Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Curried Lentils and Rice

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Lentils and rice -- possibly the most perfect combination of legume and grain -- can be the base for many creative dishes. Together, they provide the carbohydrate and fiber that are essential to a balanced meal. I've also come to appreciate the two together because they provide contrasting textures that make the dish more interesting. The biggest problem with cooking lentils and rice together is the timing -- rice gets cooked more quickly than lentils. So if you try to cook them together, you'll either get mushy rice or tough lentils. After testing the recipe a few times, I think I've got the solution to this problem.

To make this curried lentils and rice, you'll need --
  • 1/2 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 3/4 cup brown Basmati rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add lentil and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in rice and simmer for another 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. At this point, lentils and rice are not completely cooked. In a large nonstick pot, sweat onion in canola oil until softened and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and ground cardamom. Stir in lentils and rice mixture. Bury cinnamon stick and Bay leaf in the rice and lentils. Add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup water. Cover and turn the heat way down. Leave undisturbed for 20 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick and Bay leaves and serve.

How to dress up this curried lentils and rice is totally up to you. I topped my curried lentils and rice with chopped pineapple, jalapeno peppers, mint, parsley, peanuts and baked tofu. Then I drizzled everything with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, lime juice, minced garlic, jalapeno, and shallots. I like the combination of sweet, spicy, salty, and sour -- all the taste buds are fired up and having a good time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Spicy Bulgarian Tomato Dumpling Soup (Domatene Supa)

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I feel like I'm in a cooking rut recently. I can't seem to come up with new interesting recipes that's not an offshoot of something that I've made before. Times like this, I need to make something completely outside the box in order to think outside the box.

I flipped open one of my favorite cookbooks, Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, and came upon this recipe. This is definitely exotic enough -- I've never even heard of a Bulgarian restaurant before. The soup turned out nice and spicy and the dumplings (made of couscous and dill) were fluffy and tender. Delicious!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Joy of Indoor Grilling, Part 2

Pin It Last night, I fell asleep watching Cubs and Yankees on  ESPN. Baseball games run on for so long nowadays, I often have to schedule a nap between the 3rd and 7th inning. Anyways, I woke up and this was on the dining table --

Turns out, if you leave a man with a grill (or even just an indoor grilling pan), dinner magically appears. VB grilled some asparagus, barbeque tofu "ribs" and veggie kabobs while I was sleeping. And he plated everything so beautifully, unlike me who generally just plop stuff on a plate and call it dinner. And, of course, everything tasted as awesome as it looked.

Now, back to my nap. I wonder what's going to turn up next time?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dr. Praeger's All American Burger

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Finally, a veggie burger review that I'm more than happy to share! Dr. Praeger's All American Burger is probably -- no, definitely -- the best veggie burger that I've tasted. I got these on sale at Whole Foods one day. Without knowing anything about it, I thought I'd give it a try, you know, as "research" for this blog feature.

I made a grilled patty melt with Dr. Praeger's All American Burger and some soy cheese. You can see that the patties are thick and the texture is dense. I grilled these and they did not fall apart on me. Unlike many veggie burgers, the instructions ask that you heat up these frozen patties in a pan, not in a microwave. However, we did nuke them once and they turned out fine.

It's tasty and has a texture that's very very similar to slightly dry beef patties. I think with enough condiments and cheese, you may be able to fool some meat eaters into thinking that they're eating beef patties that are a bit overcooked. The taste is meaty with no trace of soy flavor -- always a bonus. 

You can find these veggie burgers and nutritional information here.

Taste: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Texture: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

In A Nut Shell: This is one of the best veggie burgers on the market. Consider adding this to your barbeque next time as a meat alternative and see if anyone even notices the switch.

Szchuan Sesame Noodles with Five-Spice Tofu

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Northern California seems to be a bit behind this year -- it's June and still in the mid-70s. But I think that's warm enough for some cold noodles, right? This is a Szchuan classic -- a bit sweet and spicy with lots of crunch from shredded cucumbers, carrots and bean sprouts. I added some roasted five-spice tofu to boost the protein in this dish.

You'll need:
  • 3 cups cooked Chinese-style noodles, drained and chilled
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup shredded seedless cucumber
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup firm tofu, diced
  • 1 tablespoon five-spice powder
  • 2 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 portion spicy sesame sauce, recipe below
For the spicy sesame sauce, you'll need:
  • 3 tablespoon sesame paste (tahini sauce), well mixed
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, adjust for desired heat (I use Sriracha)
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup water
Pre-heat oven to 375. Toss tofu with five-spice powder and canola oil. Roast for 30 minutes. Stir once half-way through the process.

Mix sesame paste, hot sauce, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce together. Stream in water to thin the sauce to a a consistency that allows you to drizzle it on the noddles.

Toss together shredded carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts, noodles, roasted tofu and sauce. Serve cold.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Birthday Cherry Streusel

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 It's VB's birthday! Happy birthday! I don't bake a lot around here, because VB's grandma always sends us delicious baked goodies. But I always make an exception for VB's birthday. But VB's grandma also gave us a big assist on this one -- she gave me a box of streusel and this medieval torture device looking thing.

It's a cherry pitter! Yeah, I gave that one away. It's an enormous upgrade from the paperclip that I used last time when I made cherry pie. VB's grandma read my sad tale of trying to pit enough cherries for a cherry pie, so she kindly sent me this family heirloom so I can pit cherries quickly and easily. It made this strudel a piece of cake! Har. Har.


Totally delicious. Thanks, Gi, for this wonderful dessert!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cheese and Beans Pupusas

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When we're not eating at home, we like to try new things. I especially like to go to one of those authentic hole-in-the-wall eateries with no English on the menu and just point. I'd eat what I end up with -- it could be soup, weird animals parts, whatever. It doesn't matter what ends up on the plate. Chances are, I'd love it (even if I don't, I'll just point to something else next time). Recently, we tried a Savadorian restaurant in Mountain View that is exactly one of those places. And it makes awesome pupusas. So much so that I have random cravings for them. So why not make some at home?

My recipe is pieced together by reading a bunch of recipes online. The technique, however, comes from gawking at the ladies who make pupusas behind the counter.

For these cheese and beans pupusas, you'll need:
  • 3 cups masa harina
  • about 2 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil plus more for greasing the pan/griddle
  • about 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese mix (mozzarella, monterey jack, cheddar or something like that)
  • salt to taste
Mix masa harina and 1/2 teaspoon of salt with about 2 cups water. Mix in the water a bit at a time. The texture of the dough should be smooth and easily formed into a ball. If it crumbles or breaks easily, add more water. Knead for 5 minutes and set aside.

Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a medium pan. Add red chili pepper fakes, onion and garlic. Stir frequently until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add beans, oregano, cumin, chili powder, Bay leaf, lime juice and about 1/4 cup water. Season with salt. Stir. Let the mixture cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure there is sufficient liquid at all times to cook the beans. If not, add a little more water. Once the beans are softened, mash them into paste like consistency. Mix well with any remaining liquid. You should have pasty but not runny beans.

To make pupusas, you'll need to the masa mix into balls that are a bit smaller than tennis balls. Mold the masa mix into a cup shape by pressing the middle of the ball with your thumbs. Add cheese and bean mix. Push the sides together and form a ball. Pinch off any excess masa mix. Pat the ball lightly into a pancake by transferring them back and forth between two hands. Place pupusas into hot pan or onto hot griddle greased with a bit of canola oil. Flip pupusas over when browned, about 5 minutes. Serve with cabbage slaw, sliced avocados and/or salsa.

The cabbage slaw is traditionally served with pupusas. You just need some shredded cabbage and carrots, white vinegar, salt, sugar, dried oregano and cloves. I sort of just threw it together without measuring, but it tasted like what was served at the restaurant. The cabbage slaw is best if made a bit ahead of time and allowed to marinate.