Monday, July 29, 2013

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Mushroom Stir Fry

We started Meatless Mondays nearly 2 years ago when it was brought up on "The Chew".  Made sense to do it as a way to increase our veggie intake for the usual health reasons.  Its worked.  My cholesterol has dropped over 25 points to a solid 175, my BP sits comfortably at 120/79...all because of eliminating meat proteins from my diet one day a week. Don't worry though...I won't go all radical vegan on you...still love my Pork and Beef, just in moderation.

All the ingredients here are commonly found this time of year quite easily, especially if you have a good Asian Market, or section at your grocery store.

I used Chinese eggplant as they were pretty prolific at the store today, if you can't find it no worries, a small regular eggplant will work just fine.

I used the tiny beech mushrooms as they were fresh and available today.  More common shitake thinly sliced would have worked just as well.  Its about flavor profiles and texture.

AND I cheated, I don't make my stir fry sauce from scratch as I've never found one that wasn't too salty. I use a bottled stir fry sauce from Kikkoman that isn't too salty and is a nice balance of sweet to the soy in it.

To round out the meal I usually have a salad, egg rolls or vegetarian bao with a dipping sauce.

Eggplant Mushroom Stir Fry

  • 1 small onion rough chopped
  • 1 Chinese eggplant sliced
  • 8 oz beech mushroom
  • 3 T Kikkoman Stir Fry Sauce
  • 4 oz udon noodles

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Heat Wok (or large fry pan) over medium-high heat.  Add a couple of tablespoons vegetable oil and heat until shimmering.  Add chopped onion and sliced eggplant.  Cook 4-5 minutes stirring often.  Add mushrooms and cook 2-3 minutes longer stirring often.  Add cooked noodles and Stir Fry Sauce.  Toss to coat. Serve hot.  With or without chopsticks.  Kidding.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Marinated Skirt Steak

Skirt steak.  All the rage on Food TV these days and hard to find, and when you do its from either a sketchy ethnic market or one that is uber expensive (got that whole paycheck).  Yippee...I found a good source that is CHEAP...Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Markets (I'm mayor on Foursquare at the Arcadia CA store) finally carries it. CHEAP I can't stress that enough, paid $1.29 lb for the stuff today.  I can buy a few pounds for next to nothing and let the fam feast away on its goodness without breaking the bank.  Not that I have anything against a great aged ribeye, but there is a huge difference between $1.29 and 14.99/lb!

A couple of things to think about. Skirt steak is a tough cut of meat.  It responds well to acidic marinades that break down the tissue.  Cutting ACROSS the grain also makes it much easier to chew and swallow.  The former is pretty easy to do, the latter is even easier is the grain is readily apparent.

The marinade I use here is loosely based on a marinade that is used on a Santa Maria Tri-tip (a cut that's pretty exclusive to CA and some areas of the South Western US).  I used Thai Chili peppers, but a red Jalapeno that is more commonly found can be used to bring in the bit of heat.  The rest of the ingredients are so simple and common it falls into the category of stupid easy.  Do marinate the skirt steak for at least 2 hours so the tissues break down and soften for the best chew and taste possible.

Make your life easy, get yourself a mini-food processor to make whizzing up the marinade a breeze.  Without the task of finely mincing and grating all of this is a chore.  I got a nifty one from Braun that comes with my handblender at Target a while back that does the trick nicely.  And it was cheap and very durable.

Marinated Skirt Steak

4-5 lbs skirt steak
1/2 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
2 red Thai chili or 1 red jalapeno
2 t rosemary
1 small onion, peeled
4 cloves garlic
2 t salt
1 t ground black pepper

Combine vinegar, oil, peppers, rosemary, chilis, salt, pepper, garlic and onion in blender or mini-food processor.  Whiz until blended and solids are finely minced.  Put skirt steak and marinade in a non reactive container and cover.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

1/2 hour prior to cooking bring skirt steak out and let sit at room temperature to warm up for better cooking.  Pre-heat grill to HIGH.  Cook skirt steak to med-rare at most, past medium and it is too chewy, tough and dry to eat.  About 3-4 minutes per side.

Let stand 10 minutes in foil packet.  Cut across grain.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Chicken in Thai Peanut Sauce

Or is 3 little red Thai Chili enough?
Well it took forever and a day to happen but we actually got our own Asian market.  The Hong Kong Supermarket opened to little fanfare in my corner of the San Gabriel Valley.  Wish they had a party as I would have been there earlier.  Great little place, full of all sorts of Asian ingredients that I had to drive half an hour or more for in the past. its just minutes from my house.

This recipe is based, loosely on a couple I've made or tried before.  The ingredients aren't entirely Thai, but are Asian in nature and go together very well.  Quite tasty even.  I'm sure the combo of ingredients has some Asian grandmother somewhere turning in her grave, but they work.

Substitutions.  If you aren't blessed with an Asian Market most of the ingredients can be found fairly easy in the Asian Section of your local groc.  The exception has always been the fresh produce and such that I needed to trek to neighboring communities to find the goodies.

Thai Red Chili were the bane of my existence for several years now.  Never could find the silly little things. A good substitution is a RED jalapeno. Its not quite as hot, nor as sweet as the Thai Chili but it makes a reasonable facsimile.

Beech mushrooms are another hard one to find.  They are very mild in flavor. They have round tops and long bean sprout looking stems.  Cut off the root end about 1/4" up the stem and you are good to go.  If you can't find them a thinly sliced oyster mushroom is a good work around.

Lastly this recipe is nearly vegan, all you need to do is swap out extra firm tofu for the diced chicken and you are set for Meatless Monday.

Chicken in Thai Peanut Sauce

  • 3/4-1 lb chicken breast, diced
  • 2T soy sauce
  • 1T fish sauce
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 Red Thai Chili minced
  • 2 bunches green onion, sliced
  • 1 can sliced water chestnut
  • 8oz Beech mushroom - cleaned and trimmed
  • 1/2 c Peanut Butter (creamy)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 T Mirin or Seasoned Rice Vinegar
  • 8 oz chow mein noodles cooked according to package direction
  • Dry roasted peanuts

Combine chicken, soy, fish sauce, ginger and garlic.  Toss to combine.  Cover in non-reactive bowl and marinate in fridge for at least an hour.

(reserve 1 cup sliced green onion top for garnish)

Heat a wok over medium high heat, add enough oil to cover the bottom.  Strain chicken, reserve marinade.

Add chicken and cook until opaque.  Add onions and chili and stir fry until onions are wilted, approx 2-3 minutes.  Add mushroom and cook until wilted about 2-3 minutes longer. Add reserved marinade and stir to dissolve.

Add peanut butter, coconut milk and mirin.  Stir until peanut butter is dissolved.  Cook over low heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Watch closely and add water as needed to keep the sauce the consistency of cream.  Stir in cooked chow mein noodles.  Serve hot with peanuts and reserved green onion tops as garnish.

In answer to the not so rhetorical question at the beginning of this post, Yes, 3 red Thai Chilis are enough.  2 would be too weak, and 4 too much.  Of course if you don't mind your tonsils being incinerated go for 4 or more.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

For Meatless Monday...Crispy Tofu Bibimbap with mustard greens and zucchini

OK, I've had the read deal Korean Bibimbap years ago at a spot in Glendale the specialized in Korean food. It was really yummy.  Food and Wine magazine ran this recipe in the August Issue for a vegan version. What makes it vegan?  Simple substitution of tofu for the beef and omitting the fried egg on top.  The F&W recipe HERE.

This version I saw and knew I would like.  I did have to substitute the kecap manis, a sweetened soy sauce with a mix of 2 parts soy and 1 part molasses.  Somethings are hard to find, even here in the San Gabriel Valley of L.A., the indisputed Asian capital of the city.  Bummer.  At least the good folks at Food and Wine offered up that substitution or I would have been lost.

The main thing is to do all of your mis en place of the veggies PRIOR to starting the rice.  It all takes about as long to cook in sequence as the rice does from scratch.

They recommended also using Sriracha if you can't find the Korean chili paste.  I used it as I had it on hand, I've got a cast iron tummy, but the recommended amount makes for way to much heat in the dish.  Cut it to a few drops here and there and it will be much more manageable.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dusting off my password...Lemon Herbed Salmon Steaks

Since I last posted here life has been upside down here at Casa Frazgo.  My Daughter married to the Marine and grandson moved back in as the SIL is away for a while, my Dad was ill and eventually left us.  Man has it been busy here.  A lot of windshield time between L.A. and the Twentynine Palms Marine base and Las Vegas for all of that.

I didn't stop cooking, just the blogging took a hiatus.  Did look seriously at fast and easy preps. That's especially important now that I have a 1 year old under foot again.  This recipe is stupid easy and even easier when you use the skinned salmon so you don't have to do it yourself.  Leave it on if you like crispy skin, its just one of those tastes I never acquired.

I used the smoked grey sea salt for that subtle smoke flavor.  You can use regular kosher salt if you don't have the smoked stuff.  But really, for what it costs and how far it goes its worth tracking down.

Lemon Herbed Salmon Steaks

  • 3 6-8 oz salmon steaks
  • smoked grey sea salt
  • pepper
  • 6 t butter
  • dill weed
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced.

Salt and pepper the sslmon to taste.  Sprinkle liberally the dill weed on all sides.  Line your baking pan with aluminium foil for easy clean up. Spritz the foil lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Place salmon steaks on the foil.  Spread 2 teaspoons of butter on each piece of salmon.  Add lemon slices onto the salmon.

Place salmon in 350F oven on convect cycle for 20 minutes.  (If you don't have convect use 375F conventional temp for same time).  Serve with herbed or my ever popular Spanish Rice and Noodles.