Chinese-style Braised Eggplant with fresh Basil

servingBraised eggplant is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Our favorite restaurant, King Yen in Berkeley, serves it fragrant with fresh basil. I picked up long Asian eggplants, fresh basil and green onions (scallions) from the farmer’s market. I added red bell peppers for color and Shiitake mushrooms for their wonderful texture and unami flavor. You can use fresh Shiitakes  or soak dried ones in warm water for a more toothsome feel. I’ve also made this successfully with large common (button) mushrooms.

I added a chicken breast for more protein. If you have leftover roasted breast you can chop it in bite sized pieces and add it in with the basil.

Vegetarians and vegans can omit the chicken (or swap it for tofu) and use vegetable broth.

I only add a teaspoon of Sriracha because I can’t handle much heat, but feel free to amp it up, adding it at the end to taste.

I got inspiration for my sauce from Martin Yan’s recipe http://www.yancancook.com/recipes/Spicy-Spicy/selected.php?CHOICE=eggplant_w_garlic_sauce

If you don’t have a wok, you can use a Dutch oven. This is even better the next day, when the basil has a chance to permeate the dish.

Be sure to do all the chopping and sauces prep before you start to cook so you’re not all stressed out while you’re cooking!

Serves 4

ingredients

Ingredients

2 Tb canola oil for frying

1 Chicken breast, about 3/4 pound

1 pound Asian eggplants (long skinny ones)

5 large Shiitake mushrooms or common mushrooms

1 medium or 2 small red or yellow bell peppers

2″ piece of fresh ginger to make 1 Tb grated ginger

5- 6 large cloves of garlic to make 1 Tb grated garlic

2 green onions (scallions). You can mince a slice of regular yellw onion to make 2 Tb if you don’t have green onions.

1/2 bunch fresh Thai or regular basil to make 1 1/2 cups basil leaves

1 can water chestnuts

Sauce:

3/4 cup chicken broth (I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup )

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (add more for more heat)

Thickener:

4 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Prep:

shitakeIf using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water for 30 minutes, then rinse

Remove stems from shiitake mushrooms and chop into bite-sized pieces. If using common mushrooms, trim woody ends from stems, then quarter or cut in sixths.

ginger n garlicPeel and grate ginger to make 1 Tablespoon

Peel and grate garlic to make 1 Tablespoon

Chop eggplant at angles into uneven bite-sized pieces. This will prevent it from sticking to the pan.

Slice red peppers into strips

Slice green onions crosswise, Sliver the green parts and reserve for garnish.

Rinse and chop water chestnuts

Chop chicken breast into bite-sized pieces

Pull leaves off of basil stems to make 1 cup of leaves

Mix sauce ingredients together in a bowl

Directions:

stir frying before sauce addedHeat wok and add oil. Stir-fry chicken a few minutes to sear it, then toss with onions and red bell peppers. Add chopped vegetables and water chestnuts and stir-fry a few minutes over high heat.

Mix in ginger, garlic, and sauce with metal spatula to incorporate browned bits of chicken. Heat to simmering, then lower heat and cover wok. Simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that vegetables are submerged.

cooking with basilStir in the basil leaves and continue simmering covered for another 3 minutes until eggplant is thoroughly cooked and tender.

Stir in the thickener and bring sauce to a boil until it thickens

Serve over brown rice or on its own. Garnish with a few basil leaves and green onions.

ingredients in sun

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Making a Pesto Myself with Mushrooms

serving pesto

What’s better than pesto on pasta? Pesto with sauteed mushrooms on pasta!

I made the pesto, and then sauteed the mushrooms in olive oil. I used oyster mushrooms, ’cause that’s what I had in the house, but you can experiment making this with different types of mild flavored mushrooms. When the mushrooms are soft, stir the pesto into the mushrooms and serve over pasta. I used brown rice penne in the picture above and it worked great.

Heat a large pot of water until boiling fast. Add 1 tsp salt, 1/2 pound pasta, and 1 tsp olive oil. Cook until al dente. While heating water and cooking pasta, make the pesto and mushrooms.

Pesto:

1 small clove garlic

1 bunch fresh whole basil leaves, stems discarded (I got mine for $1 at the San Francisco Civic Center Farmer’s Market)

¼ cup pine nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ tsp sea salt

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Pulse garlic in a food processor until finely minced. Add all ingredients except oil and pulse until fine. Drizzle in oil and pulse until almost smooth.

cooked mushrooms

Rinse 1/2 pound mushrooms and chop roughly. Heat 1 Tb olive oil in a frying pan and add mushrooms. Sprinkle with a few shakes sea salt and saute until soft.

pesto mixed with mushrooms

When mushrooms are cooked, stir in pesto

Mix cooked pasta with mushroom-pesto.

 

 

 

 

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ Thai Coconut Soup with Mushrooms

soup

This creamy coconut milk soup, fragrant with lime, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro and galangal, pungent fish sauce and a bit of chili heat, is one of my favorite Thai foods.
I am fortunate to live within shopping distance of Monterey Market and several Asian markets that carry the authentic ingredients. If you can’t find galangal you can substitute its relative, ginger.

Serves 3 large bowlfuls

ingredients

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken broth (I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup)
2 inches galangal, sliced thin
2 stalks of lemongrass
6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 Thai bird chili (bright red), finely julienned, seeds removed (unless you want more heat)
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)

2 cups white mushrooms, sliced

1 scallion, sliced

1 tomato

2 Tb fish sauce (I use Red Boat)
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup cilantro leaves

14-oz can of coconut milk
½ raw chicken breast, thinly sliced, OR sliced leftover roasted chicken breast

OR 1/2 pound raw shrimp (fresh or frozen and defrosted under running water), chopped into bite-sized pieces

Bring broth to a boil. Dip tomato in the boiling broth for a minute, and then cool.

While broth is heating, trim ends from galangal and slice thinly.

lemongrass         smashing lemongrasss

Remove a couple of inches from the root end of the lemongrass and the dry outer leaves. Slice the main stalk diagonally into 3 inch pieces, then smash the lemongrass with the blunt side of the knife. Smash the galangal slices with a mortar and pestle, molcajete, or other heavy object to release their fragrance. Add these to the boiling stock along with torn kaffir lime leaves,  julienned chili, and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. You can make this part ahead of time and refrigerate.

Strain the broth into a bowl or another pot and discard the lemongrass, galangal. kaffir lime leaves and chili pods. Heat the strained broth again.

Peel the skin off the cooled tomato, then slice tomato thickly and stir into the broth along with the mushrooms and white parts of the scallions. Next, add the raw chicken (if using) or shrimp and boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in coconut milk and heat for 5 minutes. When meat is thoroughly cooked, stir in lime juice and fish sauce. If using cooked chicken, add it at this time.  Pour soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro and sliced green parts of scallion.

Kasha Varnishkes with fresh herbs, mushrooms and peas

???????????????????????????????Kasha Varnishkes is a traditional Russian-Jewish dish of kasha and farfelle (buckwheat groats and bow tie pasta). I dressed up my mom’s recipe with fresh herbs, mushrooms and freshly shelled peas.

toasting kasha

toasting kasha

Did you know that buckwheat is gluten-free because it is a fruit? Kasha is the roasted buckwheat seed (groat). Buckwheat has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure, and cholesterol, is low-glycemic, and is a good source of protein and magnesium.

Did you know that even though farfelle is called bow tie pasta, it is named for farfella, which means butterfly in Italian!

Ingredients:

1 large pot of salted water

8 oz farfelle (bow-tie pasta)

1 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)

1 egg

1 Tb olive oil

1 small onion

1 ½ cups mushroom

1 tsp minced rosemary

¼ tsp minced thyme

¼ tsp dill weed

2 1/4 cups Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version. If you want to use prepared broth, salt the kasha to taste.

½ – 1 tsp salt to taste, depending on saltiness of the broth.

A few shakes or grinds of black pepper

1 bay leaf

1 tsp lemon juice

2 cups shelled English peas (you can substitute frozen peas)

1 Tb chopped Italian parsley

Directions:

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling

Heat broth to boiling in a heavy, medium saucepan.

While you are heating the liquids, prepare the kasha:

Sauté onion in olive oil over low heat about 10 minutes until soft,

While the onion is cooking, mix kasha with a beaten egg in a bowl until the kasha is coated. Toast kasha in a dry non-stick frying pan, stirring with a wooden spoon until the grains separate.

Toast kasha in a dry non-stick frying pan, stirring with a wooden spoon until the grains separate.

???????????????????????????????Add mushrooms to onions, cover and cook another 3 minutes until mushrooms begin to soften. Stir in herbs and cook another minute, then add the toasted kasha.

Pour kasha mixture into hot broth; add bay leaf, lemon juice and pepper.  Salt it to taste. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 12 minutes until most liquid is absorbed. Stir in fresh peas in the last 7 minutes. If you choose to use frozen peas, stir them in at the last 4 minutes.

While kasha is cooking, cook pasta for 10 minutes in salted water. Drain and Stir into cooked kasha. Extra broth from the kasha will act as gravy. Stir in chopped parsley.

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with 3 Cheeses and Fresh Herbs

2 portobellosThese giant, meaty mushrooms make a flavorful bed for fresh herbs and tomatoes, topped with sizzling cheeses. Nice on a bed of soft polenta accompanied by a dry white wine. And aren’t they beautiful!

I make these in my toaster oven.

portobello n polenta

 

gills too

gills and top

2 Portobello mushrooms

1 Tb extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit more to oil mushrooms and  pan

½ tsp minced fresh garlic

½ minced shallot

¼ tsp minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp fresh oregano and ¼ tsp dried oregano

1 tsp chopped fresh basil

a pinch of ground sage

1 medium tomato

a few shakes salt (to taste)

a shake red pepper flakes

several grinds black pepper

2 Tb grated Fontina cheese OR mozzarella cheese

1 tsp blue cheese

3 Tb grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp Panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp dry sherry (optional)

If serving with with polenta, start the polenta first, so it will be ready when the mushrooms are done. It usually takes about 45 minutes to cook on the stove. Heat 2 1/2 cups water to boiling, add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground sage. Mix 1/2 cup polenta thoroughly with 1/3 cup cold water. Stir it into the boiling water until smooth. Cook for 45 minutes over low heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so. You can add a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan and 1 tsp butter when it is done cooking.

Rinse mushrooms and wipe with wet paper towel. Slice the woody tip end off the stems and discard. Spread garlic olive oil on both sides of mushrooms and bake gill side up in 450’ oven (or toaster oven) for 10 minutes.

While mushrooms are baking, mince the garlic, shallot, and rosemary.  Sauté them in 1 Tb olive oil until cooked, about 5 minutes.

Let mushrooms cool, then dig out stems with a butter knife so there is an indentation in the mushroom. Pour the juice from the cooked mushroom into the pan. Chop the stems finely.

Stir the chopped stems and tomato into the garlic and shallots. Add the oregano, basil, sage, panko, dry sherry, salt and peppers.

ready for broiler

Rinse  tray and then smear with a with a bit of olive oil. Place mushrooms gill side up on it.

Mix the grated Fontina or mozzarella cheese, blue cheese, and 2 tablespoons of the grated Parmesan cheese into the filling mix. Spoon into stem indentation and spread mixture over the top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle each with 1/2 Tb of Parmesan cheese. Broil about 5 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

broiled mushrooms n cheese

 

Tomato-Basil Hamburgers with Mushrooms

Just in time for summer barbecues!  Nice topped with applewood-smoked bacon (to make up for the lean hamburger meat), avocado, lettuce and tomato.

Basil has been described as the tomato herb. I just got a new plant for my garden and took a few leaves off for this burger creation. Did you know you can take leaves off your basil plant and it will keep growing as long as you leave the bottom two leaves?

Combine in a bowl:

¼ cup diced basil

¼ cup diced onion

2 lg mushrooms, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

½ large Roma tomato, diced (¼ cup)

1/4 tsp. minced rosemary

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (several shakes)

about 3 grinds of black pepper

a few shakes of sumac

½ tsp salt

Fold 1 lb lean hamburger into all ingredients except salt. Form 4 patties. Salt top and bottom. Grill on medium-high until desired doneness. Turn often for optimum cooking.

Have leftover burgers? Put them in spaghetti sauce for a quick and easy meal. If you made the barbecued eggplant, you can add leftovers to the spaghetti sauce too. I added a little fresh basil and oregano to the jarred sauce for extra flavor.