Chinese-style Braised Eggplant with fresh Basil

serving new

Braised eggplant is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Our favorite restaurant, King Yen in Berkeley, serves it fragrant with fresh basil. I picked up the veggies from the farmer’s market: long Asian eggplants, mushrooms, with fresh basil, red bell peppers and green onions (scallions) for color.

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, adding it when you add the basil) 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.

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 new pix.jpg

Ingredients

2 Tb canola oil for frying

1 Chicken breast, about 3/4 pound

1 pound Chinese eggplants (3 long skinny ones)

8 medium mushrooms (crimini or white)

1 medium or 2 small red or yellow bell peppers

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

5 large cloves of garlic to make 1 Tb thinly sliced garlic

2 green onions (scallions). You can mince a slice of regular yellow 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:

sauces

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

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine

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:

ginger n garlicPeel and grate ginger to make 1 Tablespoon

Peel and thinly slice garlic to make 1 Tablespoon

Trim woody ends from mushroom stems, then quarter.

red bell pepper and scallions

Slice red peppers into strips

Slice green onions crosswise. Mince the green parts and reserve for garnish.

cut eggplant

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

Rinse water chestnuts and chop them into halves

Chop chicken breast into bite-sized pieces

Mix sauce ingredients together in a bowl

Pull leaves off of basil stems to make 1 1/2 cups of leaves

Directions:

chicken and peppers and scallions

Heat wok on high and add oil. Stir-fry chicken a few minutes to sear it, then toss with onions and red bell peppers.

beginning to cook

Add the rest of the chopped vegetables and water chestnuts and stir-fry a few minutes over high heat.

Mix in ginger and garlic with metal spatula to incorporate browned bits of chicken. Pour in the sauce and toss the vegetables to coat. Lower heat and cover wok. Simmer for 10 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.

finished cooking

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.

 

Eggplant Crockpot Pasta Sauce

served with Parmesan and basil

ingeredients

The last 10 minutes of San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers Market are filled with vendors shouting “$1 a bag!” which is how I ended up lugging home 2 bags of eggplant and a huge bag of tomatoes home on the Bart train!

We’re in the middle of one of those rare but scorching Bay Area heat spells, so I decided to use my Crockpot to cook the eggplant and veggies instead of roasting them in the oven. Although not as toothsome as roasting, they came out tasty and ready to mix with penne or rigatoni pasta.

chopped vegetables

Ingredients:
A very large bag of tomatoes. It’s fine if they’re a little soft, and that’s what you’re going to get with bargain bag tomatoes anyway.
5 long Italian eggplants and 4 small globe eggplants
1 ½ small onions, (or one large onion)
2 bell peppers (or a bag of frozen sliced bell peppers).
5 large mushrooms
6 spicy chicken Italian sausages (you can use sweet if that’s too spicy for you)
8 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
Parmesan rind
4 bay leaves,
Sprig of rosemary
1 Tb oregano
1 ½ tsp salt
A few grinds black pepper
1 Tb of olive oil
1 Tb red wine
1 Tb of sugar

Add after cooking sauce:
1 can artichoke hearts
1 fresh bunch of basil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2/3 pound of penne or rigatoni pasta

Chop the vegetables and sausage and add the other ingredients in the first list to the Crockpot. I went to the trouble of dipping the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling them, but it’s not really necessary to do that.

in the crock pot

Cooked sauce in the Crockpot

I started the sauce after work and let it cook all night. (You can also start yours in the morning and cook it all day.) I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be enough liquid to cook it properly, but in the morning I realized that the vegetables had released plenty of liquid. I removed the Parmesan rind, which had given up its flavor to the sauce.

I added a can of chopped artichoke hearts. I chopped half the bunch of fresh basil I had bought at the farmers market and stirred it in with the freshly grated Parmesan. I let it sit in the fridge until dinner time so the flavors would develop.

At dinnertime, I boiled 2/3 of a pound box rigatoni pasta  and mixed it together with the sauce. I chopped up the rest of the fresh basil and sprinkled it on top with more Parmesan. This made 9 meals. Yay for leftovers!

layered with Parmesan

layered sauce with Parmesan

Roasted fingerling potatoes with garlic and thyme

roasted fingerling potatoes

Springtime brings new potatoes, and they are addictive when roasted in a bit of olive oil with fresh thyme and garlic and sprinkled with salt. I like to roast these miniature potatoes which are called fingerlings, ’cause, well, they look like fingers! The yellow ones are Russian fingerlings and the red ones are French fingerlings. These French ones here are freshly dug new potatoes that I got at the farmer’s market and their skin is very thin.

garlic and thyme in pot

I adapted this recipe from Alice Water’s wonderful cookbook “Chez Pannisse Vegetables”.

Preheat oven to 400

Soak potatoes in salt water for about 10 minutes or so, then scrub the skins. Dry with paper towels.

garlic thyme in olive oil

Select a shallow baking dish that the potatoes can fit  snugly in one layer, Cover bottom of the baking dish with 2 Tb olive oil. Sprinkle about 8 small sprigs of fresh thyme leaves. Halve a bulb of garlic crosswise and separate the cloves, (you don’t need to peel them), and place them in the dish.

fingerling potatoes before roasting

Toss the potatoes in the oil then sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Arrange the potatoes so they fit snugly in the dish in one layer, and the garlic and thyme are evenly disbursed. Add 1/4 cup of water for a 8″ square baking dish, less for a smaller one. Tightly cover with a lid or foil.

Bake at 400 for 40 minutes. Uncover dish and bake for another 5 minutes or so until potatoes are dry and a fork easily pierces them. Sprinkle with more salt and serve hot.

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo – Garlic Shrimp

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On our first date, my husband and I cooked Camarones al mojo de ajo. We’ve been in love ever since.

I love the Spanish word for garlic clove: diente, which also means tooth. And there is some resemblance, come to think about it.

serves 2

2 Tb olive oil
3/4 lb large raw shrimp
1 head of garlic
A few shakes of red chili pepper flakes
¼ cup dry white wine  such as Chardonnay
1 lime, juiced
large pinch smoked Maldon salt to taste (you can use regular or sea salt if you don’t have that)

Defrost shrimp in in the refrigerator overnight or in a colander under cold running water for 7 minutes. Peel the shrimp and save the shells in the freezer for a future batch of shrimp broth. If you are planning to eat the shrimp with your hands, keep the tails on. But for tacos or pasta, remove them.

Smash the garlic head in a molcajete (mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock). This will loosen the peel, separate the dientes, and smash the garlic to release the flavor. Discard the garlic peel and finely mince the garlic. Mix with the peeled shrimp.

Heat olive oil in a wok or large heavy frying pan.  Add garlic and the shrimp. Toss with a metal spatula until the shrimp turn completely pink. Sprinkle with a little red chili pepper flakes. Squeeze in a large lime and add wine and scrape the pan. Salt to taste. I used a few grinds of smoked sea salt.

To make tacos, I first fry half a sliced onion and a bell pepper (you can sub a cup of frozen bell peppers) in olive oil, then set aside in a bowl. Fry the shrimp in the same pan and then mix with the onions and peppers. Cut half a large avocado (or a whole small one) into chunks, and separate cilantro leaves from stems to make about 1/2 cup of leaves. Mix all ingredients together and serve with homemade tortillas

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Spanakopita and Tiropetes with phyllo or puff pastry

These Greek spinach and cheese pies have a complex taste: sharp bite of feta, green spinach, explosion of herbs: mint, dill, oregano, basil, garlic, and green onion, wrapped in a crispy filo dough or buttery puff pastry. My recipe was inspired by my Greek-American friend Margret’s delicious version.

You can make these traditionally with flaky phyllo (filo) dough. I use olive oil spray on the phyllo instead of spreading oil or butter with a pastry brush, to cut down on the fat. I also make tiropetes, which are phyllo filled with feta and ricotta cheese. They are great for breakfast.

On the other end of the calorie range, I recently tried these at a Greek restaurant made from puff pastry. They were rich and delicious! So I made them at home. It’s much less fuss than phyllo, although it has quite a few more fat and calories from the buttery pastry.

Makes 3 logs (about 18 triangles) of phyllo wrapped spanakopita or 8 triangles of puff pastry spanakopita

3/4  package defrosted phyllo dough OR 1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry (defrost for only 10 minutes at room temperature)

Olive oil spray for phyllo dough

Spinach filling: You can make this a day ahead of time.

2 heads fresh spinach, well washed, stems removed and chopped (use a food processor to chop it) OR 1 lb bag of frozen chopped spinach – about 3 cups.

1 tsp olive oil

2 scallions

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup pine nuts

1 Tb finely chopped mint leaves OR 1 tsp dried mint

½ Tb finely chopped fresh dill weed OR ½ tsp dried dill weed

1 Tb finely chopped fresh oregano leaves OR 1 tsp dried oregano

1 Tb finely chopped fresh basil OR 1 tsp dried basil OR 1 cube frozen basil

Several grinds pepper (about ¼ tsp)

2 eggs (1 for filling and 1 for brushing on the pastry)

6 oz (about 1 cup) crumbled feta cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375’ for filo, or 400’ for puff pastry

Microwave frozen or fresh spinach in a covered casserole bowl about 2 minutes (longer for frozen spinach) until soft. Drain in fine mesh sieve over a bowl.

I place a bowl with a few cans in it on top of the sieve while preparing the other ingredients. Afterward, press on the spinach with a tablespoon for several minutes to squeeze out the liquid. You should have 1 1/2  cups drained spinach.

While spinach is draining, finely mince white and green parts of scallions, garlic, and mint leaves and other fresh herbs, salt and pepper Sauté onion, garlic and pine nuts in olive oil in a heavy skillet. After a couple of minutes, stir in the herbs and heat for another minute.

Finish squeezing the last liquid from the spinach and discard the liquid. Stir the spinach into the onion and herbs.

Beat the first egg and add feta and Parmesan cheeses. Stir in the spinach mixture until well blended.

Tiropetes

1 cup feta cheese

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 egg, beaten

2 Tb minced fresh parsley

Mix ingredients together. Spread on puff pastry or phyllo dough as below.

Assembling Puff Pastry (I used Trader Joe’s), cut both sheets in two. Beat the second egg. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg on each piece. Spoon filling o to fill exactly half the pastry, leaving about 1/2 inch border of dough on the edges. Fold the pastry over the filling, then seal the edges with the back of a teaspoon.

Place on a cookie sheet that you have sprayed with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes at 400’ Let cool, then cut in half diagonally, to make triangles.

Phyllo Dough directions:

For phyllo dough pastries: spread one sheet of defrosted dough on a large wooden board or cutting board. Spray olive oil on top. Spread another sheet on top of it and spray and repeat for a 3rd sheet. Spread a 2 inch line of spinach or cheese filling about 3 inches from the edge of the shorter side of the rectangle. Leave a one inch space between the filling and the sides of the phyllo.

Roll the dough up over the filling, then tuck in the sides, and continue rolling until the end. Spray a little of the oil on the edge to seal it. Place the roll seam side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a basting brush to cover the top and ends with a beaten egg.

spanikopita with egg wash

Bake at 375’ for 40 minutes until browned.

Let cool, then slice the logs diagonally in each direction into triangle shapes.

Curry Chicken on grill or in clay pot


Here’s a recipe that will curry your favor in both warm weather barbecuing and clay pot oven cooking in the coming cool season. Serve with steamed basmati rice and Chana Dall (yellow Lentils), Punjabi-style Potatoes and Cauliflower, and Indian breads.

I made this chicken on skewers to barbecue today. I cut up boneless breasts in 1” cubes and marinated it for several hours. I’ve also made this with either a cut up chicken or breasts, scoring the meat in several places to allow the marinade to penetrate.

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Makes enough marinade for 6 breasts

1 cup plain yogurt (I use nonfat Middle Eastern Karoun yogurt)
1/3 cup lemon juice (2 large lemons)
2 Tb (tablespoon) olive oil
2 Tb melted butter or ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 Tb freshly minced or grated garlic
½ Tb freshly grated ginger OR ½ tsp ginger powder
3 Tb curry powder (or more to taste)
1 Tb garam masala seasoning (optional)
2 Tb cumin (comino) powder
2 tsp sea salt (to taste)
several grinds of black pepper.
2 tsp hot oil (to taste)
6 breasts or chicken pieces
1/4 cup cream for baked chicken
3 cups fresh spinach for baked chicken

Mix all ingredients well. Add cream if baking the chicken. It will make a smooth sauce. Otherwise the yogurt separates when cooked.  Adjust seasonings to taste. Add either cubed chicken or pieces and marinate for 2 – 4 hours.

Remember if using the clay pot, to soak it first for 1/2 hour and put in a cold oven, then turn on the oven to 350′. (You can also make the chicken in a ceramic casserole.) Cook chicken in the marinade for about 1 hour. Stir washed spinach leaves in the marinade for the last 10 minutes. Serve chicken, spinach and sauce over  basmati brown rice.

If using wooden skewers soak them first for at least ½ an hour. This is supposed to stop them from burning, but to tell you the truth, they burn anyway! Thread cubed chicken on skewers with some onion between them. Grill on medium high heat until done, about 15 -20 minutes for skewers, longer for pieces.

Serve cooked chicken garnished with fresh cilantro.

served with eggplant and bbq chicken

Capering about the Kitchen with Chicken Piccata

serving chicken picattaMy son Francisco and I first made this on Mother’s Day when he was a teenager. It’s one of his favorite dishes.

ingredients for chicken piccataIngredients: Makes 6 cutlets

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Several grinds black pepper

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1/4 cup (4 Tb) olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup

2 medium or 1 1/2 large lemons to make ½  cup fresh lemon juice plus  lemon slices

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 large shallot, diced

1 tablespoon capers, drained

4 Tb butter (1/2 cube), divided

cutting chickenPrepare chicken cutlets. They will fry better if cut in half width-wise and pounded flat. With your knife parallel to the cutting board, cut each breast as if to butterfly it (although in this case, there’s only one butterfly wing!)

Place a cut breast half between two pieces of plastic wrap, then place in a clean plastic bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag, then fold it over.

smashing chickenPound the cutlet several times with a heavy iron skillet so that it is about ½ inch flat. It’s a good way to get out your frustrations after a hard day. Repeat for all the cutlets. Rinse the chicken and dry it with a paper towel. Mix flour, salt and pepper on a plate. Dredge one cutlet at a time in the flour until it’s coated. Pat it gently until it’s just lightly coated with  flour.

frying cutletsHeat 2 Tb oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in 1 Tb of butter. As soon as the butter melts, add 2 chicken cutlets, making sure they do not touch each other. Saute for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Turn chicken around while cooking so that they brown evenly on both right and left sides. When chicken is golden brown, place it on a plate and cover it with a large lid or an inverted plate to keep warm. Add another Tb of oil and 1 Tb of butter to the pan before adding the next batch.

saute garlic n leeksWhen all the chicken is fried, add garlic and shallots to the pan and stir a few minutes until they are  fragrant.

whisk saucePour in chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Using a metal spatula, scrape the pan to loosen browned bits. Whisk while cooking for  5 minutes. Cut middle slices from lemon for garnish, then squeeze the juice and stir in sauce with capers and a tablespoon of butter. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Return chicken to the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes, turning several times to absorb the sauce. The sauce will be thick.

Serve chicken with sauce and garnish with lemon slices.

Rainbow Chard with Arabic spices and Israeli couscous

Somewhere over the rainbow,
In my backyard,
Growing green, red, and yellow,
Organic rainbow chard.

My daughter and I invented this recipe together on Mother’s Day. We started in the backyard where we are growing rainbow chard. This grows in red, white and yellow colors.

We chop it, stems and all, and sauté with onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms and lemon, and add  the Arabic spices sumac and coriander. When the vegetables are tender, we stir into Israeli couscous. We garnish it with cilantro, and toasted pine nuts.

Israeli couscous or Maftoul,  is shaped like small pearls and is chewier than its Moroccan cousin. I cook it in broth Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version). You can make this dish vegan by using the vegetable broth.

If only achieving peace in the Holy Land was as easy as blending Palestinian and Israeli cuisines!

Serves 6 side dishes:

Israeli couscous:
1 ½ cups Israeli couscous
1 ¾ broth (chicken or vegetable)
½ teaspoon salt to taste
2 Tb  lemon juice (Meyer lemon is nice)
Vegetables:
1 bunch chard: 10 -12 leaves and stems, washed
10 mushrooms
2 large cloves shallots, minced
1 onion, quartered and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp sumac
2 tsp zataar or dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup broth
Zest of 1  lemon (Meyer is best)
 
Garnish:
¼  cup pine nuts
2 Tb cilantro leaves
 

Boil 2 cups broth in a medium saucepan with salt and lemon juice. Remove ¼ cup and reserve.

While broth is coming to a boil, toast the Israeli couscous in a  skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently about 7 minutes until golden-brown. Add it to the 1 3/4 cups broth and cover. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes  until couscous is tender.

While  couscous is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Quarter the onion, then slice thinly.  Heat 2 Tb olive oil in heavy frying pan. Add onions, sumac, coriander, zataar or thyme, and salt. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent.

 

Cut mushrooms into quarters and add to onions.

Mince garlic and shallots and add to the onions. Sauté them a few minutes until they turn golden.

Slice the chard stems thinly, and chop the leaves. Add to the onion mixture with the reserved broth, lemon juice and zest. Mix well and cover pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chard softens.

Toss with the Israeli couscous. Garnish with pine nuts and fresh cilantro leaves if desired.

Pozole

Oy vey! Nice Jewish girl learns to cook with pork products! My friend Jann made this hearty and delicious pozole with her Mexican husband, Luciano, for their  New Years Eve parties. She gave me her recipe using pork shoulder, but the second time I made it I used the leaner pork loin.

Cooked with chilies and hominy and topped with cabbage, oregano, radishes and cilantro, it makes a rich and satisfying stew.

This recipe made 10 servings, including leftovers.

Ingredients:

1 gallon chicken broth. For the cross-cultural experience, use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup.
4 dried red chilies, such as ancho or pasilla chili
2 fresh poblano chili peppers
2 Tb olive oil
2 onions
2 1/2 pound pork loin.
1 Tb dried oregano
1 head garlic.
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne
1 Tb paprika (Spanish smoked paprika adds a nice smoky flavor)
Several grinds black pepper
1 Tb salt to taste
2 chayotes, peeled, seed area removed, and chopped
39- oz and 15-oz cans of white or purple hominy (maíz blanco o morado)

Condiments:

1 Tb dried oregano
Black pepper
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 small green cabbage, shredded
A bunch of radishes, sliced thin
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
4 limes, sliced into wedges
 

Bring the soup stock to boil in a large pot.

Heat a heavy frying pan and toast the dried red chilies and the poblano peppers. Place them in a covered bowl to cool, and then remove the stems and seed pods. Throw them in the stock pot

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan and cook the sliced onions until soft. Slice the poblano chiles and fry up with the onions, then add to the soup. Smash the garlic bulb with a molcajete or mortar and pestle, chop it finely and add it to the soup. Add bay leaves, salt, paprika, black pepper and cayenne.

Cut the pork into large (about 3 x 3) chunks and trim extra fat. Pour another tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and add the pork, sprinkling salt and dried oregano on each side. Brown pork on all sides then put in the stock. After pork is browned, add  2 ladles of hot broth to the frying pan to deglaze it. Using a metal spatula, loosen all the browned bits  into the broth and then pour it back into the pot.

Simmer the soup at low-medium heat for 1 ½ hours.

Pour the soup into a large container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the congealed fat from the top of the soup. Pour the broth through a sieve into a large pot, and heat it. Pour the solids into a bowl. Remove the red chili and strip whatever skin from it that you can. Put in a blender with 2 cups of broth and run blender on high, then add to the broth in the pot, rinsing the blender with broth several times to get all the chili out.

While broth is cooking, shred or chop the meat, discarding bones and fat, and then add the shredded meat to the broth. Add chopped chayotes and hominy. Adjust salt to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes, until chayote is tender, and then scoop into bowls.

Top with condiments, squeeze a bit of lime in, roll up a few warm corn tortillas to dip in the soup, y disfrútelo.

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Meyer Lemon and Italian Herbs

This is quick and easy. The chicken is fragrant and juicy. A good way to use those chicken breasts on sale. Use roasted bones and skin for Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup  ; perfect to make broth for Minestrone Soup on a rainy day.

5 bone-in chicken breasts with skin attached
Olive oil, about 3 Tb
5  garlic cloves, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tb fresh thyme, minced
About 1 Tb each dried oregano and thyme
About 1 tsp chili flakes
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves
2 lemons: ½  sliced and 1 ½  juiced and zest grated
 

Preheat oven to 450′

Oil a large roasting pan

Salt underside of breasts. Place breasts in pan, skin side up

Stuff garlic, rosemary, fresh thyme and a lemon slice under each breast skin

Sprinkle dried herbs, chili flakes, salt and pepper over breasts

Sprinkle olive oil over breasts

Roast in 450’ oven for 50 minutes

Squeeze lemon juice over cooked chicken. Garnish with fresh basil and Meyer lemon zest.