Sunday, October 23, 2011

Man with One Chopstick Go Hungry

Pretty sure this is NOT
the name of the place
where we ate!

Pic from
Hethyr:  As I mentioned in the last post, my mom and dad were pretty adventurous eaters when I was a kid and my sisters and I were exposed to a variety of different cuisines.  Our family frequented this one particular Chinese restaurant a couple of blocks away from our house and the food was always good, but the house dessert left a lot to be desired.  The server would bring each of us a deep-fried banana and all six of us would giggle uncontrollably as soon as he or she left the table.  I don’t know what it was about those bananas, but they were absolutely disgusting.  I think maybe it was because the batter was really bitter-tasting and not at all sweet.  It somehow became our “thing” to try to hide the bananas in our uneaten food (which we usually didn’t take home for some reason) without the staff finding them.  It never worked.  They always found the bananas and put them in take-home containers for us.  I guess they had their own little joke.

Although I don’t torture Jon with deep-fried bananas (maybe I'll start), I often subject him to Asian food, which I love.  Luckily he loves it, too.  We still have a lot of great produce on hand, so last night I made a stir-fry to use up some of the veggies.  The “recipe” was so easy that it actually took longer to prep the veggies than it did to cook the food.  The whole meal took less time than it would have to run out for Asian take-out.  Honestly.  It really wasn’t a recipe, though... it was just me throwing a bunch of stuff in a pan at a fairly high temperature, adding a super-simple sauce and throwing it all on top of some brown rice.  That’s actually my usual stir-fry “recipe” and no two stir-fries have ever been the same.

I'm wokkin' broccol-ay-ay!
As usual with my recipes, don’t let the ingredients list scare you.  I always find ways to make things more difficult on myself, so I used every vegetable we had.  You can use just two or three and it will still be delicious.  You can add meat, seafood, tofu, beans, etc. for protein.  The sauce is so amazingly easy, but it is my absolute favorite stir-fry sauce.  Sweet, spicy and salty all at the same time.  A damn party in my mouth.  For a splash of brightness at the end, I garnish it with cilantro and for a nutty crunch, sesame seeds top it all off.  Hope you enjoy this as much as we did.  I ate a super-sized serving and thought about going back for seconds, but decided I'd let Jon eat lunch today.

Love You Long Time Stir-Fry

Serves 6

-1/4 cup soy sauce
-1/4 cup honey
-1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (such as Mae Ploy)
-2 tablespoons oil (I used coconut oil)
-1 teaspoon sesame oil
-2-inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced
-1 teaspoon garlic, minced
-2 scallions, sliced
-Approximately 6 cups fresh vegetables:
       1 pound broccoli florets, cut small
       1 pound cauliflower florets, cut small
       1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and diced
       1 medium turnip, peeled and julienned
       2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
       1/2 small red cabbage, coarsely chopped
       1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
-1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
-3 tablespoons sesame seeds (toasted if desired)

1.  In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, combine soy sauce, honey and sweet chili sauce.  Set aside.
2.  Heat oils in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Add ginger, garlic and scallions and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
3.  Add broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, turnip and carrots and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until broccoli is starting to turn bright green.  Add cabbage and zucchini and continue to stir-fry until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 to 3 more minutes.
4.  Remove skillet or wok from heat and stir in sauce.
5.  If desired, spoon stir-fry over prepared rice in a serving dish and top with chopped cilantro and sesame seeds.
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Jon:  There is something very satisfying about eating Asian food.  A rice and veggie meal digests like a champ.  Anytime I eat a stir-fry, I feel like I just did my body a favor.  It's no random unexplainable occurrence that most Asians are thin and most Americans are fat.  Swapping some meat and potatoes for some rice and veggies is good for the body and the soul.

I'm not sure, however, that I've experienced the pleasure of the deep-fried banana.  Dunking a banana in a fryer seems to me like a great way to ruin a perfectly good piece of fruit.  Actually, most Asians desserts freak me out a bit.  But maybe that's another important key to Asian thinness... if we had unappealing desserts in this country, maybe we wouldn't choose to inhale an extra thousand calories and quarter cup of sugar immediately following a full meal.  While a fortune cookie might look and taste like thin cardboard, it sure isn't going to add any new layers to your muffin top.

This stir fry felt a little like the grand finale send-off of some of our summer veggies.  Broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, kohlrabi, cabbage... see ya again in June.  Swimming in a sea of soy sauce, honey, and chili sauce and floating on a bed of rice is a noble way for any vegetable to transition into winter hibernation.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Curry Me to Warmer Climes

Hethyr:  Just a couple of days ago, I was in warm, sunny Florida visiting my family.  Outdoor festivals, swimming, bike rides, long walks on the beach, baseball/softball games, boating, dinner and drinks on the patio.  The weather was about as perfect as it gets… 80s and sunny with low humidity.

Tuesday in Florida

Yesterday, reality slapped me in the face when it snowed in Colorado Springs.  Meh.  I am not a cold-weather person, to say the very least.  I am rendered completely useless by the slightest chill in the air.  You may think that I’m a total idiot for living in Colorado since I don’t like the cold.  You may be right.

Saturday in Colorado

The freezing temperatures and rain/snow put me in the mood for comfort food.  I gave Jon a few options for dinner and we actually had a lot of trouble deciding on what we wanted because everything sounded so good.  This time of year is great for produce here.  We have the last of summer’s tomatoes, zucchini, green peppers and eggplant and the first of fall’s carrots, onions, potatoes and turnips.  This makes for a cornucopia of choices when it comes to planning meals.  Yeah, I just said cornucopia.  Sometimes we end up with such a variety of produce in our fridge that I like to use a bunch of it up at once.  Last night was one of those nights.

We ended up deciding on a curry, which was absolutely delicious.  We are going to work our way through the other options over the next couple of days since we really wanted to have all of them.  Today’s menu will consist of breakfast burritos with lots of veggies and beef chorizo, leftover curry for lunch and stuffed bell peppers for dinner.  Tomorrow we’ll have a veggie frittata for lunch and eggplant parmigiano for dinner.  Jon is one lucky man-guy this week!

When people ask me about my favorite things to cook, I always reply “ethnic foods.”  I grew up in an Italian family, so Italian food is second-nature to me and I still love it.  My parents were pretty adventurous eaters when we were kids, so I grew to love foods from other cultures as well.  Although I thoroughly enjoy simply prepared dishes which highlight foods’ natural flavors, I also adore using herbs and spices to complement those same foods.

I have cabinets, drawers and bins full of spices and am constantly adding new and exotic items.  My most recent gift from Jon was a collection of 12 salts from around the world.  It is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received and I use the salts every single day.  Um, I’m starting to get a little off the subject...

Anyway, when I was craving comfort food yesterday, I kept thinking about curry and that’s eventually what we ended up having.  To me, the warm spiciness of curry was the perfect antidote to a cold and dreary day.  I’ll give you the recipe for the version I made, but feel free to substitute any vegetables that you have on hand.  And I realize that my ingredients list is lengthy, but I was just using things from my fridge – you don’t have to make yours this complicated.  I served mine over brown basmati rice with saffron.

Mixed Vegetable Curry
Serves 6
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder (your favorite blend)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 small carrots, sliced 1/4-inch
  • 2 small green peppers, seeded, ribbed and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small turnip, quartered, then sliced 1/4-inch
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water
  • 1 small kohlrabi, peeled and julienned 1/4-inch
  • 2 small potatoes, cubed 3/4-inch
  • 1 medium zucchini, cubed 3/4-inch
  • 1 medium eggplant, cubed 3/4-inch
  • 1/2 small red cabbage, chopped coarse
  • Cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add curry powder, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant.

2.  Add onion, green bell peppers, carrots and turnips and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

3.  Add coconut milk and stock and bring to a boil.  Add kohlrabi and potatoes and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Add stock or water a little at a time if sauce becomes too thick.

4.  Add zucchini, eggplant and cabbage and cook for 5 more minutes or until vegetables are fork-tender.

5.  Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro and red pepper flakes.
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Jon:  Fall has always been my favorite time of year.  I love the cool weather, the changing leaves, football, and even the start of school.  Living in Colorado, the one major thing I miss during fall is the changing leaves.  Yes, we have some colorful deciduous trees and tons of Aspens that transform to yellow prior to shedding their canopy, but it is nothing like what we experienced when living in the Midwest, and nothing even close to the visual ecstasy of our autumn in Boston.  But one thing that I love about this time of year in Colorado is the unpredictable weather.  I love the fact that we've had beautiful, cool, sunny weather for two weeks straight... then woke up to a cold, snowy Saturday morning.

The timing sucked for Hethyr, however.  The cold weather hit just as I picked her up at the airport.  As she mentioned, she can't handle the cold.   Garr, our fat-free fourteen-year-old dog, is the only other creature I've met who shivers when it's 68 degrees.  Hethyr and Garr spend most of the non-summer months wrapped up in blankets on the couch.  They morph into two big frozen burritos, hibernating until the summer sun heats them back up sometime around June.


While I'm ready for "comfort food" any time of year, it definitely tastes best when it is cold outside.  The curry last night (and the monster burrito this morning) did, in fact, succeed in raising my comfort level.  I love meals that can fill you up to the brink of bursting but still allow you to feel satisfied because it is all healthy veggies and grains.  It's good food for the body, mind, and soul.

So the real question remains... when Hethyr ate the breakfast burrito this morning, was it cannibalism?  Fortunately for her it will be warm again this upcoming week, so maybe she can shed her outer tortilla.