Posts tagged ‘Ethnic Food’

Kale Saag

Velvety Kale Saag

I love saag and palak dishes, especially since they are so nutritious. They are so tasty, and I love the texture and spices. Palak is made with spinach, whereas saag is made with dark winter greens in general, like kale, collards or mustard greens, which are all very rich in fiber, iron, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A and C. You can mix pretty much any kind of protein into the greens, like homemade cheese (like paneer), chicken, lamb, fish, chickpeas, lentils, tofu or nuts (like cashews). Alternatively, you can use the saag as a kind of sauce and pour it over hearty vegetables, like carrots, broccoli or cauliflower; grains , such as rice, barley or buckwheat; or grain-like seeds, like quinoa, millet or amaranth.

Winter Greens

Kale Saag
Adapted from Ambika’s Saag Paneer.
This recipe is vegan.

Yields 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients
6 – 7 C Kale with stems, trimmed
1 Medium – Large Sweet Yellow Onion, peeled, skinned
3 T Minced Garlic
1″ Ginger Root, peeled
1/4 tsp Ground Turmeric
Pinch Sea Salt
1 1/2 C Filtered Water
4 T Almond Meal
1 1/2 T Dried Fenugreek Leaves
1 tsp Smoked Spanish Hot Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1 T Sambar Curry Powder
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/4 C Carrot Greens with stems, trimmed
1/4 C Cilantro Leaves with stems, trimmed*
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 T Coriander Seeds
1 1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1/2 T Grains of Paradise
16 – 24 oz Choice Protein, prepared

Kale

Directions
Chop the kale, onion and ginger in a Vitamix (high speed blender) or food processor. Set aside.

Soak the almond meal, fenugreek leaves, paprika, garam masala, curry powder, nutmeg in 1 cup of water for 15 to 20 minutes. Blend them in the Vitamix with the carrot tops and cilantro.

Toast the seeds over medium heat for 30 seconds in a dry pan, stirring constantly. At this point, I recommend grinding the seeds until fine in a spice grinder.

Saute the garlic over low heat for about a minute. Add the onions, kale, ginger, ground seeds, turmeric and salt and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Mix in half a cup of water. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the spiced almonds, greens and herbs. Cover and stir occasionally for next 10 to 15 minutes. Stir and adjust the consistency by adding more water if necessary.

If you want a more velvety texture, puree half of the saag in the Vitamix until smooth and stir it back into the chunkier spiced greens. At this point, mix in your desired source of protein. Serve and enjoy.

Creamy Kale Saag

Optional Ingredients and Directions
You can chop a medium to large seeded heirloom yellow or orange tomato (about 1 cup) to cook with the other vegetables and fresh herbs.

To make the dish more creamy, mix 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, almond cream or cultured coconut or almond milk (like the “yogurts” by Almond Dream, Amande or So Delicious) with the cilantro, fenugreek, almonds and spices.

*if you are using dried cilantro leaves, measure 3 tablespoons, soak them with the spiced almond-fenugreek mixture.

Kale Saag and Eggs

Garlic Pepper Pork Nabe

I have intended to make another hot pot style soup for a long while now and actually have not made any since the time I cooked the shrimp & vegetable nabe for my folks during the summer of 2012. Recently, the pork tenderloins were on sale at our local grocery store, and I was trying to think of another way to cook the meat beyond sauteing, grilling or roasting. Why not cook it in a nabe dish? Though I love my cute donabe, which I was luckily able to buy at Shiki, Inc., an amazing pottery shop in San Francisco Japantown’s West Mall (I absolutely love that store) where I bought my mom’s. I actually had not used my hot pot in who-knows-how-long and was feeling quite guilty for letting it just collect dust. I was got the idea of cooking the pork in my glazed clay donabe at when my husband and I decided to have dinner at Honey BBQ in Rohnert Park (check out my review from last week). The pork bibimbop was very inspirational; I will have to try my hand at making it in my pot later.

Fishy Donabe

Whole Grain Red and Black Rice

Adapted from “Japanese Rice for Shime” from Japanese Hot Pots by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat.

Yields 2 cups of rice

Ingredients
2 C Filtered Water
1 tsp Gluten-Free Tamari Soy Sauce
OR 1 tsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1/2 C Himalayan or Bhutanese Red Rice, uncooked
1/2 C Wild or Chinese Black Rice, uncooked
1 C Hot Filtered Water

Directions
Rinse the rice in cool water. Strain the rice through a fine mesh and set it aside. Bring two cups of water to boil with the tamari in the donabe. Stir in the rice and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 40 minutes. Add a cup of hot water to prevent the rice from burning to the bottom of the pot. Cook another 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat. Drain off the excess liquid, reserving it for later. Set the rice aside in a covered dish.

First arrangement of the nabe.

Garlic Pepper Pork Nabe
Adapted from my Shrimp & Vegetable Nabe recipe. This recipe makes a lot of soup, so you may want to use a larger pot. Keep in mind that not everything may fit in the pot; add the vegetables, broth and rice in batches. Include more meat if desired; my husband wished there was a greater amount in the meat to vegetable ratio.

Yields About 25 Servings

Broth Ingredients
5 C Filtered Water
2 T Minced Garlic
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
1 – 2 tsp Grains of Paradise
1 T Dried White or Yellow Chopped Onion
Remaining Rice Water
Meat and Vegetable Ingredients
Marinated Garlic and Peppercorn Pork Tenderloin
2 C Coarsely Chopped Collard Greens
2 C Coarsely Chopped Mustard Greens
3 Scallions, trimmed, cut into 4″ lengths
6 Inner Leafy Celery Stalks, cut into 1/2″ thick 3″ lengths
2 Large Carrots, cut into 1/2″ thick 3″ lengths
2 Medium or 1 Large Head(s) Broccoli, cut into bite sizes
1 – 2 Broccoli Stalk(s), cut into 1/2″ thick 3″ lengths
1 Small Head Cauliflower, trimmed, cut into bite sizes
Cauliflower Leaves, stems cut into 1/2″ thick 3″ lengths
1 C String or Green Beans, trimmed, cut into 3″ lengths
Cooked Whole Grain Rice (See Above)
1 C Enoki Mushrooms, separated from roots, cut into 3″ lengths, optional
1 C Bean Sprouts, cut into 3″ lengths, optional

Directions
Bring the broth ingredients to a boil in the donabe for 5 minutes over medium high heat.

Meanwhile, drain the marinade from the pork, reserving up to half a cup, and set aside. Thinly slice the pork about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick rounds with a very sharp knife. Be careful not to cut yourself. Add the marinade and pork to the broth. Cook covered for about 5 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Transfer the broth and meat to another covered dish.

Arrange the cut vegetables on a large platter in groups in order to add them to the soup easily.

Inside the donabe, cover the bottom with the dark greens. On top of the greens, arrange about 1/3 of the vegetables in clustered groups around in a circle, leaving the middle open. Spoon about half of the rice into the center, piling the meat on top. Make sure not to stack it above the lower lip of the pot. Pour in the broth up to the lower lip of the donabe. Cover and cook the soup for 5 minutes on medium heat. The greens should wilt a bit, providing more room. Add more vegetables and meat into their designated sections, pushing them under the broth with a large wooden spoon. Cook another 5 minutes and repeat. When adding the last of the broth, I made sure to pour the grains of paradise and peppercorns onto the center on top of the meat instead of garnishing the each bowl of soup as I would with a shichimi togarashi or furikake. Do not over fill the pot; you do not want it to over flow during cooking.

Carefully bring the pot to the table with hot pan holders or oven mitts to rest it on a trivet set on top of a thick towel if you are serving the soup tableside. Serve the soup in bowls, making sure to get a bit of everything. Garnish if desired.

Remaining vegetables added to the nabe.

There is now more room in the donabe. Add leftover vegetables, meat, rice and or hot broth to the soup. Recover the pot to preserve the heat and allow the fresh ingredients to cook.

Honey Cuisine Korean BBQ

Recently my husband and I decided to have dinner recently at Honey BBQ in Rohnert Park. It was so satisfyingly tasty. I am very glad they are now open on Sundays, especially since the many diners are Sonoma State University students and staff. My husband and I were both particularly craving hearty soup and sushi. We shared a delicious “Crazy Spicy,” which was a delectable sushi roll with tempura shrimp, spicy tuna, salmon, slices of unagi, tuna and snapper, albacore tuna and a drizzle of spicy chili sauce; the roll actually was not too spicy for our palates. Roll in total had roughly a medium heat level. My husband really enjoyed his beef udon soup (the broth was delicious), and I found my pork dolsot (claypot) bibimbop quite inspiring. I substituted out the brown rice with their organic wild rice, which went wonderfully with the seasoned pork, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, white onion, egg, soy beans and Napa cabbage; all of the ingredients provided a delightful combination of flavors and textures. I will definitely order that again! I think next time I will have to try the “Sexy Mango” sushi roll. I am a big fan of mango, so the roll sounds rather enticing with its tempura shrimp, avocado, cucumber, and more shrimp on top with the mango.

Image Credit

This is not the first time that I tried out Honey BBQ’s food. The last time my husband and I went was for lunch years ago, not long after the restaurant first opened. At that time, I ordered a few sushi rolls, while my hubby ordered the BBQ beef. The caterpillar roll was really good and looked extremely cute as it decorated to look like a cartoonish caterpillar (its appearance has since changed). I also had their fantasy roll, which was amazing with the crunchy garlic and tasty sauce on top. The BBQ beef dish came with rice and vegetables, too, I think; either way, my husband greatly enjoyed it.

Red-Label Curry no Ohji-Sama

I finally made S & B’s red box of Curry no Ohji-sama with chicken and mixed vegetables. It tasted so good! This variety is a Japanese sweet curry roux mix that was originally intended for children, but I don’t see why adults shouldn’t enjoy it, too. S & B also makes a blue-box version of this curry, too, which has a different flavor (from what I can tell based on the listed ingredients). What exactly the blue-labelled box mix is supposed to taste like is still a mystery to me, but it looks good. For more information, please read the sections I wrote on both varieties here  or here.

Thankfully, both flavors are gluten-free, as they include corn starch and white sorghum as thickeners in lieu of wheat. The directions call for the addition of meat, but you can substitute it with beans, tofu, nuts, seeds or whatever protein you prefer. The package instructions also call for potatoes and carrots (two sources of carbohydrates), which I felt were not inclusive enough. I didn’t just want to use a boring brown or yellow potatoes and a red onion (the sweet yellow and white cultivars carry less sulfur), and I decided not to serve the curry with rice but to add more colorful vegetables instead. I felt as though that the more colors I included, the healthier and tastier the meal would be, so my curry was a rainbow of yellows, orange, purple, red, whites and greens.

Each box comes with two curry roux blocks, enough to either make the curry twice or cook a double batch. The bricks are sealed individually, so you can cook one and save the other for later, preserving the flavor and moisture and preventing spoilage. As soon as I pealed back the wrapper on the roux, I knew I was in for a treat from the pleasant aromas and yellow curry color of the savory spices and slight sweetness of fruits and vegetables. I could already smell the wonderfully enticing scents of cumin, coriander and turmeric, and for some reason my mind went to cinnamon as a complimentary flavor. Maybe next time I should make a cinnamon infused dessert.

Cooking the Chicken & Vegetables

As usual, I made many of alterations to the recipe, but the dish turned out quite scrumptious, much to my delight and satisfaction. My husband liked it so much, he went back for seconds. He’s a pretty picky eater, so that’s certainly saying something. Please keep in mind that this is a sweet mild curry, so you may have to adjust the flavors to more of your liking; check out Sadie’s blog entry on the blue-box curry roux for some suggestions. Surprisingly with all of the extra meat and vegetables, the curry sauce was still rather thin in consistency. I used the same cooking techniques as described in the directions and decided not to add a thickener (like corn or arrowroot starch) on the first try, since the mix already contained some. Another option is to let some of the water evaporate rather than cooking the meat and vegetables so long with the cover on. Regardless of the outcome, the meal was a success and a learning experience.

Red-Label Curry no Ohji-Sama with Chicken & Mixed Vegetables
Adapted from the instructions on the back of the package
As stated above, this dish already includes enough carbohydrates, so do not serve this with a white rice. If you want to serve it along side or over something, I suggest something with fiber, for instance more vegetables (broccoli or cauliflower) or a seed-like “grain” (quinoa, millet or buckwheat) as a side.

Serves 6Curry no Ohji-Sama With Chicken & Vegetables

Ingredients
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Sweet Onion, peeled, trimmed, coarsely chopped
1 Head Garlic, peeled, trimmed, coarsely chopped
2 Medium Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1″ cubes
2 Medium Carrots, trimmed, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
2 Purple Potatoes (any variety), coarsely chopped
1 – 2 Chioggia or Red Beets, trimmed, coarsely chopped
2 Stalks Celery, diagonally sliced into 1/2″ pieces
1 Broccoli Head and Stem, trimmed, coarsely chopped
2 C Baby or Dinosaur Kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces
2 C Carrot Greens, stemmed, optional
1/4 – 1/2 C Enoki Mushrooms, trimmed, left long or quartered
2 1/2 C Filtered Water
1/2 pkg Red Label Curry no Ohji-Sama Roux, finely chopped
Rice Wine Vinegar, optional
Sweet Paprika, to taste, optional

Directions
Saute the onions and garlic until the onions are soft and translucent in a large lightly oiled pan over medium heat (I used my Misto to spray on the olive oil). Mix in the carrots, beets and potatoes, stirring occasionally. Cook this mixture until the carrots are slightly soft.  Add the water, broccoli and celery. Bring the liquid to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the mixture for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables become tender. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the kale, greens and mushrooms. Fold in the curry roux, half at a time. Cover and return the pan to the heat. Simmer the curry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the roux is evenly distributed. Taste the dish, add more paprika (and or other spices) to taste. Serve the curry either on top of an accompanying vegetable in bowl. Be sure to ladle on some extra sauce if you like.

I served this dish along side a tossed green side salad drizzled with a tasty miso sesame dressing.

Cooking the Chicken & Vegetables

Curried Lamb Chops with Persian-Inspired Quinoa

Curred Lamb & Persian QuinoaOne of the wonderful events at the San Francisco Basque Club’s Annual Picnic is the txorizo (or chorizo) auction; this year there was so much uncooked txorizo and lamb (left over from the barbeque lunch), the club held a big sale. I scored four racks for half price! Huzzah! I was eager to try the lamb but froze them for later; I still had to figure out how I wanted to cook them for two different dinners. Ultimately, I found a handful of recipes and let my husband pick one, leaving me to choose the other.

Below is an adaption of the recipe I chose, not all surprising with my tendency for well-spiced foods. I chose quinoa in lieu of rice, since it has more vitamins, mineral, fiber and protein. According to my copy of Quinoa 365, one cup of cooked quinoa contains 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein, whereas 1 cup of raw quinoa has 12 grams of fiber and 24 grams of protein (the seeds triple in size as they cook and absorb water). The nutritional value also depends on which variety you eat. The folks over at Living Strong said one cup of raw red quinoa has 5 grams of fiber and 10 percent of your daily value (DV) iron, and the same amount of the white variety contains 3 grams of fiber and 20 percent DV iron. To balance it out, I use a 50-50 mixture.

Since the original recipe required the meat to marinate for at least eight hours, I went ahead and marinated mine in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. Milli’s recipe also recommended that I make lots (enough for 12 people, depending on serving size) to use as an accompaniment to other entrees later, since it was so yummy. I decided to make the quinoa the night before to allow more time for the flavors to meld together.

Curried Lamb Chops with Persian-Inspired Quinoa
Adapted from “Spiced rack of Lamb with Persian Rice” at Milli’s Kitchen.
I served the lamb with the quinoa (see the recipe below) and steamed broccoli, pouring more of the sauce over the top.

Yields: 4 – 6 Servings

Curried Lamp Chops
Curred LambIngredients
1 Lime, juice of
2 Limes, zest of OR 2 Big Pinches Dried Lime Zest
4 Cloves Garlic, peeled, trimmed, minced
1 Inch Thumb Fresh Ginger, peeled, minced
1/2 tsp Dried Ground Sumac Berries
1/2 tsp Ground Cayenne Chili Peppers
1 Heaping tsp Garam Masala Spice Mix
1 tsp Cumin Seeds, fresh ground
1 tsp Coriander Seeds, fresh ground
3 Green Coriander Pods, fresh ground, shells removed
2 Pinches Sea Salt of Choice
Peppercorns, fresh ground, to taste
1 tsp Unprocessed Sugar (optional)
OR 2 tsp Raw Blue Agave Nectar (optional)
2 – 3 T Filtered Water
2 Racks of 8 Lamb Chops
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lime, juice of
1/4 – 1/2 C Filtered Water, as needed

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, adjusting the amount of water as needed to make a marinade sauce instead of a paste.

Score the lamb fat with a sharp knife. Place the lamb in a baking dish. Pour the marinade over the ribs, rubbing it into the fat. Coat both sides. Cover the dish to prevent cross-contamination. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Coat the lamb with oil, and bring it to room temperature. Sear the racks one at a time, turning with a pair of tongs, in a medium-sized pan to add color and flavor. It is alright to blacken the meat a bit.

Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with the remaining lime juice, water and the rest of the marinade. Scrape up the burned-on bits and heat the sauce through. Place the lamb in a baking dish and pour on the sauce.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F. Let the meat rest covered in the baking dish for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve.

Persian-Inspired Quinoa
Adapted from “Persian Rice” at Milli’s Kitchen.
I found the quinoa rather bland, so I increased the nut, fruit and seasoning amounts.

Yields: 12 Servings

Ingredients
4 C Filtered Water
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Persian Quinoa 0011/4 tsp Sea Salt of Choice
1 C Red Quinoa Seeds
1 C White Quinoa Seeds
1/4 C Pinches Mexican Safflower
1 C Dried Apricots, chopped
2 C Filtered Water
1/4 C Food Grade Rose Petals, chopped
1/2 C Prepared or Toasted Almonds, chopped
1/2 C Prepared or Toasted Pistachios, chopped
OR 1/2 C Pumpkin Seeds, chopped
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 T Coriander Seeds, fresh ground
1 tsp Unprocessed Sugar
1 Large Sweet Yellow Onion, peeled, minced
2 Lemons, zest of
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Earth Balance Spread

Directions
In a small to medium bowl, soak the dried fruit and safflower in water, adding more if necessary.

In a large pot, bring the water, oil and salt to boil. Pour in the quinoa. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the petals, fruit, soaking water, nuts, seasonings, onion, zest and remaining oil. Recover and cook another 4 to 7 minutes. If there is too much water at this point, keep the lid on for another 5 minutes. If there is still too much water, drain off the excess.

Note: The original recipe called fresh chopped cilantro leaves, which I didn’t have, so I added dried fenugreek leaves after the quinoa finished cooking, but you can mix in the leaves within the last five minutes of cooking. You can also use fresh or dried cilantro or parsley instead.

Red Lentil Curry

Red lentils

Red lentils (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So as you may be able to tell from my blog posts, I haven’t made lentils in quite a while and had actually never worked with red lentils before, just brown, yellow and green. Whenever I opened my cabinet, the red lentils stared at me, looking rather forlorn in their jar. I did however make a post a long while back about lentils, including preparation and recipes, and within it I had included a link to Ashley Adams’ Spicy Lentil Dahl recipe over in About.com in the “Dairy Free Cooking” section of the classic recipes. Her dahl really looked amazing, and I’ve been craving dahl for a while now. It was about time I made some, especially since I have everything I need to make such a delicious and rather inexpensive dish.

I have made some changes to her recipe, of course, but it all stirred up marvelously with a perfect blend of flavors and textures that left me quite sated. I can’t get over how well it turned out, especially as I thought some of the flavor combinations a bit odd for a curry. Surprise! Curry does just mean mixture after all. Feel free to boost the heat with chile peppers and  if you like; just make sure the spiciness doesn’t detract from the aromatics. Please keep in mind that I doubled the original recipe to make the dish more complex in flavor on purpose; feel free to simplify your own version as you see fit.

Rather than boring tomato paste, I decided to break out the jar of green zebra heirloom tomatoes that I had been saving. Surprisingly enough I bought them on clearance at Sur la Tabl and only found out recently that they were grown at relatively local in the San Francisco Bay Area by Balakian Farms, which is now a fourth generation Armenian family-owned organic business. Balakian Farms also sells their tomatoes online and at local farmers markets in Fairfax, Marin (at the Civic Center), Mill Valley and San Francisco (at the Ferry Plaza); check out their schedule on the website.

Red Lentil Curry
Despite the strong flavors, the dahl can accompany several different sides. I served mine with mixed vegetables, salad and quinoa.
Yields: 12+ Servings

Red Lentil Curry 1Ingredients
1 T Sesame Oil
1 T Garlic-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Sweet Yellow or White Onion, peeled, diced
2 C Scallions, trimmed, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
6 Cloves Garlic, peeled, minced
3 T fresh ginger, peeled, minced or grated
6 C Salt-Free Vegetable Broth
1 C Dried Red Lentils, sorted, rinsed
1 C Dried Split Pigeon Peas (Arhar or Toor Daal), sorted, rinsed*
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 – 3 tsp Cumin Seeds
2 – 3 tsp Coriander Seeds
4 – 6 Green or Black Cardamon Pods
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon Bark
2 tsp Ground Turmeric Root**
1/2 – 1 tsp Ground Cayenne Chili Pepper
1 16-oz Jar Balakain Farms Blended Organic Green Zebra Heirloom Tomatoes
Filtered Water, as necessary
3 tsp Sea Salt of Your Choice, to taste

Directions
In a large stock pot, saute the onions, garlic and ginger oil over medium heat until the yellow or white onion is translucent.

Grind the seeds together with a mortar and pestle. Remove the pod shells.

Stir the broth, lentils into the pot. Keeping an eye on the lentils, remove the starch foam as it comes to the broth’s surface. Once no more foam forms, mix in the ground spices except for the salt. Bring the dahl to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Once the lentils are tender, stir in the salt to taste, adding a teaspoon at a time. Stir in tomatoes. Adjust the flavors as needed. If necessary, add more water to achieve the desired consistency. Turn off the heat and let the curry cook on its own for a few minutes with the lid on to let the flavors meld a bit more.

Red Lentil Curry Close-UpServe hot with flat bread, such as naan, whole-wheat roti (chapati), paratha or (naturally gluten-free) pappadum.

*If you cannot find yellow lentils (not yellow split peas), you can double the amount of red ones.
**If you are substituting fresh peeled turmeric root for the dried ground turmeric, make sure to adjust the amounts accordingly.

Notes: For variety, you can also add in your favorite dark greens, such as carrot tops, chard, kale, collards, mustard greens or spinach. As this recipe makes big amount, I store mine in large mason jars in the coldest part of my refrigerator.

Basque Cold-Poached Salmon

Earlier this year I got racks of lamb lamb from the Annual Basque Picnic here in town. I had a great time gathering together with my brother and cousins to celebrate the culture of out ancestors, listening to the language and songs, smelling amazing food being grilled, watching folk dances and seeing lots of people of similar descent (we are French-Basque) enjoy the all-day festivities. In addition to my cousin’s birthday, the day was absolutely filled with awesome activities. I started by perusing the Etcheverry Basque Imports booth, buying some great folk music and Chorizos in an Iron Skillet; I was not at all surprised to find The Basque Kitchen, which I already owned, amongst their selection. They had all sorts of amazing stuff! There was an American Basque guide book and an intriguing book on myths and legends that I added to my list to read later.

Annual Basque Picnic

Several months ago (sorry for the delay) during one of my grocery store quests for fish, I found salmon on sale and bought three pounds of it. I decided to try something different and flipped open my new Basque cookbook to the fish section. I had never poached salmon before but the recipe looked pretty easy and tasty, especially with the garlic aioli. My husband is usually not a sauce-on-the-side kind of guy but loved the aioli. They also went well with the side of steamed asparagus.

Cold-Poached Salmon with Garlic Aioli
Adapted from Mary Ancho Davis’ “Cold Poached Salmon” recipe published in “Chorizos in an Iron Skillet
 You can of course eat the fish cold, as suggested, but we decided not to wait and ate ours still hot.ChorizosIronSkillet
Yield: 4-6 Servings

Cold-Poached Salmon
Ingredients

1 qt Filtered Water
1 Sweet Yellow Onion, peeled, quartered
3 Celery Stalks with leaves
2 tsp Sea Salt, any variety
1/2 tsp Peppercorns, fresh ground
Marjoram, 1 T fresh or 1 tsp dried
Tarragon, 1 T fresh or 1 tsp dried
Basil, 1 T fresh or 1 tsp dried
1 Dried Bay Leaf
3 lbs Salmon Steaks, rinsed, boned

Directions
Boil all of the herbs and spices in the water in a large pot for 20 minutes over medium-high heat.

Wrap the salmon in cheesecloth to prevent them from falling apart as they cook and carefully place in the boiling broth. Simmer 15 minutes or until the fish is firm. Carefully remove the fish from the broth. Untie cloth and unwrap the fish, being careful not to burn your fingers.

Chill the fish in a covered container for at least two hours.

Serve with garlic aioli.

Garlic Aioli
Adapted from Mary Ancho Davis’ “No Fail Ali-Oli” recipes published in “Chorizos in an Iron Skillet.” According to Ms. Ancho Davis, the sauce gets better with times as the flavors meld together, so if possible, make this sauce A day or two ahead.
Yields: 8 Servings

Ingredients
1 C Prepared Mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
4 – 6 Cloves Garlic, peeled, trimmed, minced*
1 T Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Lemon Juice, to taste
1/8 Sea Salt, any
Peppercorns, fresh ground, to taste (optional)

Directions
Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Adjust the flavors as necessary. Chill until ready to serve with the fish.

*Keep in mind that this is raw garlic. You can roast the garlic first if you like. If you choose to use a food processor to mix the ingredients, you do not need to mince the garlic.

Indian Inspired Lentils

I love lentils! I especially like eating Indian and Himalayan spiced dhal (daal or dal), usually made into a very comforting thick lentil pottage or soup. Not all dal varieties are the same; many differ in size, shape, flavor and nutrition. Some types of dal are not even lentils but different kinds of legumes, like peas, chickpeas or beans. They contain less insoluble fiber than beans and are not as irritating to finicky digestive systems, which means they cause very little gas, if any, depending how much you eat; keep in mind I am not suggesting you eat dhal three times a day, even though they taste really good.

These lentils aren’t restricted to soup. You can dish them over other vegetables,  quinoa, rice, buckwheat or green salad. Commonly daal is non-vegan and includes ghee, or clarified butter, but it is delicious either way. Another way to westernize this dish is to treat it like split pea or lentil soup by adding meat, like ham or sausage, but i prefer mine vegan. Sometimes if I haven’t eaten daal in a while, I crave it.

Chana dal are baby chickpeas or skinned and split black chickpeas (or kala chana if still in their skins), so don’t confuse them for yellow split peas even though they are the same exact color but flatter. They are low on the glycemic index, which means they are good for diabetics and are low in bad carbohydrates, have lots of fiber and protein and a significant amount of zinc, folate and calcium. Here is the listing for Bob’s Red Mill chana dal. Chickpea flour or besan is often made from this variety. These chickpeas require soaking in water at room temperature for two to three hours. If you add in half a teaspoon of baking soda, the chickpeas soften much quicker and then only need to cook 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your desired texture. Adding baking soda makes the water more alkaline, allowing beans to cook to doneness in only half the time; you can add the soda to any harder beans that require cooking for longer periods of time.

Masoor dal are red lentils, which contain significant amounts of fiber, flavonoids, complex carbohydrates, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorous and vitamin E. Click here for more nutritional benefits. Red lentils do not require soaking; just cook it for about 25 to 30 minutes. Here is Ashley Skabar’s spicy daal recipe made with red lentils that looks great.

Toor dal or arhar dal are yellow pigeon peas and the same color as chana dal and yellow split peas, however they are not low in glycemic value but contain healthy complex carbs. They are high in protein, vitamin A and C, folate and fiber. Toor dal need to soak for 30 minutes and then cooked for 50 minutes. Check out Jacqueline Pham’s recipe on her blog and Karen Mintzias’ recipe over at Big Oven.

There are three types of urad dal, which is black beluga lentils. You can get them whole, like I did, split or split and soaked, which removes their skins. They are rich in protein, fiber, calcium, iron, folate, magnesium and zinc. Beluga lentils also do not require soaking, only cook them at a low boil for 30 minutes.  Check out this recipe over at Indian Food Forever.

French green lentils or lentilles du Puy are olive green lentils with black speckles. They are a longer cooking lentil, needing about two to four hours of soaking and 45 minutes of low boiling, due to all of the insoluble fiber they contain. Check out this recipe by Caroline Russock for some more inspiration. Green lentils a nutritious amount of complex carbs, protein and are fat free; they contain good amounts of your daily calcium and iron.

As per usual, most of the herbs and spices that I used to make this dish are from Savory Spice Shop in Santa Rosa. A while back, I decided to flesh-out my spice cabinet, throwing away stale seasonings and combining duplicates to make more room. I wanted to expand my flavor palate and try something new, exciting and exotic. I was feeling incredibly adventurous and did quite a bit of research first, focusing on recipes from cuisines that knew I adored but had never cooked with at home, which was extremely helpful when I went to explore the shelves in the shop. I must have examined at all of the jars and canisters they had for absolutely hours. I had a great time asking questions, smelling, tasting and making new discoveries. I ran back and forth from the shelves to the counter several times. The garlic and onion came from the farmers market in Cotati, and I bought the mugwort (an uncommon culinary herb used in medicinal teas) at Rosemary’s Garden.

Indian Inspired Dhal

Ingredients
1 C Petite or Regular French Green Lentils*
1 C Urad Dhal
1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1/2 – 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/4 tsp Ajowan Seeds
2 – 3 tsp Olive Oil**
3 – 4 Large Garlic Cloves, grated or minced
1 – 2 Medium Sweet Yellow Onion, peeled, trimmed, minced
1 Inch Fresh Ginger, grated or minced, optional
4 C Filtered Water
2 Bay Laurel Leaves
1 T Cilantro Leaves
1 T Mugwort Leaves
OR 1 T Parsley Leaves
Mixed Peppercorns, ground to taste
1 tsp Sea Salt, to taste

*If you really want to stay with an Indian theme and add more color contrast, substitute the green lentils with channa dhal, toor dhal or masoor dhal. These lentils all have various cooking times, so adjust your preparation accordingly.

**If you want to make dhal without oil, skip the step of sauteing, and add the garlic, onion and ginger in with the other spices near the end of cooking the lentils.

Directions
Always sort your legumes and discard any broken or discolored ones along with any rocks you may find. Rinse your dal under cool water until the strained off water becomes clear to remove any dust or dirt. Put the lentils into a large mixing bowl or other vessel. Pour in enough water so that the level reaches about an two to three above the lentils. Remove the ones that float to the top. Soak the green lentils for two to four hours.

Dry roast the spice seeds in a small pan to intensify their flavor and get rid of any bitterness. Grind the seeds as small as possible in a spice grinder.

Saute the garlic, onion and ginger in a large oiled soup pot until the onion turns translucent, stirring often.

Rinse the lentils. Add them with the water to the pot, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium to prevent the water from boiling over. Cook the French lentils for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the black lentils. Continue to cook the lentils for 25 minutes, occasionally adding more water if needed and stirring. During the last five minutes add the powdered spices. Stir the mixture and cook five more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat completely, and stir in the herbs. After 15 minutes of cooling,taste test the lentils and adjust the flavors as needed. Serve the lentils on a salad, on toast, over or mixed into rice or noodles or as soup or really anywhere you would use beans. I mixed mine in with marinated vegetable noodles.

Local East Bay Tofu Companies

Bitter Sweet’s blog post about The Bridge Tofu factory reminds me of the organic tofu beanery in Berkeley, called Tofu Yu LLC, which has a catering and a store front with a deli counter that displays all sorts of tofu and tofu dishes. I keep meaning to visit. They also sell their products at several Bay Area farmers markets and organic grocery stores (visit their blog for a complete list and recipes), including the Santa Rosa Community Market and many Whole Foods.

In addition, there’s an organic tofu factory in Oakland, called Hodo Soy Beanery, where you can take a tour once a month for $12. Occasionally Hodo soy also has work shops, such as how to make tofu blocks. They sell their tofu at some Bay Area and LA area farmers markets, too, including at the Saturday San Francisco Ferry Building farmers market, and at Whole Foods. Make sure you check out their recipe section of their website as well as their blog.


It’s difficult for me to pick which beanery to visit, so maybe I’ll go see both of them! That way I can get a tour and see the deli, not to mention taste the different flavors and kinds of tofu dishes that the two companies have to offer. Earlier this year, I also noticed that there was a whole festival surrounding soy and tofu at the Japantown Peace Plaza in June, which I unfortunately missed, but I think I’ll try to attend it next year. It looks like it was really fun, with two taiko groups, a dessert competition, a lion dance troup and many other stage performance.

Delicious Sushi in Petaluma


I wanted to visit Andy’s Kitchen & Sushi Kitchen ever since I discovered it in spring before our big move, and my mom’s recent visit was the perfect opportunity. Although the restaurant’s curb appeal left much to be desired, the interior was cool and modern. The seasonal and new item signs are handmade and may look a bit… off, but the skillfully-made, gorgeously-plated foods made up for them. The variety was quite impressive and the house specialties incredibly intriguing, but we could only realistically eat so much without over-stuffing ourselves. We took a bunch of leftovers back to the house with us. I definitely have to go back to Andy’s and order some new dishes to try. Soon! There were so many tasty items to choose from! Considering that Andy’s has such an extensive menu, I can take my time and concentrate on savoring each of the delightful mixture of colors, textures and flavors.


We started out with jasmine green tea, edamame, and miso soup, which provided a great start to the meal of appetizers. ;P Next time I want to try the edamame with garlic sauce and the seafood teapot soup, which I hope is a type of dobin mushi, a particular favorite of mine. The edamame were warm and lightly salted. Although I forgot to take pictures of the miso soup, Mom’s was indeed beautiful the the crab meat artistically displayed in the middle. My miso soup with tofu was hot and comforting with great umami (satisfyingly savory flavor). I have found a new love of poki or poke, which is basically a sea vegetable and raw fish salad. (Thank you Anise for introducing this type of dish to me! I can’t wait to try some dishes from your poki  recipe book.) I also really enjoy seaweed salads, so I ordered the poki salad made with ahi tuna. The fish and seaweed were perfect, and the white and black sesame seeds and orange and red tobiko mixed into the salad were more than just garnishes, adding delicious flavor and mesmerizing bright colors and wonderful flavors. It was so delicious, I almost forgot to take a picture. I thought about ordering a meat and vegetable combination plate of tempura, but I don’t think we would have had enough room in our quickly filling tummies to eat it.

There were so many great looking sushi rolls on the menu, it was difficult to narrow down our order to merely two. Somehow we managed before reading the menu descriptions made us much hungrier. We finally decided upon the caterpillar and Godzilla rolls. The caterpillar included unagi, cucumber and avocado with garnishes of black sesame seeds and green tobiko on top. I really like tobiko for its mild fishy flavor and crunchiness and are kind of like salmon roe, which I don’t like, since the salmon eggs have a stronger taste and remind me of fishy bath beads due to their size. The caterpillar roll was also dressed with nitsume, as cooked eel dishes usually are. I love this sauce and wish that it was featured in more dishes and not merely a cooked eel accompaniment. I think I’ll make some with the recipe that I found (click in the nitsume link above) but with less sugar. I also want to find out how different sweeteners, like agave, turbinado or sucanat affect the sauce flavor, so that I can make a sauce with a lower glycemic index value.

I had never seen a Godzilla roll before, but it looked amazingly delectable on the menu. Ours was filled with tempura shrimp, crab, romaine lettuce, cucumber and scallions and was topped with avocado and smoked salmon. This roll was also garnished with sesame seeds and drizzled with sauce of some sort. I suppose I will have to just order it again, in order to remember what kind it was…. Darn. 😉 Regardless of the sauce, the Godzilla roll was downright tasty, and I will order it again. In addition to my recently acquired taste for wasabi, I’ve also found that I can suddenly eat pickled ginger, too. It use to be way too spicy for my palate and stomach and cause me heartburn, but I tried the ginger with the sushi and found it exceedingly palatable. Surprise!

Look at these! Don’t they look drool-worthy?! Yum! In addition to the vast variety of items normally on the menu, there are also many seasonal dishes that frequently get swapped out, as well. I look forward to trying some of those, too. Which sushi restaurants do you prefer and why? Which of their specialty rolls do you like the most?