a lesson in {yummy} restrictions: vegetarian lettuce rolls with oyster mushrooms, chinese eggplants, and shishito peppers

cooking minette's salad rollsyes, i’ve been away for a little while now, but i have a perfectly good excuse-i’ve been challenging myself of late to {enjoy} a lighter, healthier diet, and have said goodbye to many of the fun stuff (for the moment)-the grains, sugar, and generally pesky carbohydrates i hate to admit i love so much. not quite sure how long this phase will last, but i’m determined to give it a good old try. can you imagine how hard this is for someone who likes to think

wok fired oyster mushrooms

about, talk about, and experiment with (as in EAT) food all the time? well, it was hard for the first few days, but i’ve fallen into a good rhythm of sorts (which means i’m beginning to like it AND the way it makes me feel)- i’ve learned to carry good snacks with me: bananas, almonds, awfully delicious (and somewhat sweet, although unsweetened) coconut flakes, berries in a bag (yes, they do get mushy sometimes), roasted seaweed. it also helps to keep the fridge packed with lots of fresh vegetables and greens, (the aforementioned) berries (although they are out of season and i feel slightly guilty), cooked quinoa (hopefully not really considered a grain-looked it up: quinoa is the seed of the chenopodium or goosefoot plant-interesting quinoa article), hardboiled eggs, and greek yogurt (latest obsession). keeping in line with the new diet, i thought i’d treat the family to a fun (and surprisingly satisfying) dinner a few nights ago-it turned out to be one of the best dinners we’ve had in a long while: salad rolls made (rolled) with all sorts of delicious goodies courtesy of the lovely korean market. basically, i set up a {salad roll} “bar” with lots of fresh and wok fired veggies and one amazing peanut sauce (recipe below). everyone then made their own delicious little bundles the way they liked them (slightly less work for me). after we had devoured several rolls a piece, my husband declared that this really was (is) the way to eat! i smiled wide knowing how easy and fun the well appreciated meal had been to prepare. one happy mina :)

for wok fired shishito peppers, eggplants, & oyster mushrooms:

  • in a wok, heat 1-2 tsp of vequick fired shishito peppersgetable oil (i used virgin unfiltered  coconut) and 1 tsp  of toasted sesame oil. add the peppers (do each item separately, same method) to the hot wok and stir fry on high for just a few minutes (3-5), then add a splash of soy sauce (or a sprinkle of seasalt), and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
  • eggplants: cut them in evenly sized pieces and repeat the process above-eggplants may need slightly more oil, and time.

 

cooking minette salad rolls

delicious spicy peanut sauce:

  • 2-3 tbs organic peanut butter (use peanut butter that is peanuts only-no additives, and chunky works well)
  • about 1/4 cup (more or less) coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp sriracha sauce (or other favorite hot sauce or cayenne pepper will do)
  • 1-2 tbs soy sauce,  2-3 tsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 tsp brown sugar or raw honey (or omit the sugar altogether)

**another good sauce option: spicy green cilantro sauce aka green sauce at our house.**

  • other ingredients you will need (give or take): sprouts (bean sprouts and radish sprouts here), organic lettuce, basil, mint, or cilantro leaves (i had none this time), and optionally rice paper wraps (see this other recipe).

wok fired chinese eggplants

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minted meatball soup {mintball soup}!

the other day i made this soup on a whim~i was really craving my grandma’s goosh bareh, but did not have the time or patience to go through the process of making it. besides, i’m trying (not so successfully i might add) to be good and limit my carbs, so i decided to leave out the dumplings (as in, the dough). if you make this {mintball} soup and prefer not to be so good and have no issues (lucky you) with carbs, gluten, or white flour (all the things we have to worry about these days-it’s laughable) then go ahead and add noodles to your soup about 10-15 minutes prior to serving. i had posted a picture of this soup on my facebook page (www.facebook.com/cookingminette) last night, and my dear sister-friend who used to enjoy (understatement) my grandma’s goosh bareh with me back in the day (miss those days) had commented: “looks like simplified goosh bareh to me.” as you can imagine, this put a big smile {:-)} on my face. you know me (too) well, my friend! can’t wait to have a bowl of soup with you real soon. xx
ingredients for 6-8 servings:
  • (about) 1 pound (7% fat or less) ground organic grass fed beef
  • 1-2 tsp dry mint (or fresh, very finely minced)
  • 1 medium onion-cut in half: puree 1 half in processor (or with grater), finely mince (or cube) the other half
  • 4 stalks of organic celery, finely minced
  • 1 tbp olive oil
  • sea salt (to taste), freshly ground pepper (1-2 tsp)
  • 1 cup good quality stewed tomatoes (or fresh cubed)
  • 1.5 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 2-3 cups good home made broth (beef or vegetable)
  • 1 small bunch fresh mint leaves for garnish
  • 1-2 fresh limes

1. in a bowl combine: ground beef, sea salt (to taste), freshly ground pepper, grated (or pureed) onion, and 1-2 tsp mint. combine the mixture together (preferably by hand) until everything is evenly distributed, then start making little meatballs (the size of a small truffle-smaller than a ping pong ball).
2. in a heavy deep pot or dutch oven heat the oil and add the minced onion and celery. sautee until softened and just golden, then add the meatballs and allow them to cook/fry on one side before carefully turning them to cook on the other (about 3-5 minutes on each side on medium/high heat).
3. add the pureed (or fresh) tomatoes, 1/2 to 1 cup water, and the broth, and allow the soup to cook (simmer) for about 30-40 minutes. if you are adding noodles, add them now and adjust the liquid (little more broth or water) if necessary.

4. add the fresh spinach (i prefer not to cook it for too long) about 5 minutes prior to serving, stir well, and simmer until softened.
5. serve garnished with a few sprigs of mint and a lime wedge-or add a squeeze of fresh lime juice to the bowl. dig in!

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thanksgiving: images, inspiration, & recipes from years past

thanksgiving recipesthanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. it is the first one my family embraced when we moved to america so many years ago, and we have celebrated it every year since by preparing and enjoying a delicious feast together. i’m pretty sure we enjoy the days of planning and cooking more than the eating which always seem to go by in a flash. we each have our favorites, and although we keep the traditional components constant, we change up the menu by trying new recipes for stuffings and sides. my husband likes a more traditional stuffing with an almost overload of sage, and my mom likes a chestnut stuffing i learned from my friend claire years ago (approximate recipe to follow). the kids all like lots of smooth mashed potatoes (see recipe) with little pools of gravy. i haven’t changed the way i roast my turkey (free range organic) ever since i discovered martha stewart’s recipe (perfect roast turkey 101) about eight years ago, and it turns out perfectly every time. so yes, i highly recommend you look it up, and follow the relatively simple instructions. and buy butter-lots and lots of it….it’s thanksgiving!!! i had not started this blog last year at this time, but here you’ll find a few random pictures and recipes from years past that might come handy. no matter what we add or subtract from the menu, we always roast (mostly root) vegetables because they are light, delicious, and easy to make {see recipe-or this one.} thanksgiving is the time to be grateful for the many blessings we have in our lives~a happy, healthy, and delicious thanksgiving to you and yours!
roast vegetables: just out of the oven: parsnips, fennel, & squash with fresh thyme
for foolproof turkey roasting:  martha stewart’s perfect turkey 101 recipe is my favorite

ready for the oven: parsnips, leeks, and turnips

creamed onions: boil peeled baby onions in water or good chicken broth until just tender. drain, then add sea salt & pepper to taste with a touch of thyme and cover with cream. simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the cream has thickened.

a new salad for this year: minted persimmon pomegranate salad with feta cheese
(recipe here)
continued (lots more goodies, click on read more)>>
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welcoming spring with sabzi polo {persian herbed rice}

traditional norouz recipes

sabzi polo {سبزی پولو}, or herbed basmati rice has a very special place in a persian household-it (along with the fried white fish that goes with it) is essentially the turkey (or prime rib) and mashed potatoes of the persian new year or norouz. it is the celebratory traditional dish that is served in almost every household on the first day of spring symbolizing the renewal and abundance of the new year. nowruz is time for family gatherings celebrating new beginnings in the year to come.

[google images]: colored eggs, sabzeh, goldfish

as a child growing up, there was nothing like the excitement of watching the adults prepare for the big day (or moment, really). there was the sweet smell of spring flowers and sugary cookies baking, of fish frying, rice steaming, and mountains of fresh herbs being chopped. everywhere you looked there were sprouts growing (sprouted lentils), goldfish swimming, mounds of pastries on platters, silver shining, people laughing, hugging, chatting, fresh bills changing hands, bowls of dried fruits and nuts(ajeel), spring cleaning, music playing, and candles burning. above all, there was the sight of the haft seen (seven S’s) table being carefully laid out with all the symbolic items representing the seven guardian angels: dried lotus fruits (senjed) for love, sprouts (sabzeh) and colored eggs for rebirth, garlic (seer) for medicine, apples for beauty and health, sumac (somagh) for light, vinegar (serkeh) for age and patience, and potted hyacinths (sonbol) i imagine for the heavenly scent they provided as you sat around the table with your family waiting for the exact moment when spring would arrive (vernal equinox~it was announced on the radio with much fanfare) and everyone jumped up kissing and hugging, and shouting eid shoma mobarak (happy new year)! sheer,  pure, happiness. ahhhhhhhhhhh. oh, yes, the sabzi polo….well, it was the icing on the cake: fragrant, fresh, fluffy and delicious-the perfect accompaniment to the fried fish and generous amounts of sour (seville) oranges we squeezed on top. my idea of heaven. almost:) happy happy norouz, spring, renewal, season, new year to all!
for 4-6 generous servings:

  • 3 cups long grain basmati rice
  • 2 large bunches cilantro (2 cups finely chopped)
  • 2 large bunches dill (2 cups finely chopped)
  • 2 large bunches flat leaf parsley (2 cups finely chopped)
  • 1 bunch baby leeks (or scallions)
  • 3-4 stalks fresh garlic, thinly sliced (or 3 cloves)
  • 1-2 tsp ground saffron
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4-5 tbs vegetable oil
  • sea salt
  • 2-3 tbs butter (optional)

1. clean and finely chop all the herbs and allow them to dry while you bring 7-8 cups of salted (2 tbs) water to a boil in a deep heavy pot. clean the rice in a bowl with water until the water runs clear.

2. add the rice to the boiling water and bring up to a boil. stay next to the pot, and stir carefully (softly) a couple of times. allow the rice to boil briskly for just about 7-8 minutes, then add the herbs to the pot and stir them in combining them evenly with the rice with a spatula (be careful not to break up the rice) for just a minute before straining the mixture in a fine mesh colander (see picture below). rinse with about 2 cups of lukewarm water.

3. add 2-3 tbs oil to the empty pot with 1/2 of the saffron dissolved in 2-3 tsp warm water. start adding the rice mixture back to the pot by layering several spoonfuls (about 2 spatulas) of rice at a time, a small sprinkling of advieh (spice mixture of cinnamon, rose petals, and toasted cumin seeds or ground cumin), followed by more rice until you have a half dome or pyramid of rice layered with spices. add remaining saffron to the very top layer of rice. *the advieh is optional*

4. drizzle the remaining oil and about 1/2 cup or slightly less water evenly over the top of the rice & herb dome with the help of a slotted spoon. dot the rice with the butter if using. cover with a clean kitchen (or paper) towel, then tightly with the lid (so the steam stays inside). turn the heat to medium.
5. stay close to the pot and allow the rice to cook on medium for 10  minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook (steam) for about 50 to 60 minutes.

6. remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for 3-4 minutes to allow the crispy rice (tah deeg) to loosen. open the pot, serve the top layer of saffron rice aside in a plate, then serve the remaining rice in a platter. decorate the top of the platter of rice with the saffron rice you had set aside. detach the crusty rice (aka the BEST part) at the bottom with a wooden spatula and serve in a separate dish.
7. serve with oven baked white fish (fresh halibut or chilean sea bass is good) or fried white  fish, done the traditional way: lightly dusted with flour, sea salt, cracked pepper, and turmeric, then pan fried (on lower heat) in your choice of oil (I have been using avocado oil of late) until crispy golden and delicious. serve with sliced sour (seville) oranges and lemons.

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