a refreshing and hearty salad: savoy cabbage, organic chicken with satsumas & sesame-ginger dressing {aka chinese chicken salad}!

how to make a good quality delicious chinese chicken salad at home in less than 30 minutes:

minette's chinese chicken saladthe night before super bowl sunday my daughter decided to have her friends over to watch the game. she asked me if i could make some fun stuff to eat for the gathering, and before i could open my mouth in response (my mind was already going a million miles a minute with great ideas) she reminded me this was a group of teenagers, and they’d want at least some foods you’d typically expect to eat while watching the big game. okayyyyy. such as, I asked? “can

photo 5

you make chicken wings”? she says- – hmnnnnn. not really? she decides she needs to make some calls for feedback, and i decide that no matter what, we’ll need to have a {semi-healthy} salad on the menu. i’ve been craving a good home made “chinese chicken salad” for a while, so it’s first on the list without hesitation. the rest of the  choices eventually comes together like this: chips and home made salsa, amazingly delicious home made ribs courtesy kristen’s dad (wow wow wow), chicken wings (thanks to the frozen section at whole foods) with organic cut celery and ranch dressing, ken’s delicious home made onion dip (must ask for the recipe) with chips, (did i mention my huge bowl of crunchy yumminess of a chicken salad?), a selection of cheeses with sliced baguettes,

superbowl party

getting ready…

chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, mini brownies, homemade cookies, macaroons….i’m almost embarrassed to go on….we were feeding a group of hungry teenagers-what can i say? i had so little time to put it all together that i took a few shortcuts with my salad-it was so easy to prepare and a big hit!

baked sesame ginger chicken breasts

baked sesame ginger chicken breasts

  • 1 small savoy (or nappa) cabbage, very finely sliced
  • 1 romaine or iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
  • a bunch of organic green onions, thinly sliced
  • a good sized bunch of fresh organic cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 whole organic roasted chicken, meat (mostly the white meat) removed and finely sliced-or, use this recipe to make the sesame ginger chicken breasts at home, then slice them up
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 3-4 mandarin oranges (satsumas), peeled and sliced, then separated
  • fried wontons (you can buy these or fry them at home rather easily)
  • toasted sesame seedsphoto 1

for the sesame-ginger dressing:

  • 3 tbs vegetable oil (i used avocado)
  • 2-3 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 tbs seasoned rice vinegar (adjust amount if necessary)
  • 1 tsp lime juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1-2 tbs soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • a good chunk of grated ginger (use microplane)
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper (for spicy)
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • if you like it on the sweeter side, add 2-3 tsp raw honey

whisk all the ingredients together, taste and adjust quantities, then add to salad and toss just before serving. crunch.

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did you say veg·e·tar·i·an? a simple {green} dinner for a gathering of friends: curried vegetable rice & fire roasted eggplant salad

peppers stuffed with mozzarella

recipe at the bottom of this post

recently i found myself planning yet another vegetarian menu for a small gathering of friends. in an effort not to be predictably boring (falling back on the usual options), i decided against the mushroom ragout, quinoa lentil salad, orzo with roasted vegetables and pesto, couscous with grilled vegetables, or the very delicious vegetarian lasagna and instead opted for a very spicy curried vegetable

liquid amber in san diego

the famous liquid amber tree outside my house

steamed rice (much like my spicy shrimp rice sans shrimp), a delicious grilled eggplant and tomato salad (russian style according to my dad who’s recipe it is), small marinated yellow peppers stuffed with mozzarella, and a huge bib & blue salad with lots of fresh dill. dessert was chewy crunchy meringue topped with whipped crème fraîche & lots of pomegranate seeds. as usual, by the time dessert rolled around (and i’d consumed a glass of vino or two), i forgot to take pictures of the dessert. yet again. next time. as i write this i’m sitting by my window looking out at the liquid amber tree (only tree in this area that actually loses its leaves, i think)-it is quite a sight to see! a few old brownish leaves desperately clinging on to dear life among the oh-so beautiful fresh bright green leaves just coming in-and all i can think of is yipeeeee!!! spring is coming! a fresh start. a new beginning. admittedly, we’re very lucky weather-wise in California-so no complaining on that front! having said that, the coming of spring still means that longer days are just around the corner. we are happily springing forward, and for that, i am grateful on this beautiful day.

for spicy persian style spiced vegetable steamed rice (4-6 good portions)spicy persian saffron rice

  • 2-3 cups basmati rice, rinsed in water several times until the water runs clear
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes (or 3-4 roma tomatoes), finely cubed
  • 1 medium onion, finely cubed (or 2-3 leeks)
  • 1 cup peas (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 cup mushrooms cut in small cubes
  • 1 cup red bell pepper cut in small cubes
  • 1 cup eggplant (or zucchini) cut in small cubes
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup vegetable oil (avocado)
  • 3-4 tsp of my grandma’s spice mixture: equal parts cinnamon, toasted cumin seeds, rose petals (gol-e-sorkh)
  • 1-2 tsp finely ground saffron
  • cayenne pepper (to taste for spiciness) or a jalapeño pepper, very finely chopped (remember the curry powder is typically spicy)
  • 3-4 tsp good curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric

    tah-deeg!

    tah-deeg!

  1. in a deep (non-stick) pot, bring salted water to a boil, then add the cleaned rice and boil (rolling boil) for about 7-9 minutes until the rice looks just tender. drain the rice in a mesh colander, then run cold water over it and allow it to drain.
  2. heat 2 tbs of vegetable oil in a skillet, then add onions and fry for 2-3 minutes on high heat. add the other vegetables (except tomatoes), curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste and stir fry on high heat until vegetable are browned and softened (about 5-8 minutes or so). taste and adjust seasoning. set aside.
  3. add 2 tbs vegetable oil, 1/2 tsp ground saffron, and 2 tbs water to bottom of the pot and heat them together briefly (1-2 minutes on high). remove from heat. start with a few large spoonfuls of rice at the bottom, followed by a thin layering of the vegetables (carefully mix it up a little with a spatula), a  layering of freshly cubed tomatoes, and a sprinkle of spice mixture. keep building a pyramid with your ingredient in the same order (fire roasted eggplant saladwider at the bottom and rounder at the top) until you have used up all the ingredients.
  4. poke 2-3 holes into the rice pyramid you have created with the handle of the spatula. sprinkle the remaining saffron over the very top of the rice dome evenly. pour 2-3 tbs of vegetable oil (or melted butter) over the rice evenly (using a squirt bottle or slotted spoon helps). pour about 3-4 tbs of water into the holes you’ve created. close the lid tightly over a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. put the pot on the stove on high heat for about 5-7 minutes (this will help with the tah-deeg or crispy rice at the bottom). do not move away from the stove! after about 7 minutes, reduce the heat to med/low and allow the rice to steam for about 45 minutes to an hour. The rice and crispy delightful tag-deeg bottom are ready to be served!

fire roasted eggplant & tomato salad for 4-6:

rosemary crostini

  • 6-7 medium to large talian eggplants
  • 3 large rip tomatoes (or 4-5 roma tomatoes)
  • 1 small shallot, very finely minced (or 4-5 scallions, thinly sliced)
  • 1-2 tbs sherry vinegar (or red wine)
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (optional to taste)
  • 3-4 tbs good quality extra virgin olive oil
  1. put the eggplants and tomatoes directly on the grill (can be done inside on a gas burner) and allow them to roast  while occasionally turning when necessary until the skins are almost burned and flaky but the insides are soft and cooked through. set aside and allow them to cool off.
  2. carefully remove the roasted eggplant and tomatoes from the outer skins and add to a bowl (mush the eggplants and tomatoes up with a fork creating a smooth consistency) with very finely minced shallots (1-2 tsp), olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and vinegar. taste and adjust seasoning. (add a touch of fresh lemon juice if you’d like it to taste more citrusy).
  3. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving. drizzle with olive oil. serve with oven roasted homemade rosemary crostini : thinly sliced baguette, olive oil, sea salt, chopped fresh rosemary, good parmesan cheese-in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes (keep an eye on them).

mozzarella stuffed small yellow peppers:

  • about 12 marinated yellow (or red) small peppers (buy them at the store usually near the olives)
  • 12 small fresh mozzarella balls (or cut a larger one to small bites)
  • a small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest

combine parsley, garlic, sea salt & pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil in a bowl. add mozzarella cheese, allow it to marinate for at least 1 hour, and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. stuff the drained peppers carefully with the marinated cheese balls just before serving.

 

 

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cooking minette’s italian wedding soup

how to make a delicious gluten free italian wedding soup {sort of} with lots of yummy meatballs and baby kale:

gluten free italian meatball soup with organic meatballs & baby kale

what do you do when you find yourself with a huge bag of beautiful organic baby kale you couldn’t resist buying at the store? you think about all sorts of ways you might use said kale in foods and salads before it goes bad (we’re talking a HUGE bag). if you’re me, for some odd reason, you think about a steaming hot bowl of italian wedding soup loaded with luscious meatballs. and then you go from there-starting the meatballs by combining a few simple ingredients in a bowl: organic (grass fed) ground beef, thinly sliced scallions, chopped italian parsley, sea salt, pepper, a touch of smoked paprika (just because), and just a hit of chick pea flour (or corn flour). once you’ve rolled the little meatballs and added them to a pot of sizzling minced onions in olive oil, you are almost there. it’s been cold out there this winter (in most areas of the world)-take heart: this soup truly warms you inside and out. better start rolling those meatballs!

ingredients for 4 servings of minette’s italian wedding soup:

  • cooking minette's meatballs for soup1 pound organic ground beef (or turkey)-preferably 7% fat only
  • 1 medium to large onion, finely chopped
  • a bunch of scallions (green onions) finely sliced (6-8)
  • a small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • sea salt & pepper to taste (for salt, per bon appetit: as a rule, about 1 tsp per pound will make for perfectly salted meatballs)
  • 2-3 tsp chickpea flour (or corn flour)-some might add breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (optional) or cayenne pepper for spicy
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes (roma tomatoes are good) finely cubed
  • 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1.5-2 cups of organic baby kale (adjust amount to taste, or substitute with spinach if you prefer)
  • 1/2-1 cup italian gluten fee (or your choice) orzo
  • 3 cups preferably homemade beef or chicken broth
  • 1-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • good freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. cooking minette's gluten free italian wedding soupmake the meatballs by combining meat, scallions, 2/3rds of the parsley, sea salt & freshly ground pepper, smoked paprika, and chick pea flour in a bowl and mixing by hand (use gloves)-the light touch of your hands incorporates all the ingredients without crushing the meat. don’t over-mix into a paste–full pieces of ground meat should still be visible. add a few teaspoons of water if necessary. gluten free orzo for souproll little balls (bite size is best for soup) out of the mixture and set aside on a plate.
  2. heat the oil in a dutch oven, add onions and fry on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes before adding the meatballs carefully and allowing them to brown on one side (medium heat) before turning them carefully to brown the other.baby kale in soup
  3. when the meatballs and onions are browned, add 3-4 cups of water and three cups of broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow the meatballs to cook for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. add cubed tomatoes (or stewed tomatoes from a jar) and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  5. add the orzo and allow it to cook until they plump up and become tender, then add the remaining parsley and the kale. add a little more broth to the pot if necessary, then cook for another 15 minutes. add the lemon juice (to taste) before serving. taste and adjust seasoning.
  6. sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
  7. buon appetito!cooking minette's italian wedding soup

 

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ceviche time: shrimp & vegetarian

ceviche is typically made with fish (sea food) that is “cooked” by being marinated in lemon or lime juice (the acidity cooks the raw fish) and flavored with chili peppers. the most likely origin of ceviche is thought to be from peru, and there is evidence of  a similar preparation that goes back nearly 2,000 years-this dish not only has a long history, but is a great example of how we can look at food as ART and a method of creative expression (which is how i like to think of it). after eating a considerable amount of margo’s delicious ceviche at book club the other night, i decided to make some at home using shrimp like she had, and tofu? mushrooms? hearts of palm? for a vegetarian version- i ended up using organic sprouted tofu (see why) and hearts of palm-i’m going to try oven roasted mushrooms and jicama or water chestnuts next. between the two very spicy dishes of finely chopped ingredients and some butter lettuce and endives, we had ourselves a feast to remember!

ingredients for vegetarian ceviche, and baked organic tofu (you can eat with brown rice):

  • 1 package organic sprouted tofu, sliced in rectangles about1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
  • 5-6 hearts of palm, finely cubed
  • 1 large ripe tomato, finely cubed
  • 1 small red onion, finely minced
  • 1/2-1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and finely minced (adjust amount for spiciness)
  • 2 persian cucumbers, finely cubed (i left the skins on)
  • 1 bunch organic cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2-3 limes and 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 ripe avocado, finely cubed
  • 1 tbs soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (or vegetable oil of choice) for baking tofu
  • sea salt (to taste)

1. slice the tofu, line them up on a baking dish and spray or drizzle on the oil and soy sauce/liquid aminos. add some chopped cilantro and sliced red onions, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. let the cool, then cut them in small cubes.

baked tofu for vegetarian ceviche, salad, or delicious with brown rice

2. in a bowl combine the baked & cubed tofu, hearts of palm, onions, jalapeno, cucumbers, lemon/lime juice, and sea salt and allow them to marinate in the refrigerator for an hour. add the cilantro, tomatoes, and avocado, combine everything, and serve with lettuce cups, endives, or radicchio.

ingredients for spicy shrimp ceviche (2-4 servings):
  • 1/2 pound medium (uncooked) shrimp
  • 2 persian cucumbers, peeled and finely cubed
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, finely cubed
  • 1 bunch organic cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed (just prior to adding)
  • juice of 3 limes and 1 lemon (more or less)
  • 1/2-1 ja;apeno pepper, mostly de-seeded and finely minced
  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion (i used 2 small fresh) red onion
  • sea salt

 

1. bring 2-3 cups water to a boil in a pot with a squeezed lemon (from juicing). add the whole un-peeled shrimp and let them boil for about 1 minute (not more), then remove from heat and drain. once the shrimp has cooled off, peel, de-vein, and cut each of them in four to five small sections *(with shrimp it is safest to quickly boil them rather than use raw)*

2. add the shrimp to a bowl with the lemon juice, jalapeno peppers, onions, a touch of sea salt, and cucumbers-allow the ingredients to marinate (refrigerated) for 2 hours.

3. add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro and avocado and combine well about 15-20 minutes prior to serving.
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