Monday, January 30, 2012

Vegetable Fried Rice

More vegetables and stir fry! I tell you, I am loving my wok right now. Of course, you don't need a wok to make stir fries, but I do think the wok gets the job done that much better. That might just be because I happen to have one and am finally comfortable using it, but I do think it makes a difference..

Many years ago, my father got his hands on a recipe for Fried Rice and decided to try his hand at it. It was delicious, but in my memory it was a long, complicated process, although looking at his recipe I see that it is not at all complicated. We did not have a wok (nor would we have known how to get one in Dallas at that time), so he cooked it in a huge, thin-walled dutch oven that did the trick. He would cook the rice, then scramble the egg, then cook the pork, and then chop all of the other vegetables.Then he would get to work cooking it all . As I said before, the end result was delicious, and certainly worth all of his effort as far as I was concerned.

But whenever I thought about making it, I would remember the hours it seemed to me that my Dad spent in the kitchen preparing it, and more trouble than my effort was worth. I resigned myself to only eating it when I ate out or ordered in.

Once again, Ching-He Huang on Chinese Food Made Easy came to my assistance. I watched her make a version of fried rice that took minutes and looked incredibly easy. Having been so successful with my recent other stir-fries, I decided it was time to tackle this.

It was even easier than I thought it would be. After prepping all of the ingredients, which took all of 15 minutes, it took about 5 minutes to make. I suppose it helps that I am not using meat in this, but even if I ended up cooking meat it would only add a few more minutes.

The most complicated aspect of making fried rice is that you really should cook the rice the day before, so the the rice can dry out a little and the grains won't stick together. But that is really no trouble at all. I just put the rice on after dinner the night before I want to make it and throw it into the refrigerator when it's done. There it is the next day, all ready for me.

The joy of this dish, as is the case with so many others, is that you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Just keep in mind that the vegetables that take the longest to cook should go in first, and everything should be cut to the same size so it all cooks evenly. You can also add any meat or shrimp (which I would use all the time except for an unfortunate allergy). The possibilities are literally endless.

I have already made this again, and plan to make it again this weekend. It comes together so quickly and makes such a lovely lunch, dinner, or snack that I want to have it around all of the time.

Try it. You will, too.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


Makes 4 servings

2 Tbsp peanut oil, divided
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 carrot, diced
1/8 lb cremini or any other kind of mushrooms, diced (optional)
1/4 cup water chestnuts, diced
1/8 lb snow peas, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cups cooked brown rice (best if cooked the day before)
2 Tbsp soy sauce (or to taste)
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
Toasted sesame oil

Heat the wok over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and swirl it around to let it get hot. Add the eggs and cook, stirring constantly with chop sticks to break them up.
Remove from the wok and set aside.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of peanut oil and swirl it around the bottom of the wok. Add the ginger and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. If the ginger
starts sticking to the bottom of the wok, add just enough water to deglaze the pan and then let the water evaporate before the next step.

Add the mushrooms and cook for another minute. Add the water chestnuts and snow peas and cook for another minute, continuing to stir constantly.

Add the rice and cook until it is heated through. Add the eggs back into the mix followed by the soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir until well coated. Add the onions and sesame oil, stir, and remove from the heat.

Serve immediately.

adapted from the Yangzhou Fried Rice recipe by Ching-He Huang on "Easy Chinese: San Francisco"

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Red Hot Popcorn

I recently decided to try my hand at making kettle-style popcorn. Basically, you add sugar and a little salt along with the kernels to the hot oil, and then you have to shake the pot like crazy to keep the sugar from burning. It tastes good, but I am not sure it is worth the effort of having to keep such a close eye on it to keep it from burning. And believe me, the smell of burnt kettle-style popcorn is something you want to avoid at all costs.

But I liked the idea of it and started to think about how I could make something similar without having to be so careful about it.

Then I remembered by freshman year of college, the year I lived in a dorm. We were not allowed to cook in our rooms. The only kitchen appliance we were allowed to have was a popcorn popper.

In those days, plastic popcorn poppers were becoming the norm, but I knew I wanted a metal one. Why, you ask? Because you can make so much more than popcorn in a metal popcorn popper. They operate on the same principle as the Easy-bake oven, only instead of light bulbs they use heated coils. The coils are on the base, and you put the metal bowl on top of it and fill it with the popcorn and oil. But, you can also fill it with water and Rice-a-Roni (this was before the days of five-for-a-dollar ramen soup packets and Rice-a-Roni was the cheapest thing around). Or mac and cheese. Or even brownie mix. Quite versatile.

But I mainly used it for popcorn. I don't remember if she had ever done it before, but when one of my floor-mates suggested that we put Red Hots into the bowl along with the kernels and the oil, it seemed a reasonable enough thing to do, to an 18-year old with few cooking skills, at any rate.

To my delight, it worked. Instant cinnamon-flavored popcorn. The candy melted and coated the popcorn as the kernels popped. You do have to be careful not to let it burn at the end, but you do not have to shake it constantly while it is popping. It is the easiest form of sugared popcorn that I have seen.

When I first remembered this and went looking for Red Hots, I had some trouble finding them. They used to be a staple in the drugstore candy aisle, but I did not find them at Walgreen's, or Jewel/Osco. I finally found them at my neighborhood Treasure Island. Once again my local grocery store comes through!

There is one slight drawback. The pan will end up with bits of cinnamon candy stuck to it. But a quick soak in hot water takes care of that. It is well worth it when you want to fancy up your popcorn.

3 Tbsp grapeseed or peanut oil
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/3 cup red hots

Pour the oil in the bottom of a 3 or 4-quart pot with a heavy bottom. Add the popcorn, then gently pour the red hots over the popcorn. Place the pot over medium-high heat and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar.

When the popcorn starts popping, remove from the pan for 1 minute, then place it back over the medium-high heat and let it pop until the popping has slowed down, shaking it gently back and forth as the popping starts to slow down, if you like. Do not let it go more than 3 seconds without hearing a pop.

Remove from the heat immediately and pour it into a large bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and stir it up to break apart the kernels (because of the melted candy, the popcorn will be sticking together in clumps). Chopsticks are a handy tool to use to separate the kernels.

Let cool and enjoy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Project Vegetable: Stir-Fried Rapini, Pepper and Radicchio

This year is shaping up to be the year of the stir fry for me. It started with my decision to find a way to cook more vegetables, so I have been buying them like there is no tomorrow. And then the challenge is to find ways to cook them that are delicious, satisfying, and more healthy than cooking them in butter.

And what could be healthier than a stir fry? Now that I am learning how to be the master of the wok, I can't seem to get enough of it. It is fun, easy, and - most importantly - fast. In the past, I could never get the vegetables cooked properly. They would be either too near raw crunchy or overcooked and mushy. But, like everything else, if you do it often enough you start to get the hang of it and it just gets better and better. I've even successfully stir-fried eggplant, but more on that later.

Treasure Island had radicchio on sale for a ridiculous price so I grabbed one. They also had ancient sweets - long thin red peppers that were also on sale and of which I had never heard, so of course I had to get those as well. The broccoli rabe also looked good so I threw a bunch of that in my cart.

I decided that a stir-fry would be the perfect way to highlight these vegetables. As you will soon see, this is a thought that I have had many times this year. I am loving the stir fries. They are fast, easy, and delicious. They can have a lot of ingredients and a complicated sauce, or they can highlight one or two ingredients with simpler sauce.

The ingredient list always looks long in a stir-fry recipe. Most of those ingredients are for the sauce. Once you have put that together, it's just a matter of chopping some vegetables.

You do want to have everything ready before you start, but there is some leeway so if want to get started before you have everything prepped.

The sweetness of the pepper and the orange juice in the sauce help to counter the bitterness of the radicchio and the rapini. It is a wonderfully complex layering of flavors that offers the perfect balance to the tongue.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

makes 4 servings

1/4 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp sherry
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp garlic chili sauce (or to taste)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp water, plus more as needed
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 bunch rapini, chopped, stems and tops separated
2 ancient sweets peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 head radicchio, coarsely chopped
Toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts, plus some for garnish
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Combine the orange juice, sherry, vinegar, soy and chili sauces in a small bowl and set aside. In a smaller bowl, combine the cornstarch and tablespoon of water, stir, and set aside.

Heat wok until it just starts to smoke. Add the garlic and ginger and let it sit for a few seconds before stirring it around. Cook it for about 30 seconds, then add the rapini stems. Cook for a few seconds, then pour water around the edges of the wok to create steam. Cook for about 2 minutes and then add the peppers. Cook for a minute, then add the rapini tops. Cook for another minute.

Add the walnuts and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the orange juice mixture. As soon as it starts to boil, add the radicchio, stir once or twice, and then add the cornstarch and water mixture. Stir until the mixture thickens and remove from the heat. Add about a teaspoon of the sesame oil and stir everything together.

Serve over brown rice garnished with walnuts and sesame seeds.


Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How To Turn off Google Search Plus Your World

I have recently noticed that whenever I do a search on Google, my photos or links show up first with the word "You" underneath. Today there was a note as well, saying it was a free preview of a new program that would show my stuff, and that of anyone else with whom I am connected on Google, first.

Here's what I don't understand: If I am doing a Google search, why on earth would I want to see my own shit? I already know what I have done. And if I want to see any of my friends' stuff, then I just add their name to my search.

I definitely do not want this option, but I did not know how to get rid of it.

An ironic twist here. I googled "How do I turn off Google Search Plus Your World?" and found the following link:
It is actually pretty easy to do, and I have learned something new about Google settings.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DIY Condiments: Garlic Ginger Paste

I learned this trick from watching "Aarti Party" on the Food Network. Aarti Sequeira won Season 6 of the "Next Food Network Star," and is the only winner that I actually thought should win. She had a fresh point of view and was personable and, more importantly, I thought I could learn something from her. And I have learned many things from watching her show. (Although she is in some danger of falling into the Rachel Ray/Sunny Anderson terminal cuteness trap. Please stop giggling so much, girl!)

The best thing I have learned from her is this tip about ginger and garlic. I'm not proud of this, but one of the main things that keeps me from cooking more Indian food (and Chinese too, for that matter) is that it is such a hassle to cut both the garlic and the ginger. I don't mind chopping one or the other, but something about the thought of having to cut both often seems like more effort than it is worth, so unless I have planned to make a dish that requires both, it does not lend itself to a spur-of-the-moment I-need-something-quick kind of thing. In addition, I always end up having to throw away that knob of ginger that is inevitably left over. There is something about the texture that develops when I throw it in the freezer, as many experts recommend, that puts me off too much so I can't do that, and it is a lot of trouble to chop it all and freeze it in ice cube trays, which is what I was doing to avoid having it go bad. I wasn't all that happy with the results from that, either, but it was the best I could come up with to deal with problem.

And then I was watching "Aarti Party" and she grabbed a jar out of the refrigerator, brought it over to the stove, and explained that it was equal parts of ginger and garlic chopped up with some oil in the food processor that she keeps around all the time. Made me sit up, that's for sure.

And then she pulled it out for another dish on another episode. And then she pulled it out again. The third time is the charm, and I decided this was something I should try. I got a 3-inch knob of ginger and a head of garlic. I peeled and chopped the ginger and peeled an equal amount of garlic cloves and cut them into fourths. I put them in the processor attachment of my stick blender and poured a little olive oil into the bowl, then I let her rip.

The result? Nothing short of miraculous. Having both the ginger and the garlic already minced and available whenever I need them makes it so much easier to throw together a curry, dal, or stir fry. Now it is one of the first things that pops into my head when I deciding what to cook.

I have heard that garlic loses much of it's healthy properties if left too long after it has been cut, so I have avoided all of those jars of pre-minced garlic over the years. I did give a thought to that when I decided to give this a try, but I still use enough garlic in other dishes on a regular basis that I cut as I need, so I do not worry about that.

This mixture will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. Having it around has broadened my options every time I have to decide what to make for dinner. I've only recently started keeping it on hand, and I already can't imagine what I would do without it.
Peel a 3-inch knob of ginger and cut into 1/4-inch pieces. Peel and quarter an equal amount of garlic cloves. Place in a small food processor or chopper and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Process until a rough paste has formed, being sure to leave visible pieces of garlic and ginger. Place in a jar and store in the refrigerator. It should keep for a few weeks.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chuck Roast Braised with Port

Ahhhhh . . . the first braise of the new year. Color me content. I had one last hunk of chuck roast in the freezer and it was calling to me, even though the temperature around here was more like early fall than winter at the time. But, we have had our first snow and the temperature is closer to where it should be, so I plan to be braising and stewing and souping quite a bit over the next couple of months.

But while the meat is certainly a big attraction, I am still focused on my vegetable project, so I focused more on those for this braise. I usually cook the vegetables in the pot with the meat, but the meat is so big it leaves little room for a lot of vegetables, and they can get a little too tender for my taste. So this time I roasted the vegetables separately from the meat. It worked out ok, but not great. The meat cooks at 325 degrees, and the vegetables were taking too long at that temperature, and they were not caramelizing. After an hour and a half, I finally decided to put them in a baking dish, added a little vegetable stock, covered them with foil and baked them off.

The end result is that they tasted good, and they had a little of that roasted flavor, but next time I think I will roast them before I put the meat in the oven, and then warm them up again just before I'm ready to serve them. I think that will make a big difference in the flavor.

I braised the meat in a little bit of ketchup (homemade, of course), vegetable stock, and port. The only spice I used was fennel seed. To the vegetables I added some olive oil, dried rosemary, thyme and marjoram. The dumplings, from a recipe I found in Saveur magazine, are brightened up with fresh parsley. They absorbed the braising liquid, which wonderfully enhanced their flavor, but there was very little left over. I think that is more because I did not use as much as I should have in the first place than because of the dumplings. I did wonder as I was putting it into the oven if I shouldn't add more stock, but decided against it. Next time I will bring the liquid closer to the top of the meat, so I will be sure to have enough afterwards to sauce the vegetables.

In case it is not obvious in the photo, the vegetables are carrots, fennel and rutabaga. I used garlic, onions, leeks and the fennel stems to braise the meat. I think that qualifies this dish for my vegetable project. I usually run out of vegetables before everything else; this time there was more than enough to last through the leftovers.

All in all, a satisfying dish. The vegetables were tender, but not mushy, and the dumplings provided a light component to the heaviness of the meat, which was fork-tender and rich with the flavors of the aromatics, ketchup and port.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 4-6 Servings

2-1/2 to 3 lb chuck roast
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, well-rinsed and chopped,
1 medium onion, chopped
3 fennel stalks, chopped (optional)
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup port or other strong red wine
1/4 cup ketchup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F. Take the roast out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Layer a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the meat on the dish. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large dutch oven. Add the fennel seeds and cook until their aroma has released, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the leeks, the onion and the garlic and cook until the leeks are soft, at
least the 15 minutes that the meat is browning in the oven.

Remove the meat from the oven and lower the temperature to 325 deg. F. Raise the heat under the dutch oven to medium high and push the aromatics around to the sides of the pot. Place the meat with the unbrowned side down into the middle of the pot and cook for about 3 minutes, until it has had a chance to brown. Add the bay leaves, the broth and the port and as much water as needed to reach about three-fourths up the sides of the meat. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the oven.

Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, checking every half hour after the first hour to make sure the water level is good and it is not boiling. When the meat comes apart with a fork, it is ready. Remove it from the liquid and reduce the liquid on the stovetop until it has reached the desired consistency.

Serve with root vegetables and dumplings.

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spaghetti with Swiss Chard

Doesn't this look good? I sure wish I could remember how I made it. I have gotten into the habit of taking pictures of just about everything I make, thinking I will remember how I made it when it comes time to write about it. By now, I have realized that I need a more methodical process, and toward that end I have gotten better at writing down recipes sooner rather than later, but I just stumbled across this photograph and, while I do remember eating and enjoying the pasta, I have no memory of making it.

Looking at this photo and trying to remember what I did, I thought it might be interesting if I tried to deconstruct it here on my blog, and illustrate the process by which one might reconstruct a dish just by looking at it. Of course, it most likely will not come out exactly like the original, but if the ideas give you something delicious, that doesn't really matter, does it?

Looking at the photograph, I see:
whole wheat spaghetti
swiss chard leaves
swiss chard stems
That seems pretty basic. I don't think I see basil in there, but I am positive that I would have used it if I had it, so I am going to add it to my recipe. If I didn't have swiss chard, I would substitute another green, or another vegetable altogether. Zucchini would work, peppers would work, you could add meat or sausage if you wanted a more substantial dish. If I didn't have spaghetti, I would use a different kind of pasta. If I didn't have garlic (but that's never going to happen) I would use onion. Or both, although lately I have been using one or the other when I make pasta. Every once in a while I like to let them shine on their own right.

Taking those ingredients, and what I know about making sauces and pasta, I came up with the following recipe. What would you have done with those ingredients?
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 4 servings

1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 batch swiss chard, stems and leaves separated (stems chopped, leaves roughly shredded)
4-5 plum tomatoes, skins removed and chopped (or 1 14.5-oz can)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus some for garnish
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus some for garnish
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiana Reggiano cheese, plus some for garnish

Set a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the chard stems. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the chard stems have
softened and are translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes have just started to break down.

At this point you should be ready to cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than instructed to on the package directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta water and then drain.

Add the chard leaves to the sauce, and then the pasta. Continue to cook for another minute or two until the flavors have combined and the chard leaves have wilted. Remove from the heat and add the basil, parsley, and cheese. Add pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce.

Serve garnished with more basil, parsley, and cheese.


Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Baking Class: Golden Oat Cookies

This post has been edited by the addition of this link to Sweet As Sugar Cookies' event Sweets for a Saturday #51:

I know, I know - not barely a week into the new year and I'm already writing about cookies. But I made these right after Thanksgiving and they are too good not to share with you now.

My brother and nephews came up to spend Thanksgiving with me here in Chicago, since I was unable to make it down to Austin. They did not stay with me, however, as all four of them (three close to or over 6 feet tall) are just too much for my tiny apartment, especially the way it is set up now. So they stayed at a La Quinta downtown (I didn't even know there was a La Quinta in the city) and we got together during the day. Which meant I had mornings and evenings to myself, which kind of made it the perfect visit. Being young, they slept late, which meant I had quite a bit of time in the mornings. And when they went to the Museum of Science and Industry on Friday I had even more time. I had not cooked in a while and I was feeling the itch, so I decided to bake some cookies for them to take on the road back home with them.

As far as I know, none of them are big fans of oatmeal cookies so I am not completely sure why I decided to make these Golden Oat Cookies. But they looked different enough from the usual oatmeal cookies (and, more importantly, did not contain raisins), and the recipe calls for golden syrup, my new favorite sweetener. So I decided to go for it.

And they were worth it. Unlike the soft, chewy oatmeal cookies with which I am most familiar, these are still somewhat chewy, but like their name they are golden and crisp. I am still loving the International Cookie Cookbook, which is where I got the recipe. I have not found a dud yet.

One of the things I like the best about these cookies is that they are not too sweet, and the oats lend a wonderful toasty sensation to the flavor. I am glad that I kept some behind for myself because they were quite a treat.

Did the boys like them? All I know is that the cookies had disappeared before they got home.

So when that first urge of the new year comes creeping up on you, give these a try. They will satisfy your sweet tooth without making you feel too guilty.
Home Cookin Chapter: Cookies

Makes about 30 2-1/2 - 2-3/4-inch cookies

1 cup all-purpose or unbleached white flour (I used white whole wheat)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
7 Tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
3 Tbsp golden syrup
1-3/4 cups rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Grease several baking sheets and set aside. Thoroughly stir together flour, baking powder and baking soda.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until light. Add granulated and brown sugars, and beat until fluffy and smooth. Add egg and golden syrup, and continue beating until thoroughly blended. Beat in dry ingredients. Stir in oats using a large wooden spoon. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes to allow oats to absorb some of the moisture in the dough. Drop cookies onto baking sheets by heaping rounded teaspoonsful, spacing them about 2-1/2 inches

Place in upper third of preheated oven and bake for 9 to12 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown all over and slightly darker around edges. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.

Store cookies in an airtight container for up to a week. Freeze for longer storage.

from The International Cookie Cookbook, by Nancy Baggett (Stewart, Tabori & Chang 1993)

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Almonds

Vegetables don't come easy to me. They are the hardest foods for me to incorporate into my diet. One of the reasons is that they need to be prepped, and then cooked (carrots, celery, and salad ingredients notwithstanding). But the biggest reason is that I grew up eating vegetables out of frozen boxes or cans.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, especially the frozen vegetables. It is just that, except for salt, we really did eat them out of the can or the box. Occasionally my Mom would doctor up some spinach with minced onions and cottage cheese (don't knock it until you've tried it), but most of the time our vegetables were naked and overcooked. No butter, no pepper, no garlic, no onion, no nothing.

My workaround is to add as many vegetables as possible into my main dishes. I cram them into soups, stews, frittatas, and braises. Onions and garlic are the base of almost everything I make, and tomatoes figure heavily into the rotation as well. Carrots and celery are a close second, and squash, fennel, eggplant, potatoes, rutabaga, zucchini and the occasional cauliflower find their way into much of what I cook. In the summer I do better because of all of the fresh vegetables available at the Green Market.

But when I am not making soups or stews, I find myself challenged to find ways to prepare vegetables that don't load them up with butter. They are tasty that way, for sure, but it kind of takes away some of the benefit that they provide. I tell myself that it is better than not eating them at all, but I am not really fooling myself.

I have made it a goal for the year to master the art of cooking vegetables in a way that makes them shine, but not because of butter. I eat plenty of beans and grains, and I get more than enough fruit, but I need to eat my vegetables.

This bok choy stir-fry is my first effort, and I am quite pleased with how it turned out. I reached a turning point with stir-fry when I made this zucchini with cashews dish, and I now approach stir fries with much more confidence. I am no longer afraid that everything will burn if I leave it for a few seconds, which has made it a much more calming thing to cook.

After spending a few minutes on prep, the actual stir-fry took less than 10 minutes. And clean-up is a snap - all you have to do is wipe out the wok with a paper towel (although in all honesty, I must confess that I usually have to rinse it with warm water since I do not clean it right away). No soap required.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 2 large or 4 small servings

1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sherry
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or other oil with a high smoke point)
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4 medium-sized baby bok choy, chopped, stems and leaves separated
Approximately 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup toasted blanched almonds
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Combine the orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sherry in a small bowl and set aside. In an even smaller bowl, combine the corn starch and water and stir it together, then set it aside as well.

Place the wok over high heat. When it just starts to smoke, add the grapeseed oil and let it sit for a few seconds. Add the ginger and garlic and let that sit for a few seconds, then start moving it around
the wok continuously so that it does not burn. After about half a minute, add the bok choy stems, continuing to move everything around the wok. After about a minute, pour water around the edges of the pan to create steam and to loosen up any of the garlic and ginger that might have gotten stuck to the bottom of the wok.

Cook the stems for about 2 minutes more, adding more water if necessary. Add the bok choy leaves and cook for another minute, until they have just wilted. Add the almonds and cook for another few seconds, just
long enough for them get hot.

Add the orange juice mixture and stir until it starts to bubble, then add the cornstarch mixture. Continue to stir until the mixture has thickened, then remove from the heat. Add the sesame oil immediately.

Garnish with sesame seeds before serving.


Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Dandelion Green and Butternut Squash Frittata

I got back from Austin Friday evening. I was looking forward to having three days to work on recipes, cooking, blogging, and knitting (in that order). After all of the holiday treats and sweets, I was also looking forward to getting back to a healthier, more vegetable-oriented diet.

But the best laid plans often go wrong, and on my trip to the grocery store Saturday morning I took a different kind of trip and landed face down on the sidewalk, having scraped the hell out of my knee, the side of my right hand, and somehow (and I still don't know exactly how) right above my right eye. As has been the case in previous falls, the knee was the most painful and what I was most worried about, but it was my hand that turned out to be the most problematic. For one thing, it wouldn't stop bleeding the whole time I was at the store, and once it did stop it took forever to scab over, and then it hurt like hell for quite a while when it got wet. Not only was cooking difficult, washing up afterwards was nearly impossible. The bruise on the inside of my hand has not made it any easier.

So I have cooked some, but nothing new or too strenuous. This is actually a frittata I made last year (all right, last month), but it was delicious and it isn't a cooky or candy, so I am going to go with it for my first post of the new year.

I first discovered dandelion greens in one of those bagged organic pre-made salads I used to buy. I didn't know what it was, but there was something in there that had a musty, almost skunky flavor. I know that sounds really bad, but it is actually quite delicious when it is subtle, as it was in the salad mix. It wasn't until I bought a bunch of dandelion greens for the first time and tasted them that I realized that they were what had provided that wonderful umami sensation.

I needed something more to fill out my frittata and I had some roasted butternut squash in the refrigerator. I had already put diced sweet potato in a previous frittata, so I knew the squash would work. And it was a beautiful combination of ingredients. I used my usual frittata technique, putting the butternut squash into the egg mixture without heating it. As you can see, the top came dangerously close to burning, but I managed to pull it out of the oven just in time.

If you haven't tried your hand at one yet, you really should. Once you get the hang of it they are quite easy, and since they can be eaten at room temperature they make a great carry-along breakfast for those days when you don't have time to eat before you leave the house in the morning (and I know we all have those days).
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