only bakes for 15 minutes. I made this for the BF, myself and a few friends in a 6-inch springform pan, but am giving the recipe as originally presented (in an 8-inch springform pan) from the brilliant Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. I happen to love flourless tortes and have made so many different kinds, and this is certainly one of my favorites. Not to mention gluten free!
Beranbaum says this is her favorite way to eat chocolate, "It's the purest form of chocolate—when you just have a chocolate bar, you can't taste the chocolate until it starts melting in your mouth. But this is just the right texture so that the minute you put it in your mouth, the flavors start exploding. It's like the creamiest truffle wedded to the purest chocolate mousse. It's the right consistency and there's nothing to interfere. There's no flour. Egg gives it texture, but it also enriches it further—it gives it a fuller flavor. And then of course butter doesn't do any harm either!"
It's creamy. moussey, and sinfully decadent. And seriously, who cares about clichés, nothing's beating chocolate on Valentine's Day.
NOTES: It's very important to have the eggs and butter at room temperature. Since there are only three ingredients, use the best chocolate and butter that you can (Scharffen Berger chocolate and Plugra European butter were used here). Finally, be sure to serve the torte at room temperature, not chilled. Read through the entire recipe before starting; while it is deceptively easy to make, there are lots of side notes that are important to its success.
Adapted from: Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible and Food 52
Number of servings: makes one 8-inch torte, serves approx 16 (depending on slice size)
I've mentioned before that I'm not great with gadgets. My BF can attest. Just last week I bought a new monthly vitamin/pill dispenser because I thought the top component of the old one was broken. It was not broken. BF fixed it in 30 seconds. [Ed. Note: *whistles innocently*]
For today's recipe we are going to break out the Paderno Brand 3-Blade Spiralizer www.williams-sonoma.com/products/paderno-sprializer/ (again, this is not a sponsored post, I just really love it), the same magically user-friendly contraption we used to whip up the Vegetable Noodle Nest with Soft Boiled Egg last September. www.moveablefeast.me/blog/vegetable-noodle-nest-with-soft-boiled-egg
If any of you want more Spiralized recipes, please let me know. I have oodles of zoodles, swoodles and faux noodles to share. Check out the photos below showing the Spiralizer in action; on the far right is a kohlrabi (if you've never seen one).
Low carb, healthy, gluten free, grain free, and ready in under 30 minutes. Perfect for a glorious weeknight meal. The recipe has been adapted from Inspiralized (changed some quantities and a bit of the process).
NOTES: If you can't find kohlrabi in your grocery store, I have successfully substituted celery root or parsnip. You can also use pancetta instead of bacon (or it's fine without any meat at all). Pecorino romano cheese can be subbed for parmesan as well.
Adapted from: Inspiralized
Number of servings: 4
I baked my own birthday cake.
What? You don't do that? It's not that my BF didn't offer to buy me the best dessert in town. [Ed. Note: Save your letters! Jeez.] It's just that I was feeling exceptionally specific, and wanted it to taste deep, dark, intensely chocolatey and extra-extra moist. We don't partake in rich desserts very often, so when we do, it needs to be amazing or it's not worth it. Many times we've found ourselves drooling over beautiful confections, only to be nonplussed by the taste. [Ed. Note: Breathtakingly meh™.]
The reason this cake is my go-to is that it has a creamy chocolate bite, and the sour cream frosting has an impressive tang that really sets it off. Also noteworthy, the frosting has neither butter nor whipped eggs (only a smidge of added sugar), making for easier preparation.
The cake itself is adapted from Ina Garten (the recipe is cut in half), the frosting from Smitten Kitchen.
Bit of a side note, but I had a perfect birthday yesterday. Our inital dinner plans in San Francisco were thwarted (there's a dog flu ripping through our area, so we couldn't find a proper sitter, and we don't take chances with our Marlowe), but we ended up having an even better day and evening sticking closer to home. The BF took me to the movies (Winchester, not our cup of tea) and then to a terrific local restaurant called Timber & Salt. The meal: an appetizer of crispy brussels sprouts with apple gastrique and whipped goat cheese, cheeseburger with horseradish mayo and bacon jam (oh yes), and a bavette steak over sauteed greens and maitake mushrooms in a red wine reduction sauce.
Once home we chilled to the far superior movie A Futile And Stupid Gesture (about Doug Kenney and the rise and fall of National Lampoon), cracked open a bottle of prosecco we'd been saving, made a cocktail with Aperol (my favorite), and tucked into this cake.
Folks, this is my absolute favorite cake. Excuse me while I have another slice.
Adapted from: Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen
Number of Servings: makes a one layer 8-inch cake (round or 8x8 square)
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
NOTE: Be sure that your sour cream is at room temperature before you make the frosting.
Me: It smells like fish.
BF: It's fish. Isn't it supposed to smell like fish?
Me: No, it's supposed to smell clean like the ocean.
Every single time we go to a seafood restaurant or pass a grocery store fish case, the same Abbott and Costello routine ensues. It's too funny. Seriously though, this recipe only has a few ingredients, so make sure your fish is good quality and smells fresh (like the ocean).
A few changes were made to James Peterson's original recipe (mainly increased the amount of sherry and herbs and I strained the liquid), otherwise it's perfect. Here is what he says about this dish: "A 5-ingredient, 20-minute technique to make any white fish shine – bonus: it makes its own buttery, boozy sauce, without deglazing or reducing. So go to your local fishmonger or sign up for a CSF. Don't blindly buy halibut or sea bass or whatever a recipe calls for – ask your trusty fishperson what's in season, what came in fresh that day. Any firm-fleshed, non-oily white fish will work – sole, cod, bass, rockfish, or any white fish that's not too delicate (so skip scrawny fillets like flounder)."
Would also encourage you to use a good quality dry or very dry sherry. I have recently upgraded to Hartley & Gibson's Fino Very Dry Sherry, and it made a significant difference in the taste of the final dish.
For folks who don't have a fondness for fish, I have found that this dish is a great "gateway" into appreciating the taste of fish. So clean and light.
One of my clients orders this dish every single week, and I usually buy extra to make it a week night dinner option with the BF, since it's so easy to prepare. [Ed. note: #winning]
Adapted from: James Peterson, Food 52
Number of servings: 4-6
It was about seven years ago that I started to like avocados. I know. I was in the minority. Wouldn't touch guacamole. Didn't understand the draw of "nature's butter" on sandwiches. It truly puzzled me. The BF can take it or leave it.
Now I love them and can't get enough. Will plan entire meals around a ripe avocado I have hanging out in the kitchen. When my sister visits, avocado toast for breakfast. Every. Single. Day.
Guacamole? [Ed. note: The late George Carlin used to say, "That sounds like something you yell when you're on fire."] All the time. And god help me if I don't have spare avocados to top tacos.
Years ago I fell in love with this warm Indian spiced avocado dip from Heidi Swanson's cookbook Super Natural Every Day. She is also known for her blog 101 Cookbooks.
Serve this dip at room temperature, or warm with sesame rice crackers, fresh veggies, toasted naan, pita or tortilla chips. My current favorite scooper is parsnip chips from Trader Joe's.
Adapted from: Super Natural Every Day
Number of servings: 2 cups
Pizzerias will rightfully do brisk business for Super Bowl LII, and many will no doubt fire up the grill, but we'll be zagging while they zig, breaking out our slow cooker for these mini cheesesteaks. [Ed. note: The fact that these are cheesesteaks in no way constitutes a vote for any particular team.]
The chuck roast's flavor punch comes courtesy of a good amount of pepperoncinis, and really, the dish is deceptively simple to make. The main ingredient you need is time (7-8 hours in the slow cooker), and it's actually preferable to make the meat a day in advance to let the flavors coalesce. (Since it's dead time, you can use the slow cooker overnight while you sleep.) Serve in a soft jacket of the roll of your choice or gild the lily and add provolone cheese, melted under the broiler.
Robin Chapman originally made this Mississippi Roast, which went viral in 2016 thanks to the New York Times. They altered the "Internet darling of a recipe" by taking out the packaged ingredients (replacing the Hidden Valley Ranch mix with spices, mayo and buttermilk). The Times link is here cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017937-mississippi-roast, but honestly Chapman's version is better and easier.
I have catered a longtime client's Super Bowl parties for the past eight years, and when the Patriots face off against the Eagles this will be one of the main dishes, served with oven-baked yam fries, crunchy Asian coleslaw, warm Indian spiced guacamole and homemade baked veggie chips.
Adapted from: Robin Chapman
Number of servings: 6-8
NOTE: I don't add extra salt (the mixes have plenty in them already).
One year ago the BF and I did an abbreviated version of Whole30 (we allowed for an exception...or two). He lost 8.5 pounds and thought it was pretty easy to stay on the program. [Ed. note: You give me meat an potatoes and I shall find a way to survive.] I didn't fare that well in the weight-loss department, but it was a terrific reboot, and the real saving grace was the coconut milk sauce I developed that was incorporated into everything. With the exception of Indian and Thai dishes, I rarely used coconut milk. This turned out to be a worthwhile challenge, and the result was a savory sauce that is a brilliant dairy-free option.
Here the coconut milk –infused into a garlic turmeric sauce– is a perfect foil to the crunchy cabbage, spicy chives and crispy skinned potatoes. We actually had this as a main course, but it would work as a side dish for steak, chicken, pork, or any protein. (We are unapolegetic carnivoires.)
We will be hopping on the Whole30 again soon, and certainly will be incorporating this into the process.
Inspired by Dolly and Oatmeal
Number of servings: 2-3 entrees or 4-6 side dishes
Coconut-Garlic Turmeric Sauce
It's been raining here for a week. Not complaining, as even though I have now officially lived in California longer than Oregon, I'm still an Oregonian girl at heart. Plus, after so many years of California droughts, we need the rain.
When we get the precipitation, the BF loves to get Chinese take out, and sometimes, specifically, pork and shrimp wontons. Here we have the pork and shrimp wontons, but without the wonton wrapper (which makes this practically zero carbs). Let's not fool ourselves, it's what's inside the wrapper that counts, and no wrapper means gluten free, paleo and low carb.
I added a zingy sriracha mayonnaise dipping sauce and made it into sliders instead of meatballs, but other than that, the original recipe from Michelle Tam's Nom Nom Paleo is perfect.
Adapted from: Michelle Tam, Nom Nom Paleo
Number of Servings: 4
Shrimp & Pork Wonton Sliders
NOTE: Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days and frozen for up to 3 months.
Marlowe practicing her concept of Hygge.
So. That last week in December. The BF and I overdid it, too. Sweets, breads, so many rich foods, spirits. We understand.
Now that the calendar has been turned over, we're going to reboot our systems with this cleansing broth, which we like to have between meals (I drink a cup for breakfast).
My BF and I have been eating low carb for many years. We try to mix a large variety of vegetables with smaller amounts of protein and no added sugar of any kind (including honey, agave or maple syrup) five or six days a week. The other day(s), we pretty much have whatever we want; on game days we often go for pizza...because it's game day.
I adore anything flavored with ginger, and turmeric gives it such a gorgous shade of yellow. Try to find fresh turmeric at your grocery store or farmers market, if you can. (The first time I made this broth I used powdered turmeric and it was delicious. The next time I found fresh turmeric and it was markedly more intense.)
Although I like this broth plain or with a few baby spinach leaves, it lends itself to add any number of ingredients to make it a more hearty entree. The basic recipe comes from one of my favorite bloggers, Sylvia Fountaine of Feasting at Home. The few changes I made are more suited to my personal taste of preferring broths and soups very, very clear. I strained it first through a strainer and then through cheesecloth not once, but twice.
Enjoy, and Happy New Year!
Adapted from: Feasting at Home
Number of Servings: 6
NOTES: If you are cooking the broth uncovered for any length of time, remember it will reduce (intensifying the flavor and salt). So you will need to add more water, or it may be too salty. Dilute the broth to your taste.
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the bay area. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.