Green Curry Noodles

I have lived in Chicago for seven years now. That is an insane number to me, but I guess the old adage is true – time flies when you’re having fun. Still, I can’t believe I have lived here that long and only within the last couple years have I discovered how easy it is to get to the Korean grocery store and find all kinds of pan-Asian goodies. It has almost become part of my weekly shopping ritual.

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That said, if the Korean or other Asian grocery store is not part of your weekly shopping ritual, you can still make this dish. Admittedly, though, it just won’t be as good. It just can’t be! But if you want to go the extra mile, you can order a lot of ingredients online, and trust me when I say it is worth it. I tried making a version of this that included only easily obtained ingredients, and it just wasn’t the same. Still good, but when tasted side-by-side with the more authentic version, I had to admit that one definitely had more flavor and depth than the other.

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This noodle dish runs somewhere between a soup and noodle-with-sauce thing. You’ll have a bit of coconut-y juice at the bottom of your bowl, but there really isn’t enough broth to fill your bowl to the brim. The vegetables here are all optional and you can sub in whatever you think would taste good. I had spring onions from the farmer’s market, so those definitely made it in. I cooked all the vegetables separately, which may seem time consuming, but I like doing it that way so the flavors don’t get muddled. The end result tastes very fresh and healthful.

Green Curry Noodles (4)

Green Curry Noodles

*The curry paste recipe here is just enough for this dish, but feel free to double or triple the recipe to have a supply of curry paste. It freezes well.

*I included my notes for substitutions in parentheses, but do try to find the real stuff.

2-inch piece of galangal (or 1-inch piece of ginger)
6-inch piece of lemongrass

2 cloves garlic
kaffir lime leaves (or zest of one lime)
2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coconut oil

1 13.5-oz coconut milk (try to find one without any preservatives or additives)
13.5 oz water

6 oz somen noodles (soba would be great here as well) 
6 oz extra firm tofu, cut into thin strips
1 small sweet potato, cut into wedges or 1/2-inch strips
1 chinese eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch circles and halved
1 cup mushrooms of your choosing, sliced
3 stalks spring onions, halved
10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

cilantro, for garnish
fresh red chile slices, for garnish

To make the curry paste, chop each of the ingredients into small pieces. In a mortar and pestle, grind the ingredients together – start with one, then once it’s mashed nicely, add another, and so on. Add a bit of kosher or other flaky salt with each ingredient to help macerate each one. At the end, you should have a nice paste, but if you’re having a hard time getting it to that consistency in the m&p, you can use a blender or food processor.

In a large pot, scoop a big heaping tablespoon of the coconut cream that gathers on one end of the can into a pan. Stir it around and let it sizzle. Add the curry paste and let cook for a couple minutes. Add the rest of the coconut milk and cream and water. Also add the tofu. Turn heat to medium low and let it slowly warm.

Meanwhile, cook your veggies and noodles (according to package directions). Here’s how I did my veg, but feel free to use your favorite method:
Sweet potatoes: steamed
Eggplant: grilled (on a grill pan)
Mushrooms: pan-fried
Spring onions: grilled (on a grill pan)

When everything is ready to go, add it all to the pot with the coconut curry. Toss the tomatoes in at this point as well. Taste for seasoning (add salt if it tastes bland or just off). Garnish with cilantro and red chiles.

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Mushroom Miso Ramen

I love a good bowl of ramen. Lucky for me that ramen shops have been popping up like weeds in Chicago.

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This bowl might not be as satisfying as a fatty, porky tonkotsu, but it is certainly a lot healthier and quicker. Some of the ingredients are definitely specialty items that I picked up at the Japanese and Vietnamese grocery stores. You can easily make substitutions for the harder-to-find ingredients, as noted below. At the very least, the dried shiitake mushrooms are needed to make a tasty broth.

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Mushroom Miso Ramen

Notes:

-Mirin is a sweet rice wine that can pretty easily be found at any asian grocery store or even whole foods. The Seattle Times has suggestions for substitutions.
-There are a few varieties of miso paste. Aka miso is a red miso and shiro miso is a white miso. Awase miso is a mixture of aka and shiro miso, which is what I used here.
-If you can’t find ramen noodles sold individually, just buy the college-standard ramen packages that have the flavor pouches. Same stuff. Just be sure to discard the flavor pouches.
-Any variety of mushrooms will work here for the toppings.
-If pea shoots aren’t available, a more common topping would be sliced green onions.

Broth:

8-9 small dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup dried bonito flakes (optional)
1-inch piece of ginger, sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, smashed and skins removed
1 stalk lemongrass, outer skins removed and sliced in half
9 cups water
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons awase miso paste 

Combine the dried mushrooms, bonito flakes, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and water in a large pot and heat until water comes just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

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Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. You can keep the now-rehydrated shiitakes and incorporate those into the soup if you wish, or save them for later for another use. Add the mirin and soy sauce and stir to combine.

Remove a ladle of the broth into a small bowl. Whisk in the miso paste until it is smooth, and then combine it with the rest of the broth. Set the broth aside and keep it warm.

Toppings:

ramen noodles
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 package cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 package maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms
1 package bunashimeji (beech mushrooms)
baby bok choy
pea shoots or sliced green onions
fried, puffed tofu (optional)
1 package enoki mushrooms
sriracha

Bring a pot of water to a boil and then cook the ramen noodles for ~3 minutes. Remove, rinse with water, and set aside.

Pour the oil in a large wok or frying pan and stir fry the cremini, maitake, and bunashimeji mushrooms. Set aside.

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Blanch the baby bok choy in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then immediately cool in an ice bath.

Cut the puffed tofu into whichever shape you prefer.

Ramen Assembly:

Put the noodles in the bottom of a large bowl. Scoop a few ladles of broth on top, then add your preferred toppings. If you need an extra kick, squirt on some sriracha. Serve hot with chopsticks and a soup spoon.

Friday Night Pizzas

I apologize up front for the really crappy pictures in this post. With these amazing pizzas coming out of the oven, I couldn’t be bothered with taking nicer photos!

I absolutely adore Friday nights spent with good food and wine on the couch. That party bug that used to tell me to go  out every Friday night has apparently died because I no longer have that urge. I haven’t had it, in fact, for a while – ever since I started that 9-5 job a few years ago that required me to get out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7 am on Fridays. Who has the energy to go out after that? Not me, that’s for sure. Plus, I started to really enjoy waking up earl(ier) on Saturdays to do things like go for a run or get work done. Adulthood, I suppose.

So, equipped with some $13 Pinot Noir (which was really quite good), a movie, and these awesome pizzas, my Friday night was destined to be great.

There isn’t really a recipe here… I bought my multi-grain pizza dough (with flax seeds!) from Whole foods and randomly piled on toppings. A few key items for these pizzas: 1) 3-4 toppings, MAX; 2) garlic(!); 3) a super hot oven + pizza stone; and 4) high quality ingredients. I divided my dough into two smaller balls and then made half-and-half pizzas on those two rolled out doughs. I drizzled this spicy olive oil as a base for each pizza, then added toppings.

I think Pizza 1 turned out to be my favorite. Spend the time looking for good quality canned San Marzano tomatoes that have no preservatives – read the label, it should only include tomatoes (and maybe a basil leaf). They taste incredibly fresh… I could have eaten this pizza without the cheese, even!

Pizza 1

hand crushed san marzano tomatoes
kalamata olives
fresh mozzarella balls
garlic slices

Pizza 2

proscuitto
goat cheese (chevre) chunks
garlic slices

Pizza 3

fresh heirloom tomato slices
fresh mozzarella balls
artichoke hearts
kalamata olives

Pizza 4

shitake mushrooms
dinosaur kale shreds
goat cheese (chevre) chunks
garlic slices

To bake, crank up your oven as high as it will go – mine goes to 550 – and let your pizza stone warm up. If you’re not using a pizza stone, crank up the heat anyway. Pop the pizza in the oven for 5-7 minutes depending on your heat levels. To cut them up, I find it helps to let the pizza rest for a few minutes to allow the cheese to set a bit.

Soba Noodle Salad with Coconut Lime Dressing

With a to-do list spanning nearly two pages, it’s getting harder and harder to update this blog when I want to. It’s getting harder and harder, in fact, to cook food that is worthy of posting about! Many nights we’re eating pasta or a boring salad, and lately I have taken to snacking on crackers and greek yogurt. Talk about a balanced diet.

This pasta was a weekend endeavor and it turned out to be more than worthy of a post. The dressing complemented the nutty, earthy flavor of soba so nicely, and who doesn’t love coconut and lime together? My advice: when zesting the lime, really try to get every last piece of lime zest – it really adds to the limey-ness of dressing and helps to balance out the richness of the coconut. I made some quick pickle cucumbers – finely sliced and soaked in rice vinegar while cooking – but I forgot to throw them on for the pictures. They’re included in the recipe below.

Soba Noodle Salad with Coconut Lime Dressing

Inspired by Use Real Butter

1/2 package soba noodles
1/4 head read cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
1 head bok choy, finely sliced
3-4 portabella mushrooms, chopped
juice and zest of one lime
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Ponzu or soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
handful black sesame seeds, to garnish
1/2 english cucumber, julienned
Green onions, sliced

Soak the cucumbers in rice or other vinegar in a bowl while you are preparing the rest of the recipe.

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Rinse under cold water and set aside.

In a large pan, saute the vegetables – cabbage, bok choy, carrots – over medium-high heat with some neutral cooking oil. Cook for just a few minutes, until the vegetables are tender but not mushy. You still want a bit of a crunch to them. Set them aside and cook the mushrooms with a little more oil in the same pan. Mix them with the veggies.

Combine the lime juice, vinegar, coconut milk, ginger, Ponzu sauce, honey, and chili flakes in a blender. Blend until the ginger is finely chopped and incorporated and the dressing has emulsified.

Combined the noodles, vegetables, mushrooms, and dressing in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the top and sprinkle sesame seeds as a garnish. Top with picked cucumbers and green onions.

Rosemary White Bean Dip

Oh, the holidays. Just yesterday, a messenger delivered two cheesecakes to our office. Tomorrow, I’m expecting our first fruit cake. This is always a tough time of year for healthy eating.

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Fortunately for me, I hate fruit cake – no temptation there. Pumpkin mousse cheesecake? Yeah, that’s a different story. Two things have kept me from digging in so far this week:

1) I checked the nutrition label immediately – at 420 calories for one tiny slice, that cheesecake doesn’t look so enticing anymore, and

2) I stocked up on veggies at work. Lots of veggies. And to keep them enticing, I have been bringing in this bean dip.

I’m pretty much obsessed with this bean dip right now. It’s so good, so easy, and unlike other bean dips (ahem, hummus), it tastes better with veggies than it does with, say, pita, so it’s healthy to boot. Yeeeah.

Rosemary White Bean Dip

2 cans Great Northern or white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 stalks of rosemary, stripped from the stalk
juice and zest of one lemon
3 cloves garlic
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

In a food processor, combine the beans, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper, and lemon juice and zest. As it is processing, pour in the olive oil. Serve with red peppers, cucumbers, and mushrooms.

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Mushroom Risotto

I have been meaning to try a mushroom risotto for about a year now. I’ve had that Arborio rice sitting in my pantry for a good 12 months or so; I’ve just been lazy, you know? You hear about what hard work risotto is, how time-consuming the recipes are, and I just never find myself at that perfect intersection of wanting to make it and having enough time.

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The Saturday before I left for Colombia, I found myself with the time and motivation and a bundle of mushrooms to boot, so risotto was finally in the cards. We served it alongside a really nice peppercorn and rosemary crusted pork tenderloin, the recipe for which I’ll share at a later date.

The recipe was really tasty, and you know what? Risotto is not that hard! It is time consuming, though. I always thought that risottos had to have loads of heavy cream to taste so creamy delicious, but apparently the starchiness of Arborio rice makes it taste so decadent. I didn’t add any cream (only a bit of parmesan) and it tasted really great – proof that you don’t need loads of fat for things to taste good. I also added spinach to add some green and nutrients. Just barely wilted, these leaves don’t really add much flavor compared to the mushrooms, but they certainly up the health factor. Next time, I’m going to try this with barley or brown rice and see what the effect is.

Mushroom and Spinach Risotto

adapted, generously, from Food and Wine

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
6 cups stock (I used a store bought, organic chicken broth, but I can imagine homemade would be amazing)
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3-4 ounces fresh baby spinach, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups boiling water until softened, about 20 minutes. Save the water.

In a saucepan, warm the stock to just under a boil. If it starts to boil, that’s fine – mostly, you want it warm so that the risotto cooks continuously rather than starting over every time you add more stock. Keep it on low heat.

In large saucepan (I used my big soup pot), melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring, until coated.

In a separate pan, cook the cremini and shitaki mushrooms in butter on medium, slowly carmelizing them. Let these guys cook away on low heat the entire time you’re cooking the rice. , stirring, until they are softened, about 4 minutes.

Add the white wine to the rice and simmer until it has almost evaporated. Add the reserved mushroom water, and 1 cup of the hot stock. Stir constantly until the liquid is completely soaked into the rice. Then add another cup of stock. Stir. Repeat. Continue this process until all the stock has been used up and the risotto is plump and tender.

At the end, stir in the mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and spinach. Serve.

Asian Wonton Soup

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Yes, another soup. I can’t get soup recipes out of my head right now. I do have some other good stuff to post, so I will promise you this: no more soup recipes! At least for a little while.

I think my obsession with soup right now  goes right along with my inability to get out of bed in the morning. All summer, I was getting up at 5 or 6 in the morning to go to spin class or go for a run, but ever since the mornings have gotten darker and the weather colder, I am hoarding every minute of sleep. I make excuses to push snooze one more time; it’s very easy to rationalize sleeping just a little bit longer when your eyes are closed and your brain is only half functioning. Even as I’m walking out the door to go to work, I’m still thinking about my warm, comfy bed. My down comforter. My cozy, cuddly kitties. This cold weather is messing with me – my sleep habits and my appetite – and yet again I’m asking myself why I still live in the Midwest.

Anyway, I recently bought wonton wrappers at the store to try out one of those ravioli recipes I see everywhere; they were so easy to use and I had leftovers, so I thought an Asian dumpling soup would be great. If I had any, I would’ve thrown some greens in the pot – spinach or Chinese broccoli – but sometimes you just have to make do with what is in the fridge.

This soup was really fantastic. Eric really liked it too, and this time he didn’t add the “then again, I’m starving” afterthought to the sentence. It was perfect after an extra hard spin class last night – after who-knows-how-many squats, I walked in to spin looking for a low-resistance cardio workout. Instead, our instructor informed us we were going to max out Watts – in spin speak, this means high resistance, fast legs, trying to push your power output (measured in Watts on the spin computer) as high as humanly possible. It’s a tough, tough workout, and my legs were not willing to push my Watts much higher than 300 at first (as a point of reference, my usual spin class average is 160-170, pushing 250 in the intense parts and coming down lower during recovery). This is not much higher than normal for me, and since the intensity bursts are so short, I should have been killing this workout. After a while, though, my legs got used to the spinning motion and I managed to push up to 525 Watts at one point, even if it only was for 5 to 10 seconds. Whew. You really feel whipped and accomplished at the end of those workouts.

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Asian Dumpling Soup

an original recipe – this makes a pretty large pot of soup; halve it if you prefer

12 cups beef stock
10 – 15 wonton wrappers
1 red pepper, sliced or chopped however you prefer
½ package baby bella or white button mushrooms, sliced
2.5 ounces soba noodles (in the package I bought, the noodles are separated into 3 bundles – I used one bundle)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)
½ teaspoon fish sauce
½ pound ground pork
slivers of sliced green onion
salt and pepper to taste

First, get all your veggies chopped and ready. Sauté the ginger and garlic in some neutral tasting vegetable oil for a couple minutes, then add the mushrooms and red pepper. Sauté a couple minutes longer, then pour in the stock and let it warm up – almost to a boil.

Meanwhile, make the wontons. Combine the pork, granulated garlic, granulated onion, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Spoon a small dollop in the center of the wonton wrapper. You don’t want to add too much – otherwise they won’t cook through or the wonton won’t close. Wet the edges and form a little pocket – the corn starch that coats the wrapper will make it stick together.

When the soup is almost to a boil, add the black beans and wontons. Cook for just a couple minutes, then add the soba noodles. When the soba noodles are soft – about a minute – take off the heat and serve garnished with green onions. If it needs salt, add at this point.

You might be left with some pork – we just formed them into balls and baked them like meatballs!

The dumplings are really versatile. I think in the future, I’d mix it up a bit by adding green onion or maybe shaved carrots and ginger to the pork filling. Even some shrimp would be really good in there. A dash of fish sauce in the body of the soup might be nice, also. Play around with the veggie combinations and try not adding the soba noodles.

Summer Market Pasta

One of the best stands at our farmer’s market is one that I don’t visit that often. The veggie stands – yes, all the time – I buy most of my loot at the veggie stands. But the mushroom stand? I only buy mushrooms every once in a while for some reason. And the mushrooms are awesome. They have a “variety pack” for $10 that contains a whole brown paper bag full of cremini, shitake, and chantarelle mushrooms.

Picnik collage

They’re beautiful, aren’t they? That same trip I picked up some fresh English shelling peas. The combination was made for a pasta. At least, in my kitchen, the combination seems meant for a pasta.

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Also in this pasta… a grass-fed, organic spicy lamb sausage from Mint Creek Farms in Stelle, Illinois. I know – aren’t you surprised? Sooner or later, my meat-eating ways will stop surprising you.

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Summer Market Pasta

whole wheat linguini – cook according to package directions
large bunch of various mushrooms
fresh English shell peas – about a pound – shelled
2 links of spicy lamb sausage (or any chorizo or Italian sausage would work well)
big handful of spinach
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
big glug of olive oil
parmesan cheese

Start by sautéing the garlic cloves in the olive oil. I like slicing them – I prefer the big chunks. After about 2 minutes, toss in the mushrooms and white wine. Let the wine reduce to about half. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, saute the lamb sausage. When those are seared on each side, toss them in the white wine/garlic/mushroom mixture. Add the cooked pasta. At the very end, toss in the peas and spinach, then take of heat immediately. Serve with shredded parmesan.

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