Monday, August 31, 2015

Chinese five spice roasted cauliflower in a "manchurian" sauce

This is my riff on a cauliflower manchurian, a popular dish at Indian Chinese restaurants. In the traditional version, the cauliflower florets are dipped into a batter and deep fried. Then the fried cauliflower is tossed in a spicy sauce. I decided to stay away from deep frying and roasted the cauliflower instead. I used Chinese five spice to flavor the cauliflower which is a mixture of spices. Most commonly used spices are star anise, cloves and cinnamon with the bite of Szechwan pepper, all married together with ground fennel seeds. The roasted cauliflower tastes great on its own, but I wanted to make a "manchurian gravy". On its own the roasted cauliflower makes for great finger food.
Chinese Five Spice Roasted cauliflower in a "manchurian" sauce

1.5 lb cauliflower, cut into medium sized pieces (large florets cut into quarters and the smaller ones into two)
1 teaspoon Chinese Five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder
3/4th teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

For the sauce
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon tamari sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 heaped teaspoon black bean chili sauce

  1. Preheat a large baking sheet at 425 F. Toss the cauliflower with the five spice powder, garlic powder, white pepper powder, salt and 2 tablespoons canola oil. Mix till all the florets are well coated. Then lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer and cook for 25 minutes.
  2. Towards the last few minutes of cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the chopped onion and the sliced garlic and a tiny pinch of salt and cook for about 3 minutes - at this point the onion will start to pink at the edges. Add the roasted cauliflower to the onion mixture and the ingredients for the sauce and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes and remove from the fire. Serve hot.
Serves 3 with an egg fried rice or 4 as part of a multi-course meal

Friday, August 21, 2015

Chinese sweet corn soup

This is not a fancy soup but some version of which you will get at every Chinese restaurant. I have been having this soup since my childhood and this is my take on it. Loved by my daughter who enjoys corn in any form and not really liked by my husband who is trying to avoid starchy vegetables. I combine fresh corn with canned creamy style corn. Thickened with some corn starch and subtly spiced with white pepper with swirls of a beaten egg with some sesame oil, it is quite delicious!

Chinese sweet corn soup
1 fresh corn on the cob
1 can of cream style sweet corn (8.25 oz can = 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons rice wine
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper  or to taste
Kosher salt to taste
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon chili sesame oil
1 large organic egg
1 scallion, green parts only finely sliced for garnish
  1. Remove the husk from the corn and shave off the kernels into a bowl.
  2. Heat a sauce pan with canola oil and add the chopped onion and minced garlic with a pinch of kosher salt. Saute on medium heat for 3 minutes till the onion has softened.
  3. Add the corn kernels and 1 cup water and cook for 10 minutes uncovered on medium heat till the kernels are cooked and the water is almost completely absorbed.
  4. Add the cream style corn and one and a half cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the rice, wine, white pepper, and salt and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Create the corn slurry by mixing the corn starch with  1 tablespoon cold water. Add it to the soup and bring to a boil. In the meantime beat the egg with 1/8th teaspoon kosher salt and the sesame chili oil. When the soup starts to thicken, reduce the heat and add the egg slowly stirring constantly to form threads. If you like egg to be in flowers, then stir slowly to allow the egg flowers to form. 
  6. Garnish with the chopped scallions and serve.
Serves 3

Friday, August 7, 2015

Roasted mushroom, chickpeas and baby spinach salad

Baby spinach topped with warm roasted mushrooms and toasted spiced chickpeas dressed in a tangy yogurt dressing is a wonderful salad any time of the year. Had friends for lunch today and they thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact it is a great vegetarian main course salad with the addition of the chickpeas. The yogurt dressing is lightly spiced with cumin and sweetened with a touch of maple syrup.

Roasted mushrooms, chickpeas and spinach salad

10 oz white button mushrooms, cut into quarters
10 sprigs of thyme (leaves only)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 15 oz container of organic chickpeas
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic (not minced - they will burn)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/8 tsp cayenne powder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
5 oz baby spinach, washed and dried

3 tablespoons 0% fat Greek yogurt (Fage brand)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/8th teaspoon toasted cumin powder
1/8th teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. 
  2. While the oven preheats, toss the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic powder, thyme leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Drain the chickpeas and give them a quick rinse with cold water. Toss the chickpeas, chopped onion, and chopped garlic with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cumin powder, cayenne powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Lay them out on another baking sheet in a single layer.
  4. After oven is heated, place the mushrooms in the bottom third of the oven and the chickpeas in the top third of the oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Toss the mushrooms and the chickpeas to ensure even cooking and place them back for another 10 - 15 minutes in the oven. The mushrooms should be completely cooked but not dried out and the chickpeas will be roasted and the onions and garlic would have softened with a little color. 
  5. Remove the trays from the oven and transfer the hot contents to the serving bowl with the spinach. The heat of the mushrooms and chickpeas will slightly wilt the spinach.
  6. For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients and add a couple of tablespoons of water to make the dressing have a pouring consistency. Taste for seasoning. If you like the dressing to be a little more sweet, add more maple syrup. The idea is to lightly coat the salad.
  7. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve immediately.
Serves 4 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Corn, serrano chili and cheddar muffins

This is my slight adaptation of David Tanis' recipe of Corn and Jalapeno muffins. The original recipe is here. Light and fluffy they make a great side for a summer barbecue, with soup or chili or just a snack for the kids. The mini size is perfect for popping into the mouth as you are walking around. It makes a quick breakfast as well. I like my corn muffins to really have corn in every bite - hence I doubled the quantity of corn and we like them cheesy. So I doubled the cheese as well. Extra sharp cheddar gives it that extra saltiness.
You can also add finely minced scallions and fresh cilantro for an extra herbaceous flavor.

Corn, serrano chili and cheddar muffins
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup corn kernels from 1 large corn on the cob
2 - 3 teaspoons finely chopped serrano pepper (adjust according to spice tolerance)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
 Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4th teaspoons baking powder
3/4th teaspoons baking soda
1 large organic egg, beaten
3/4th cup buttermilk
3 ounces grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese
2 mini muffin tins (12 cups each)

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add corn kernels and minced pepper and cook gently for 2 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8th teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave.
  2. Mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat in eggs and buttermilk to make a thick batter. Add the cooked corn kernels, as well as the melted butter and then stir in grated cheese.
  3. Spray the mini muffin tins with olive oil spray or cooking spray and fill with enough batter so that the level of the batter is just below the top. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden.

Makes 24 mini muffins

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Stir fried rice cakes with black bean sauce

I discovered rice cakes when we had gone to Hangawi, a Korean vegetarian restaurant in New York. They had a dish on their menu of spicy rice cakes and I really enjoyed its springy consistency, a bit like tapioca. These rice cakes are sold in Asian grocery stores - either frozen or fresh. The frozen ones may come pre-sliced or in sticks. I had bought the one sold in frozen sticks. They are cooked just like you would cook noodles. I have used  Lee Kum Kee Guizhou Black Bean Chili sauce for the spicy kick. It is more savory than spicy and gives the dish that additional layer of flavor which you will not get from a regular black bean chili sauce. This dish has the perfect balance of salt, spice and sweet. I have used a combination of crunchy and soft vegetables. You can make it with any vegetable of your choice.

Stir fried rice cakes with black bean chili sauce

1 lb frozen or fresh rice cakes
1 cup asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 cup thinly sliced bell pepper (orange, red or yellow)
7 large cremini mushrooms thinly sliced
1/2 lb fresh bean sprouts
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons Lee Kum Kee Guizhou Black Bean Chili
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  1. If the rice cakes are frozen, soak them in cool water for 30 minutes. Then drain and slice then 1/4 inch thick. If they are fresh, there is no need to soak them.
  2. Heat a large wok with canola oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the mushrooms, Saute for 3 minutes over medium high heat.
  3. Now add the asparagus and the sugar snap peas and saute for another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the rice cakes, rice wine, chili bean paste and soy sauce and toss well. Cook for 5 minutes over medium high heat. At this point the rice cake will soften and absorb some flavor from the sauces.
  5. Add the bean sprouts and peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add sugar - mix and cook for 30 seconds.
  6. Serve hot
Serves 3 as a meal