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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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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a fresh look at barley: a deliciously grainy salad with mint & feta cheese

cooking minette's barley salad with mint and feta cheese

i’ve always thought of barley in terms of a soup ingredient, as in the thick and creamy barley soups my grandma used to make on cold winter nights. she cooked the barley for so long it almost melted into the soup before folding in freshly chopped chives and a squeeze of lemon juice (or a small spoon of red wine vinegar). once in a while, just to make it extra delicious, she would also add a dollop of cream or a small chunk of sweet butter (come to think of it, i’ll have to make barley soup to share here soon). the other day i was exploring one of our local korean markets, walking down the aisles like a kid in the candy store when i came upon the huge selection of grains and beans: many varieties of rice (including a sweet brown rice i’ll be exploring soon), mung beans, red beans, and to my surprise,  a lot of barley in small & large packages, whole, rolled, organic, and not. the package i finally settled on has a lovely picture of fluffy barley in a bowl served like rice. last night I finally had the opportunity to make the salad i’ve been imagining since i brought home my bag of barley. i cooked it until it was just tender with a nice bite to it, and the rest of the salad came together easily based around ingredients i had on hand. it tasted just as I had imagined it would: chewy, grainy, fresh, and super satisfying-go ahead, try it-you won’t be disappointed!

ingredients for  4-6 servings of barley lentil salad:

cooking minette's barley rice salad

  • 1/2 cup small lentils
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 small shallot (or about 1 tbs finely minced)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (set aside a few smaller leaves)
  • 1-2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turkish red chili (pul biber) or red pepper flakes
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice (or sherry vinegar)
  • 3-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large ripe tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup french feta cheese (crumbled)

rinse the barley in cold water, then cook (simmer) in a medium saucepan with plenty of water for about 30 minutes until tender (but still with a bite to it). cook lentils the same way, until tender and fully cooked. drain both grains and add to a bowl while still hot. add oil, shallots, lemon juice, sea salt, black pepper, and cumin. stir well, and allow it to cool off. when cool, add fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes, stir, then add feta cheese and stir again. taste and adjust seasoning to your taste, sprinkle with fresh mint leaves, then serve.

barley and lentil salad

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a totally scrumptious salad: green beans with dukkah roasted chickpeas & pesto dressing

dukkah roasted chickpeas in salad

i was so lucky to find myself standing in Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful deli in Nottingham this past summer with my Sahar {cousin-love-sister} trying to narrow down (the hardest part) what to order for a quick lunch. we ended up with way more ahhhmazinngly fresh and tasty food than we could possibly consume (and we can certainly consume a good bit) wrapped in beautiful crisp white boxes to go (the only table of 10 in the back was full of people eating happily with no intentions to leave).Ottolenghi deli Notting Hill we sat on a little wall just outside devouring spiced roasted cauliflowers, grilled aubergine with cucumbers and red peppercorns, mixed beans with dill and coriander seeds, and crushed beetroots with labne and grains of paradise. does it sound as simply delicious, uncomplicated yet sophisticated as it was? i haven’t even started on the desserts yet. maybe it’s best i leave it to your imagination. let me just say i have never seen meringue as large, tasty and beautiful. when we were paying for the food my cousin picked up a jar labeled Dukkah *(see below for more on this Egyptian spice blend) and asked if I’d ever cooked with it. i had not. Ottolenghi deli Notting Hillsaid jar was promptly paid for and tossed in my bag. “i’m sure my cousi will find a great way to use it” she said. well, i finally got around to using the Dukkah in a green bean and roasted chickpea (garbanzo) salad inspired by the genius food we’d shared that glorious sunny day in London. it was such a successful dish: pure and simple, filling, good for you, slightly spicy, crunchy, and really full of flavor. it’s been added to the list of favorites. i’m thinking a fresh jar of Dukkah might be just the excuse for another trip to London. i wish. :-)dukkah roasted garbanzo beans

ingredients for 4-6 servings of salad:

  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (see roasted garbanzo bean recipe here-add Dukkah to the beans prior to roasting)-for roasting the beans you will need extra virgin olive oil, spices such as dukkah or cumin and cayenne pepper  for spiciness, sea salt, & pepper (to taste)
  • 2-3 cups cleaned haricots verts (or green beans), cooked for just a few minutes in lightly salted rapidly boiling water (until just tender) and then cooled down in ice bath to retain color and crispness
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced (julienned)
  • 1 cup sliced (cubed) ripe tomatoes
  • 4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 tbs home made walnut-parsley easto (recipe below)
  • 1/2 of a small lemon or a lime, freshly juiced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup or lightly more crumbled french feta cheese

for the walnut-parsley pesto blend together in a blender with a steel blade:

green bean salad with pesto dressing

 

  • 1 large bunch (1 cup) fresh organic flat leaf parsley
  • 1 small bunch fresh organic basil (about 10-15 leaves)
  • 10-12 raw walnuts
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • a few tsp of water may be needed to add to the blender to soften the pesto

build the salad in a shallow bowl starting with the cold (cooked) beans, bell pepper, tomatoes, chives or scallions, and crumbled cheese. top with slightly cooled but still crisp roasted garbanzo beans. dress with pesto dressing and mix just prior to serving. for the dressing combine 4-5 tbs of the pesto with lemon/lime juice and a few more tsp of olive oil if needed, mix well. taste and adjust seasoning. drizzle over the salad just before serving.

*Dukkah is an Egyptian spice mixture often served (marinated in olive oil) with pita bread. to make your own you will need:

  • 3/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

toast the sesame seeds and hazelnuts in the oven (separately), then combine all ingredients and grind in food processor for 3-4 minutes.

 

 

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