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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back to basics: simple zucchini & tomatoes with walnut pesto

a simple dish, a small compromise, and a most beautiful october sunset over the ocean:

La Jolla fall sunsets

in preparation and anticipation of the fast approaching holiday season with all the glorious food consumption it entails (it’s bad! already can’t stop thinking about what sides and pies to serve this thanksgiving) i’ve made the decision to feed us a lighter, simpler, and predominantly vegetarian diet for the next few weeks. after a few nights of different vegetable soups and a nice salad nicoise, it was time for a non liquid meal on the warmer side. lately i’ve been trying to cook with what i have as opposed to shopping for specific recipes, so i wanted to use the beautiful light green zucchinis i had picked up at the farmers market along with a large sweet onion, tomatoes (always abundant in my kitchen), garlic, and fresh basil. the plan was to serve the dish with yogurt and flat bread, sort of in line with a persian “borani kadoo”, but i realized i had a slight problem.

cooking minette's zucchini with tomatoes & pestowe have a dear visitor staying with us, and he doesn’t  like garlic at all, nor basil, for that matter. the dish would survive without the garlic, but my basil was starting to become slightly wilted and had to be used: pesto! dinner would be a simple “borani” (a typical persian appetizer served with yogurt) with an optional drizzle of lemony walnut pesto. everyone was happy. oh, and the sunset picture? i just had to share the magical moment i snapped with my phone a few nights ago-there are few things more beautiful than the special light of an autumn sunset over the pacific!

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                                          for 4 servings:

  • 4-6 light green zucchinis (peeled or not, your choice), sliced lengthwise in two or three portions
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced in rounds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (or omit and use pesto)
  • sliced ripe tomatoes (amount depends on what type of tomatoes you are using), sliced to about same thickness as zucchini
  • 1 tbs olive or avocado oil (best not to use olive oil for high heat cooking)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional if serving with yogurt without pesto)
  • for pesto see recipe

borani kadoo with pesto

in a heavy skillet or frying  pan, heat the oil, then add onions and allow them to caramelize (cook while stirring occasionally on med/low heat until they become light brown and glassy) before adding the zucchinis (and turmeric & garlic if using) and frying on both sides (turn carefully with kitchen thongs). season with salt and pepper. cover with tomatoes, and allow them to cook  (stirring very carefully if necessary because the zucchinis break easily- or cut zucchinis in halves before frying ) on medium/low heat for about 15-20 minutes. serve when any liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated and thickened.

 

 

 

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hearty yogurt soup {ash-e-mast}: the mushroom soup that wasn’t

persian yogurt soup or ash

on making ash~a deliciously comforting and hearty yogurt soup:

the plan is to make a nice and creamy mushroom soup for dinner with the left over mushrooms from the ragout served at my dinner party a few nights ago. i even go as far as chopping the onion and slicing a few mushrooms before my mind begins to wander towards the fragrant bag of dried tarragon my mom recently brought back from her visit home. i briefly consider adding some to my soup before i find myself rummaging through  the refrigerator where i promptly find two nice bunches of cilantro, a bunch of korean chives (how good are those), and some flat leaf parsley. wow, who knew? all i can think of at this point is how badly i want (almost need) to make ash-e-mast (yogurt soup) the way my grandma made it: thick, hearty, fragrant, creamy, and loaded with tarragon. that is how my mind works- i just can’t help myself….can’t seem to stick to the (menu) plan most of the time! at this point, i have no choice but to make ash-e-mast. no spinach? check the freezer just in case. still no spinach. well, then, it’ll have to be a spinach-less ash. i say goodbye to the mushrooms (with just a tiny bit of guilt), and promise to use them soon in some sauce or other. out comes the dutch oven, a few grains of rice, split peas, turmeric. before i know it, i’m surrounded with the overwhelmingly familiar scents of {home}. and oh i miss my grandma so.

preparing ash-e-mast for 6-8:

 

yogurt soup

  • 1/2-1 cup long grain (basmati) rice
  • 1/2 cup slow cooking yellow split peas (lappeh)
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced and fried (see method for making piaz dagh)
  • 2 cups roughly chopped organic cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions or chives
  • 1 cup roughly chopped organic flat leaf parsley
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup of fresh tarragon leaves (or slightly less dry tarragon)
  • 1-2 cups yogurt (european style) adjust amount to taste
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1-2 tsp turmeric
  • sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 4-5 cups good (preferably) home made chicken/beef/or vegetarian stock (chicken stock or broth)
  • 3-4 cups water Continue reading
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potato and cauliflower pie ~ kookoo (kuku) seebzamini va gol kalam

how to make a vegetarian potato kookoo (or kuku) in a few (rather) easy steps:

potato cauliflower pieyou know those days when you suddenly have to come up with a quick meal for unexpected company? i had one of those last sunday when i had about an hour to make a respectable (as in deliciously worthy of the company) lunch for about eight (dear) people. it was a beautiful warm and sunny day, and we were going to eat outside. without time for food shopping, i had to make do with what i had, which on this day consisted of the good old standbys: potatoes, dry pasta, tomatoes, and eggs. i was also happy to find a nice looking cauliflower and some flat leaf parsley in the refrigerator.  it was a decent start. while the potatoes were boiling (and cauliflower steaming) for the kookoo ( also see herb kookoo & chicken kookoo), i started on a quick tomato sauce to go over the penne pasta. as you can imagine, we were also in need of something raw and fresh (and not so starchy): it would be a tomato salad with feta cheese and fresh oregano-we were in business! you’d never know the meal wasn’t pre-planned, would you? this is how the beautiful kookoo came about:

potato kookoo ingredients for 6-8

making kuku

  • 3 medium potatoes, boiled until tender, peeled, and cubed
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 1/2 of a cauliflower, steamed and cut into small pieces
  • sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3-4 tbs cooking oil
  • small bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 4-5 scallions (green onions) thinly sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional for spicy)
  • 2-3 tbs organic ww flour
  1. combine all the ingredients (minus the oil) in a bowl and mix well. heat the oil in a deep (not so deep, but with an edge that comes up about 2 inches) skillet (frying pan) and pour in the mixture with a spatula. press it down lightly until evenly distributed.
  2. after about 4-5 minutes reduce the heat to medium/low, cover the skillet (partially, allowing the steam to escape), and let the kookoo (or pie) cook on one side for about 10-15 minutes or slightly more.
  3. when the edges start looking cooked and turn light brown, it is time to flip the kookoo over. carefully separate the edges from the skillet with the spatula.
  4. place a round plate slightly larger than the size of the top of the skillet over the skillet and carefully flip over so the kookoo lands cooked side up on the plate (or platter).
  5. very carefully slide the kookoo (uncooked side down) back into the skillet. cook for an additional 15-20 minutes before flipping it back onto the platter for serving.
  6. serve with yogurt on the side. may be served at room temperature.

vegetarian kookoo

for tomato salad: sliced ripe red & yellow tomatoes, cubed french feta cheese, fresh oregano, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt & pepper, turkish chili flakes. combine right before serving.

tomato saladkuku recipe

 

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