Monday, January 31, 2011

Cabbage Slaw in Peanut Sesame Dressing (vegan, gluten free)

The name of this salad is actually called  Ying Yang Salad with Peanut-Sesame Dressing from the Real Food Daily Cookbook. I'm going to provide a link over to 101 Cookbooks for the recipe, since Heidi Swanson reprinted it with permission, which I don't have.

The reason it's named such is because it is an homage to the ancient Chinese philosophy that all things in the universe contain elements of both yin and yang. The philosophy of yin and yang lies at the heart of Chinese culture. The first reference to yin and yang come from the classic works of Confucius. Taken literally, yin and yang means the dark side and sunny side of a hill. People commonly think that they are opposing forces, but in fact they are complementary pairs. In Yin and Yang cooking there is always a balance in color, flavors and textures. The challenge is to consume a diet that contains the balance between the two. 

The crunchiness and coolness of the cabbage and carrots are the perfect counterpoint to the rich and creamy peanut dressing. 

Serves 4

4 cups shredded napa cabbage
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 (2 1/2-inch) piece daikon radish, peeled and julienned
10 scallions,  julienned
1 cup Peanut-Sesame Dressing (recipe below)
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes chilled ginger tofu (recipe below)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Toss the cabbage, carrots, radish, and green onions in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat. Mound the salad into 4 wide, shallow bowls or onto plates. Arrange the tofu around the salad. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve.

Peanut-Sesame Dressing

    Makes  1- 1/4 cups
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
  1. Blend the peanut butter, vinegar, maple syrup, water, tamari, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper in a food processor until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add the cilantro and blend just until it's finely chopped The dressing will keep for 2 days, covered and refrigerated.

Gingered Tofu

2 (12-ounce) containers water-packed extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
2/3 cup Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon canola oil
  1. Drain the tofu and save the containers. Cut into 1-inch wide strips, and pat dry with paper towels. Cover a large baking sheet with more dry paper towels. Place the tofu in a single layer over the towels on the baking sheet and let drain for 2 hours, changing the paper towels after 1 hour.
  2. Whisk the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a bowl to blend. Pour half of the marinade into the reserved tofu containers. Return the tofu slices to the containers, and pour the remaining marinade over. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400'F. 
  4. Oil a heavy, rimmcd baking sheet with the canola oil. Drain the tofu and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes on each side until golden brown and heated through. Serve warm or cold, or at room temperature. The tofu will keep for 1 day, covered and refrigerated.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Stir Fry (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Serving mushrooms whole, according to Asian tradition, is a sign of wealth. 
These are just some of the things I have learned through my travels in Asia. 

While my parents lived in Bangkok for many years, I had the opportunity to visit with them several times. Bangkok would serve as my hub to bounce to Hong Kong, and visit my family there. My fathers' first cousins developed a thriving import/export business in Hong Kong. Luckily I was raised close to them and we made every effort to get together during the summer. If it was not Hong Kong, it was NY. If it was not NY, it was somewhere across the globe at a Club Med. It was chaotic, but fun.

When I visited my family in Hong Kong they were so kind to me. We went to Lang Kwai Fong which was the HOTTEST place for international restaurants and nightlife.

Now if I am in Hong Kong, what do I want to eat?
Chinese Food- of course.

A number of different styles contributed to Hong Kong Chinese cuisine, but perhaps the best known and most influential is the Sichuan cuisine. It is is a style of Chinese cuisine originating in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China famed for bold flavors, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as as ginger.

This Bok Choy with Shiitake mushrooms reminds me of those days in Hong Kong with my family dining at a typical Szechuan restaurant in red decor. All ingredients are so classic to the cuisine and so tasty. Pour it over rice noodles where the sauce is absorbed by the noodles.

Serves 2


1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Bunch Baby Bok Choy, roots trimmed
4 ounces fresh shiitakes, stems discarded
1 teaspoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water

  1. In a large non stick skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add bok choy and mushrooms. Stir until the vegetables have softened.
  3. Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine, soy sauce, red pepper and water. Pour over the vegetables and continue cooking until the leaves are just limp.
  4. Serve hot over noodles.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto (Gluten Free)

Here in the Northeast, winter has started early. We have been seeing temperatures hover in the 30 degree mark for weeks. Normally we don't experience this chill until late January early February. In fact, New York had one of it's biggest snow storms in recorded history just two weeks ago dumping almost 3 feet of snow with the wind drifts.

My everyday walk with my dog for 40 minutes has now dwindled down to a quick hop and jump up the block and around in 10 minutes flat. So both my dog and I have a lot of pented up energy. He has been sniffing away at my garbage, wrestling with all my papers in there, and I have been cooking good ol' comfort foods.

This past week I returned to my Italian fare... Risotto.

As a child I used to visit with my famalia in Italia every year, twice a year. I would stay with my aunt, who regularly made pasta every night for dinner. Sometimes she would indulge herself into making a Risotto. This would involve nursing this creamy dish for at least a good hour, while her armed tired from the stirring of this heavy dish. It was a good workout as beads of sweat used to gather by her brow. I think she enjoyed it.

Interestingly with all the pasta mia familia consumed, everyone of my cousins was THIN. Go figure... (no pun intended). Fresh pasta with a fresh suggo (marinara sauce) paired with red wine (for the adults) was a diet to thinness.

In any event, back to this Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto I prepared. The combination of leeks with the chewy texture of mushrooms already lends this dish to a hearty fare. The lemon just lightens up the flavor with a delicate sprinkling of Parmesan. What's even more perfect about this dish is that everyone, including the kids will love it. It is just that good and versatile.
To clean leeks: with a knife slit the leek lengthwise and clean between the layers with running water

The rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto (flavor base) of onion and butter to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot vegetable stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. At that point it is taken off the heat for the mantecatura when diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano cheese is vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat. 

Serves 4
2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
8 ounces Cremini mushrooms, wiped and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
6 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 3/4 cups short grain brown rice
5 cups hot vegetable stock
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesen cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the garlic for 1 minute taking care not to burn it. Add the leeks, mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until softened and browned. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to the pan and cook the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until golden and soft.
  3. Stir in the rice and cook for about 1 minute. Add a ladleful of the stock to the pan and cook gently, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Gently stir in more liquid as each ladleful is absorbed; this should take 20-25 minutes in all. The risotto will turn thick and creamy, and the rice should be tender, but not sticky or gluey.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the leek and mushroom mixture, remaining butter, grated lemon zest and juice and half the Parmesan. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  6. When serving, sprinkle remaining Parmesan and springs of flat leaf parsley.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Grapes of the Earth.... that's what I call these green leafy balls that grown on a stalk.

I was in Trader Joe's the other day (my favorite store) and they had a special for a GIANT organic brussel sprout stalk for $3.99. I just could not resist the price and the taste. Now you might be thinking.... brussel sprouts, what's the big deal here? They are just miniature cabbage balls and biting into them is like eating compacted leaves with a bit of a bitter after taste. Well.... if that's your experience with brussel sprouts, I am about to introduce to you a simple and quick recipe for these under dogs that will beckon you for more.

I could easily pick these brussel sprouts off the stalk and munch on it instead of a bag of chips. That's how much I love these!

Roasting the brussel sprouts in a basting of olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper turns this hard dense cabbage into a mysteriously caramelized outside and creamy on the inside. Your kids will love to pick at this, right off the stalk making it a fun hand to mouth snack.


  • 1 Brussel Sprouts Stalk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to Roast at 400 degrees F.
  2. Baste Brussels sprouts generously with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Place on aluminum foil, and center on oven rack.
  3. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes, turning the stalk every 5 to 7 minutes for even browning. Reduce heat when necessary to prevent burning. Brussels sprouts should be darkest brown, almost black, when done. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt, if necessary. Serve immediately.

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