Recipe: Marinated Strawberries and Radishes

“I got the best adult toy ever.”

When I said that on the Facebook, some of our friends got overly curious about what it is.

What do you think it is?

I got an Iphone, finally. It’s a lot more easy and fun than I thought, and to my surprise, it saves me a ton of time. As you know, I like things easy, efficient and fun.

One example is taking a photo for my blog.

OK, the quality of the photo may not be as good as it could be, but just being able to take a photo, upload it on Facebook immediately without downloading and all that hassle, AND be able to use it for my blog post right away. I’m writing this post as a reply to my email with that photo on my IPhone. WordPress has this great feature that if I send it to a particular email ID, it gets posted on my blog immediately. It’s amazing as soon as I push “Send/Receive” on my Outlook, I will find an email from WordPress that a new article is posted on “Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard”.

So when I made this new dish my friend Fumi told me about, I took a photo with my brand new IPhone and posted on Facebook immediately, as a practice. Yes, it’s the dish those who came to my class last Saturday get to sample. : )

She found this recipe from a new Japanese movie called “Eatrip” that I’d love to see.

The combination of strawberries and radishes sounds a bit strange, but it’s really nice and refreshing. Best to eat it when it’s marinated for about 3 hours, not too long (it gets limp.)

Marinated Strawberries & Radishes (from Japanese movie “Eatrip“)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack strawberries (cut in half or quarter if big)
  • 1 bunch radishes – about 10 (sliced thin)
  • 2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 2 TBS Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 TBS Turbinado or Brown Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Mix EVOO, Wine Vinegar, Sugar well in a container with a lid.
2. Add Strawberries and radishes and mix gently to coat them well with the vinaigrette. Season with a little bit of Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Cover, and let it marinate for about 3 hours in the fridge.

Note: You can use the leftover juice as strawberry vinaigrette for salad. I mixed it with mentsuyu noodle soup base for my cold Japanese noodle salad the next day, it was delicious! (and yes, my leftover sliced radishes also adorned this pretty dish.) I’ll share the recipe on the next post!

By the way, it’s still not late to sign-up for Diageo Wine-Pairing Teleseminar on Friday, and get access to their great Employee Wine Sale.

Want to know more? Check out this post.

Or sign up immediately from here.

Feel free to share with your friends and family who’d love to stock up great wine for great price!

So what’s your favorite function or apps on your IPhone? Please share with me.

What Will Be the Food Trend in 2010?

Happy New Year!

2009 was a challenging year, for our economy, as well as many of us, including our own.  So I am excited to have that year behind us.  I read somewhere that 2010 is good year in Fen Shui, so I’m excited about what the new year has to offer.

As we look forward, one thing I want to know about is the trend prediction of 2010, you guessed it, about food.

1. Eat Fresh, Eat More Vegetables!

On recent Iron Chef, First Lady Michelle Obama opened the super chef battle of Bobby Flay & Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford of the White House vs. Mario Batali, Emeril Ragasse.  The secret ingredients were vegetables from the White House garden, to inspire Americans to cook and eat more vegetables.  I heard that Mrs. Obama actually don’t cook much even before she moved to the White House, yet the First Lady herself is involved in a major TV event like this is HUGE!  I see more and more focus will be placed on eating fresh, especially vegetables, rather than prepared food as well as meat and carbohydrates.

Given the obesity rate of the US is epidemic 33% for adults and 16% for children, 2 in 3 adult Americans are considered overweight,  this is truly a welcoming trend, and will change life of many.  The key is, it needs to happen on everyone’s home, not just on TV or at the restaurants.  We as a nation, need to change our eating habits.  The challenge is to show the general public eating vegetables are not just eating these raw celery from veggie platter, or plain boiled (and possibly cooked to death) broccoli. If that’s the only thing they know, of course they won’t want to eat much vegetables.  There are many easy, more flavorful options, if they are willing to experiment.

One of the easiest and tastiest is roasted and/or grilled vegetables.  My trick is to stick a whole vegetables like eggplants and sweet potatoes (the Obamas’ favorite veggie, according to the First Lady) in toaster oven at 400F while I’m cooking something else.  Compared with an conventional oven, it doesn’t require much pre-heating, so it’s much faster, and reduces energy as well.  Then I have them ready to go in the air-tight container in the refrigerator for various dishes later in the week. 

Click here for my super easy and healthy eggplant appetizer recipe I posted this on SFGate.com site.  It takes less than 5 minutes if you already have grilled/roasted eggplants.  You’ll love it!

Stay tuned for more posts about the food trends in 2010…

What food trend do you predict in 2010?  What’s is your new year’s resolution around food?  Leave me a comment, I’m interested in hearing from you.

PS: Is “Eating Healthy” one of your new year’s resolutions?  Then join us for my free class this Saturday, January 16th in Oakland.  Hope you can make it!

The World’s Easiest Cranberry Relish Your Family & Guest Will Love

One of the (very few) dishes my husband taught me is a Thanksgiving side-dish recipe that has been handed down from his grandma Henrietta.  She passed long before we got married, soInever had the honor of meeting her nor eating her dishes.  However, her husband – Keith’s grandpa – Park who lived till 101 told me how great of a baker Hanky (that’s what he called her) was, and excruciating details of her German cakes which he missed dearly.

This is actually a very simple cranberry relish recipe using a box of jello, yet the power of this should not be underestimated. It is very refreshing, and can double as a dessert. Both children and adults love it alike.  On top of that, it’s healthy — it has a lot of fruits such as apples, pears and oranges, in addition to cranberries, and doesn’t require cooking – I can say this is highly optimized. And it’s bright red, it’s festive and surely adds color to the table. If you have a food processor, it’s super easy.  It requires all familiar ingredients that are really cheap! Probably the most exotic and expensive ingredient is cranberries.

Whenever we make it, people always ask for the recipe and nowadays it became so famous, we get Thanksgiving invitations with the requests for this.

So I decided to post the recipe on my blog. My husband first resisted — “Nooo! It’s MY family’s secret recipe!”.  But those who eat it always ask for this recipe! And I grew up in Japan where’s there’s no traditional Thanksgiving celebration, I needed this for my readers!  So I asked “Wouldn’t it be great if your grandma’s recipe is enjoyed by more people in the world, not just by your immediate family?”

So here it is.  Kitchen Wizard is revealing another cooking secret, this one from her extended family.

Grammy Hanky’s Cranberry Relish

Ingredients:

  • 1 Small box of red jello (we like raspberry. Strawberry is a bit too sweet.)
  • 1 cup hot water (Do not add the second of batch of water, which is suggested on the box.)
  • 1 bag cranberries
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 2 large apples, cored and cut in bite size pieces
  • 2 large pears (should be relatively firm), cored and cut into bite size pieces

Directions:

  1. Mix jello with hot water to dissolve. Put bit-size pieces of fruit in the food processor and pulse several times to grind roughly to about 1/4″ cubes or smaller.  Make sure the cranberries are ground up well — if they are not, it could be tart.  Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to do it in two batches.
  2. When the jello is room temperature, add all the fruit including its juice. Mix well.  Chill in the refrigerator until set. (Because of the amount of fruit, it may not set completely.)

We love serving it with turkey in place of regular cranberry sauce or relish, or you can eat it as dessert as well, with or without whipped cream. We normally make a double batch, using the large jello box, and using 1/2 – 2/3 for the actual Thanksgiving, and save the rest for us to eat later.

Oh, this is also great when you are sick! When I had flu and pneumonia 2 months ago and didn’t want to eat, I asked my husband to make this, and I ate it everyday.

So there you have it.  Try it and leave me a comment on how you and your guests loved it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Almost) Less Than 5: Sautéed Eggplant with Miso

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Sauted Eggplant with Miso

Many years ago, my fridge (or especially freezer) looked like a morgue.  No more. Ever since I started Kitchen Wizard, my kitchen is a lot more organized and that has helped me decide what to cook much quicker, and also reduced waste significantly.

They all have the labels with dates and contents, I know exactly what I need to use up soon, and for what.

Today, that item was grilled eggplant.  As some of you older readers remember, I posted a series of eggplant recipes over the summer. Throwing eggplants on the grill whether we plan to eat on that night or not, along side our chicken and sausages is a must for us, because they are one of the most convenient and versatile thing to have on hand. As the day gets colder and shorter, we don’t grill out much, but they are still handy in fall and winter too – for different dishes.

So I decided to make an easy Japanese dish that can be made with pantry items.  This really is a cinch if you already have grilled or sautéed eggplants (ideally cooked in vegetable oil, not olive oil). Obviously, grilled eggplants are healthier – it uses much less oil and salt.  You can also stick the whole eggplants in the toaster oven until soft. You can use a conventional oven too, yet a toaster oven heats much quicker (doesn’t require pre-heating), plus uses much less energy.

If you are vegetarian/vegan, omit the meat or chopped shiitake mushrooms as substitute.

Sautéed Eggplant with Miso

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

  • Ginger, sliced: about 1 ts
  • Green onions, chopped: about 3
  • Crushed chili (optional)
  • Japanese, Chinese or Italian Eggplants: (ideally already grilled) 5-6
    • This is a cinch if you have already grilled or sautéed eggplants. Cut in bite size pieces. You do not need to peel skin for this dish.
  • Ground meat: 4oz (100g)
  • Sake: 2 TBS (sprinkle 1 TBS on the meat, mix 1 TBS into miso to create paste.)
  • Soy sauce: 1 ts
  • Sugar: pinch
  • Miso: 1 – 2 TBS

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet. Cook sliced ginger and green onions (and chili, if you are using) on medium-high heat until fragrant. (If you don’t have cooked eggplants, add oil and sauté sliced eggplants. Add a little bit of salt to shorten the cooking time).  When soft, move toward the edge of the pan.
  2. If you have the cooked eggplants, add to the onion ginger mixture. Add ground meat and any sake residue, and cook until brown.
  3. Add soy sauce and pinch of sugar, and mix in the miso/sake mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve hot with steamed rice.

Kitchen Wizard Leftover Make-Over Tip:

If there’s any left over, add hot water and miso and make eggplant and ground meat miso soup.  Add extra green onion on top.

This is a kind of dish they serve at Izakaya as well as at home in Japan…  So maybe you should have some beer or sake with this, and pretend that you are in Japan!

Batch and fridge: Sautéed Mirepoix Tomato and Meat Mixture — Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage

It’s getting dark, cold, and RAINY in the Bay Area.  Yes, this fall is exceptionally rainy, and it rains cats and dogs, and that’s not enough, as if all the animals are falling from the sky. And I heard that those people in Colorado, Nebraska etc. already had 6 inches on snow, in early October?  Not just global warming, the weather is strange lately.

On an evening like that, and especially when I’m recovering from sickness, one thing I crave for is stuffed cabbage.

Believe it or not (I might have said that before), 99% of Japanese housewives cook Japanese, other Asian, as well as European origin food as normal repertoire. At least the last 50 years, that has been the norm.  Japanese are known to adopt great things from other countries and improve it to make it more efficient, like cars and electronics. And maybe not as well known fact outside of Japan, but food is definitely one of them.  We Japanize it with the ingredients that are available in Japan, and make it our own.

So, when I was little, and get sick, one of the things I craved for was “Rolled Cabbage” which is stuffed cabbage. Not just at my house, but ask 100 Japanese, whether they live in Japan or elsewhere, I can guarantee majority will say “I make them once in a while.”  We even have Japanese version, which often is found in oden, Japanese pot-au-feu.

The problem with Stuffed cabbage is it takes quite a long time to make it from scratch. But through my Kitchen Wizarding Process, I found a very easy way, that only takes about half or less time, and as tasty!

Plus my version uses mirepoix as its base, and not much meat, so it’s super healthy.  If you are vegetarian, or vegan, omit meat.

To make it even healthier, you can use other kinds of grains and even more vegetables, instead of rice. If the stuffing is too loose, add a beaten egg, so that it’ll serve as a binding agent.

So here’s Kitchen Wizard’s stuffed cabbage recipe!

Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients:

  • Sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato Mixture – about 1 cup
  • Cooked rice – about 1 cup
  • Grated cheese – about 1/4 cup (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A head of cabbage
  • 1/3 –1/4 Can of tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Cream

Directions:

  1. Remove the core of the cabbage, and stuff the hole with a moist paper-towel.  Wrap it with plastic wrap, and microwave it until cooked through, turning once in the middle. (about 5 min for small head cabbage, about 1 lb.  About 8-9 min for a 2 pounder.) This will allow the leaves to come out easily.
  2. Mix cooked rice and sautéed mirepoix, meat and tomato mixture about 50/50. Add cheese if preferred. Mix and season well.  Sprinkle some salt on the cabbage. Wrap a few tablespoons of the rice mixture with the cabbage leaves tightly.  Secure the end with tooth pick or broken spaghetti.
  3. Arrange the cabbage rolls into a pan as tightly as possible, trying not to leave any space.  If there’s any space, stuff with leftover cabbage.
  4. Add broth to barely cover the cabbage rolls.  Top with chopped tomatoes, and place a lid or plate that is one size smaller than the opening, so that the rolls will not float up. Cook for about 20-30 min.  (If you are short with time, cook in microwave, in several minute increments.  Be careful not boil over the broth.)
  5. Serve immediately with cream on top.

Note: Do you have any cooked cabbage leftover?  Great!  Because it’s really handy!  You can shred it and add to miso soup, other kind of soup, mix with vinaigrette to make simple salad as a side dish, sauté lightly with salt and pepper, with tomatoes, curry powder, bacon, etc. etc.

They were so yummy, they made the last bit of my sickness go away…

Never forget, nourish your soul with good, whole food, not just body…  It’ll thank you and give back 100 times! And the best way to do that is through home-cooking.  Treat yourself with your childhood favorite from time to time!

Cookout Japanese Style 2: Yaki-Onigiri (Grilled Rice Balls)

Ah…  This one is true crowd pleaser.  Every year, we have our oyster BBQ birthday party around this time of the year. (My husband Keith’s birthday is tomorrow, Sept 3, and mine is 7th, which this year, it happens to be the Labor Day.)  Last few years we served these, OMG, boy they go fast!  Kids love them, adults love them. We probably had about 20 giant rice balls and they were gone in 5 min!  Everyone asks me how to make it, so here it is!

Yaki-onigiri (Grilled rice balls) 焼きおにぎり

Ingredients:

  • Cooked sushi rice 1c per person. (Note: Long grain rice such as jasmine rice, basmati rice etc. is not sticky enough to make onigiri.  Brown sushi rice is not the easiest either. )
  • 1/4 C Soy sauce
  • 1/4 C mirin (Sweet Rice Wine)

Directions:

  1. Make the teriyaki sauce. Combine Soy sauce and mirin, and cook at medium heat until it’s reduced to about half. If you are in a rush or don’t have patience, you can just mix soy sauce and mirin, 1:1.  It’s not the same, but still tasty. You can use this sauce for Grilled corn we’ll discuss on the next post, as well as yakitori.  So if there’s left over, keep in a small jar.
  2. Make onigiri (rice balls)
    • Traditional (hot and painful) method: Prepare a bowl of cold water and fine salt in a shaker.  First soak your palms, and sprinkle some salt on your palm.  Then…  are you ready? you put about a 3/4 cup of hot rice (yes, fresh from the steamer) on your palm and press it into the familiar triangular shape.  Now, as you can imagine, it’s very hot and painful.  After one, you probably will not want to make any more.
  3. So here’s an easier version:
    • Add about 1/2-1c of cooked rice (ideally warm to hot) into a plastic bag (the kind you put your vegetables at a super market or Ziploc bag).  Sprinkle some salt if needed.
    • Push the rice into one corner and press into a ball by holding it together tightly as if you are making a ball with hand.  Take it out and make the second one in the same bag.
    • Note 1: You can also do the same with plastic wrap (Since the material is thinner, you need to make sure the plastic doesn’t get between the rice). When you want to bring them to a picnic, or freeze them (to later microwave and eat), they are already individually wrapped and ready to go.

    Grill onigiri until both sides are crispy but not colored much yet. Brush the soy sauce/mirin reduction evenly on all sides.  (or just 1:1 soy sauce and mirin mixture or soy sauce only, if you are in a rush).

    Put the rice balls back on the grill until the grill marks are on both sides and the sauce gets crispy.

    We don’t  add anything inside of yaki-onigiri, but if you are just making onigiri, you can do the following to make it fun and tasty.(Photos below.)

    • If you want to add something tasty in the middle, put a rather deep hole (not all the way through, though) with your finger, place about 1/2 – 1 tbs of things you like to eat such as a piece of grilled salmon (left over kama is a good idea), pickled plum, bonito flakes mixed with soy sauce, grilled cod roe, or tuna and green onion mixed with mayo or soy sauce, etc.  and press rice back into the space to close the hole.  Ideally, the contents should be completely covered with rice.

    When you eat onigiri as it is, put a 2-inch square piece of nori on both sides (seaweed, the same kind they use for sushi) on top.  Do not use seaweed if you are making yaki-onigiri — it will burn!






When I make this, I really feel like I’m home.  The smell of soy sauce and mirin is typical in Japanese kitchen, and makes me really hungry.

Make some of these next time, and see how popular this will be with your own eyes!  I’m  looking forward to your report in the comment section.

Cook Out Japanese Style 1: Sake Kama (Salmon Collar) & Ponzu

Here in the Bay Area, it feels like summer is almost over (or never started this year).  Yet the big BBQ day is coming up this weekend – Laber Day!  Most people barbeque staples – such as burgers, ribs, grilled chicken and sausage. But how about adding some Japanese items into the mix for a change?  They are super easy, a crowd pleaser, and your friends will really appreciate it too!

When we bought our house, my husband insisted we get a grill.  Growing up in Japan, I didn’t quite understand why Americans love grilling out so much.  Yes, it tastes good, but "putting food on the hot grill is not cooking!", I thought.  I told him that he needs to be in charge of the grill because I’d be in charge of the kitchen.  Well, I was very wrong.

I quickly found one can use a grill for Japanese food too!  Especially since we don’t have an exhaust fan in our kitchen, nor one of the tiny enclosed grills that Japanese use for most grilling, I found it actually quite convenient. (By the way, the Japanese barely do cookout, especially in their own yard — maybe because in the major cosmopolitan areas people do not have ANY outdoor space.)  And even though our grill is gas (faster than charcoal), our beloved Weber grill always give me great results, and fewer dishes to wash.  Love it!

So out of many possibilities, I’d like to share three very different and easy grilled dishes (plus Yaki-nasu, which we shared in the past. Click here for recipe).  Since they are cookout food, I didn’t specify the amounts or portions of ingredients.  Just figure out how many people you are grilling it for (and how many leftovers you want), and multiply the amount stated in the recipe.

Sake-Kama (Grilled salmon collar) 鮭かま

This is a really great dish which many Japanese restaurants serve for nearly $15, but if you grill it at home, it’ll be probably a few dollars at the most.  It’s really easy, flavorful, and highly recommended.  You can try this with Hamachi (yellowtail) collar too.  Call your fishmonger in advance, and ask them to save the collar for you.

Ingredients:

  • Salmon (or hamachi) collar
  • Sea salt
  • Optional: Daikon radish, shredded ao-shiso leaves, and/or ponzu if preferred

Directions:

  1. Salt the salmon collar lightly.
  2. Grill at 400F (about 200C) for about 10 min or until cooked through, flipping after 5 minutes.
  3. Eat as is, or if you want, garnish with grated daikon radish (squeeze out the liquid lightly) and shredded ao-shiso leaves.  It’s also good with ponzu.  (There’s meat on both front and back sides, so make sure to flip it and nibble the tasty bits on the back as well.)
  • How to make ponzu

Mix 3 tbs soy sauce, 2 tbs rice vinegar, 1 tbs citrus juice (orange, Meyer lemon etc.) and 1/2 tbs sesame oil.  It’s a very versatile sauce and Japanese people love it. If you frequent Japanese restaurants, you know how often they use this.  You can use on your regular salad, wakame seaweed salad and with cucumbers, chicken, etc.  So make extra, and keep in the fridge.  Use up in about 2 weeks.

The next post is on everyone’s favorite, Yaki-onigiri!   Be sure to subscribe to Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard from any of the 3 options on top right (email, RSS, NetworkedBlogs Application through Facebook), so that you won’t miss it!

Batch & Fridge: Thai/Vietnamese Dipping Sauce: Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai)

Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad
Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad

As promised on the last post, here’s my other favorite Laab Gai, Spicy Thai Chicken Salad.  This is also easy to make, especially if you already have the same sauce from the eggplant dish on hand, and/or toasted rice powder in a small jar.  I recommend just toast about 1/2 C of rice, so that it will last for a few times. I can guarantee this will become another of your favorite, you won’t regret it.

The first time I had it was over 15 years ago in New York at this Thai restaurant where we used to host a new graduate welcome lunch for our graduate school Thunderbird.  We didn’t order it, but the friendly owner wanted us to try it.  We all loved it.  Every time I have this dish, I think of these friends and good old days (and some other crazy stuff from the life in New York.)

The problem was,  because we didn’t order it, I didn’t know how it was actually called. I’m sure I asked the owner how its called (so that I can order again), but a Japanese girl trying to decipher Thai dish name is not the easiest.  After I moved from New York to California, I was looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found.  This is a Northeastern Thailand specialty, so if the owner or chef is not from that area, they normally don’t put it on the menu.

As for any other my food quest, I finally found it! at a Thai restaurant on someone’s table. I asked the name, and the rest is the history.  I even got the recipe, so I can easily cook it at home.

This is traditionally made with chicken, but you can also make it with other meat or seafood.

This recipe is adopted from the recipe I cut out from San Francisco Chronicle years ago.  My version will allow you to use the sauce made in advance.

Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai)

Ingredients – serves 3 – 4:

  • Ground chicken 1/2 lbs or chicken pulsed in food processor until coarsely chopped
  • White rice 2 TBS
  • Garlic  1 ts, grated (optional)
  • Red onion or shallots  1/4 C, thinly sliced
  • Lemon grass 1 TBS, minced
  • Lime zest, grated (optional)
  • Onion, thinly sliced, 1/2 C
  • Green or red chili  1-2, seed removed, and thinly sliced, or red pepper flakes
  • Sugar 1 -2 ts
  • Fish Sauce 1 1/2 TBS
  • Lime juice 2 TBS
  • Water or lime juice 1 TBS
  • Cabbage (white, red or napa) julienned
  • Cilantro 2-3 TBS chopped
  • Mint leaves

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice.  Taste and if you like it a little milder, add water. if you like it more sour, add lime juice.
  2. Toast rice in a small skillet until golden. Make sure to shake it consistently for even toasting. Grind it in spice mill until coarsely grinded. (I make extra and save in a small jar for the next time)
  3. Heat 1TBS vegetable oil in skillet on medium heat. Cook chili until fragrant for a few seconds. Add chicken and a little fish sauce and cook, while breaking up the chicken lumps.
  4. Turn heat off, mix in onion, lime zest, lemon grass, 1 and 2, and herbs.  Let it sit for about 15-20 min to allow flavor to blend. Serve on the bed of julienned cabbage.

Just like the Thai eggplant salad, I LOVE the flavor fireworks in my mouth — balance of sweet, sour and spicy.

As in my past post (click here if you missed it), fish sauce adds depth and flavor to many dishes, both Asian and non-Asian.  Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post for San Francisco Chronicle article how celebrity chefs are using fish sauce to add umami to their dishes, and recipes. So, if you don’t have one, get a bottle, and use it often as your favorite flavor booster.  They are available at Asian market (best selection and price) or large supermarket’s international section.

Easy, Exciting (Grilled) Eggplant Extravaganza 4: Thai Eggplant Salad (Yaam Makhuea Yow)

Thai eggplant salad

Thai eggplant salad

The last of the Easy Exciting Grilled Eggplant Extravaganza series is Thai dish.  I can go on and on with this, to share the versatility of grilled eggplants, yet just like me in Turkey (if you missed my Turkey eggplant story last week, click here), some of you may be wondering “would Mari turn this into an ‘eggplant blog’?”

No… As I said many times, I thrive on VARIETY. Even for writing.  Don’t forget, I cook things I write about and EAT them for dinner.  I’ll save other eggplants recipes for later (nice fall/winter dishes….).

In Thai restaurants, this dish is often made with dried shrimp.  But that’s not the easiest to come by for most of us, or even if you find it, could take years to finish unless you cook South-East Asian dishes all the time.  Therefore, my version is simplified with something you can use more often, and every grocery store should have, and some people like me always keep some in the freezer…  regular shrimp.

What’s exciting about this is that you can double the amount of the sauce and onions, to make Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai) as well.  It’s a bit like that Indian spread, you can have two Thai salads really quickly. (or one today, another next day.) Or make a large batch, keep a jar in the fridge, and use them for other Thai as well as Vietnamese dishes such as fresh spring rolls and Bun, cold Vietnamese vermicelli noodles salad.

I’ll share the Laab recipe on my next post.  Again, make sure to subscribe from the top right, so that you won’t miss it.  You have 3 options: email, RSS or Networkedblogs Facebook application.

Thai Eggplant Salad (Yaam Makhuea Yow)

Ingredients – serves 2-3:

  • Eggplants (Japanese, Chinese or Italian)  4 small to medium, grilled, and cut in bite size pieces (click here for how to make grilled eggplants)
  • Cooked shrimp  2 large (cut in 1/2” pieces) or 3-5 medium (if frozen, thawed)
  • Red onion  1/2 C, thinly sliced
  • Green or red chili  1-2, seed removed, and thinly sliced, or red pepper flakes
  • Sugar 1 -2 ts
  • Fish Sauce 1 1/2 TBS
  • Lime juice 2 TBS
  • Water or lime juice 1 TBS
  • Mint leaves or julienned ao-shiso as garnish

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice.  Taste and if you like it a little milder, add water. if you like it more sour, add lime juice.
  2. Mix shrimp, eggplant, onion and the sauce.  Let it sit for about 15-20 min to allow flavor to blend. Garnish with mint leaves (or my favorite, julienned ao-shiso leaves).

Note: You can also omit shrimp and serve with hard-boiled egg wedges. Or to make it more substantial, cook 1/4 lbs ground meat (chicken, turkey or pork works best) in oil, and proceed to 2.

If you are vegetarian or vegan and cannot use fish sauce, here’s the resource for the alternative. http://www.thaigrocer.com/VegAdapt.html

I LOVE the balance of sweet, sour and spicy burst in my mouth, along with cold slippery texture of eggplants and shrimp in summer. (It’s great in any season.) As you can see, you can make this with everything you have at home (or easily accessible.)

As in my past post (click here if you missed it), fish sauce adds depth and flavor to many dishes, both Asian and non-Asian.  Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post for San Francisco Chronicle article how celebrity chefs are using fish sauce to add umami to their dishes, and recipes. So, if you don’t have one, get a bottle, and use it often as your favorite flavor booster.  They are available at Asian market (best selection and price) or large supermarket’s international section.

Sneak Preview of the next post…  mmm….

Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad

Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad

Easy, Exciting (Grilled) Eggplant Extravaganza 3: Turkish Eggplant Salad (Patlican Salatasi)

eggplant dip and pita

Eggplant is THE national vegetable of Turkey, and they are everywhere.  Appetizers, salads, casseroles, fried, stuffed and pickled, even pureed eggplant, served with a nice lamb stew with a strange name…

When we  traveled around Turkey, I was fascinated with this fact, and wanted to try all possible preparations of eggplant.  Even though I start getting bored of it toward the end (remember? I love VARIETY, so too much of the same thing, even if it’s wonderful AND prepared differently it’s bad news for me), I faithfully ate all the eggplant that showed up in front of me, and some extra on my husband’s plate.

As you can imagine, when we came back, I had to go cold turkey with eggplant. I even avoided the eggplant section at Berkeley Bowl, my favorite gourmet grocery store in our neighborhood, especially because they have 10 different kinds of eggplant (and 20 differnt kind of radishes) and I did not see any.  At all!

But my effort was in vein.  It didn’t last that long.

It was such a great trip, my husband and I shared the stories and photos with many friends as well as among ourselves.  And you know what happens.  Maybe it’s only me, but the conversation always end up “Oh, and such and such at this place was so delicious!” and many of them were eggplant dishes.

So quite a few eggplant dishes started to end up on our dinner table, (almost) night after night.  We even visited our local Turkish restaurant with our friends within a month of our return (they didn’t know it wasn’t our first time to have Turkish dishes after we left). Finally my husband had to force me to stop the eggplant experimentation. Crazy me!

One of the dishes I make often since that trip is Patlican Salatasi, pureed eggplant salad, actually more like dip.

It’s super easy and refreshing, and in my humble opinion, better than bababanouj, because you don’t need any “exotic” ingredients like tahini (sesame paste).

The good news is there are two versions.  One is with yogurt, and another without.  The Kitchen Wizard kind of split recipe indeed. So either split the recipe in half and try both at the same time, or enjoy the no-yogurt version first, then add yogurt later.

If you are splitting the recipe, start with less lemon juice, since the one with yogurt will get more tang from whey in yogurt.

Serve them with toasted pita chips, crusty bread or crackers.

Turkish Eggplant Salad

Ingredients:

  • Grilled eggplant (about 1 cup)
  • 2 or more cloves, garlic, minced
  • 2 TBS or more Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • lemon juice to taste
  • lemon zest to taste
  • salt

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients and puree in food processor or with a stick blender.
  2. Adjust the seasoning (garlic, EVOO, lemon juice, salt) to taste.

Turkish Eggplant Salad with Yogurt

  • Add 1/2 C yogurt to above recipe. Mix well.
  • Optional: Top with chopped tomatoes and dill as garnish.

They are easy and the crowd pleaser.  My 2 year old nephew Hugo loves it too. He ate it with the dip all over his face! (I forgot to take a photo, so this is actually the ice cream photo just like the last one, but you get the idea.)

So make them for your next party or potluck, and remember to leave me a comment on how you liked it!

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Hugo eats everything with 100% commitment.