Project Leftovers: Marzano’s Meatball & Swiss Chard – Part 3

Roasted Peppers (especially red, orange and yellow ones) are something I love to keep on hand. You can just throw them on the grill or in the oven (in my case, often in the toaster oven) when you are using it for something else, and roast until charred. Put them in a bag, or container and close or cover the top to keep the steam in. Leave until cool enough to handle, remove the skin (the steam treatment will help you a lot in this department) and seeds.

I like to keep them as it is in the container, so that they are versatile for many different things later.  If you are an Antipasto fan, they are delicious marinated with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt and a lot of minced garlic, and you can still use it for many dishes including the soups below. Actually the dip has EVOO, garlic, lemon juice, S&P and pureed.

If you add some roasted eggplants, you can make a Serbian/Croatian/Turkish spread called Ajvar. Or my favorite way to make it is to make roasted red pepper puree like this, also roasted eggplant dip (basically the same except using eggplants). Enjoy them separately, or mix them to make Ajvar. Now I have 3 dishes with an effort to make just one. Once you start using them for soups and pasta and whole kitchen sink, these three dips will turn into many more dishes. It’s super easy and anyone can do it. Just a little different way of cooking, but the same thing.  The benefits are not just the variety, but huge time-saving as well.

Obviously I took out all meatball first.  (My hubby doesn’t mind his food touching red meat, as long as he doesn’t have to eat it.)  Then in goes water and red pepper puree. I even added the crust of pizza, just to experiment, since I don’t eat the crust anyway.

Even for those of you who are vegetarian or vegan, or those of you with dietary restrictions, the concept is the same. Just change the ingredients to fit your needs and what you have on hand. If you are gluten intolerant, you can use rice or polenta instead of bread. (Actually if you are, you probably won’t have pizza and bread leftovers!) Cook until heated. Adjust seasoning.

And now it’s a Roasted Red Pepper Bread Soup.  It was very good with smokey flavor of roasted red peppers.

Then I got carried away. (Surprise!)

There were some leftover (yes, to me, it’s worth the weight of gold, remember?) of this soup, so I pureed it with a stick blender. My secret trick to create another dish in no time.  And there you have it. Now it’s Pureed Roasted Pepper Soup. Because of the difference in texture, the last two actually taste quite different. I won’t recommend eating them back to back like I did (hey, I was testing for you guys!), but seriously, if you didn’t tell anyone, no one’s to know.

Yes it is cheating. but I really love being able to make 3 delicious soups from the leftover someone would throw away. In practically no time.

Once you try it, you may get hooked, like I did.

As a matter of fact, the little voice inside of me (with my mother’s voice) always criticize me that this is so lazy and crazy. But I strongly believe many dishes, especially humble yet hearty food like bread soups’ origin were in the leftover. So are lasagna, and pizza toppings.

So what do you think?

Do you re-purpose your leftovers?
Do you think it’s a good idea?  Or bad?  And why do you feel that way?

Share your thoughts about this topic.

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(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!

And Finally… Doria Proper Way… (In Case I haven’t Convinced You…)

"It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder! It's Seafood Doria Now!"

"It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder! It's Seafood Doria Now!"

To show you that you can make some doria with white sauce leftover (or from scratch), here’s the recipe to make some doria proper way.  Of course, you can make this into a vegetarian version by using things like spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, etc.

Do this when you have time though… It takes a while…

Doria Proper Way…

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

  • Cooked rice: 2 cups
  • Butter: 1 TBS
  • Onion, chopped: 1/2 cup
  • Chicken or shrimp, bite size: 1/2 lbs (200 – 250g)
  • Mushrooms, sliced: 5-6 (Optional)
  • White Sauce:
    • Butter: 3 TBS
    • Flour: 3 TBS
    • Milk: 3 C
  • Grated Cheese, gruyere, cheddar, etc: 2 oz (50g). If using Parmeggiano Reggiano, grate with Microplane, you’d only need about 1 oz or less.
  • Panko (optional), 1 TBS
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Make buttered rice. Melt butter in a skillet, sauté day old or thawed rice, season well. Many dorias in Japan has ketchup mixed in.
  2. Sautee chopped onion or leek until soft. Add seafood (shrimp is most popular) or bite-size chicken & sliced mushrooms. Season with Salt and Pepper.
  3. Make white sauce: Heat butter in a skillet, add flour and stir well until it’s cooked. Add heated milk, whisk consistently, and cook until thickened, and there’s no lumps nor floury taste. Season with salt and pepper. Add the seafood/chicken mixture.
  4. In shallow oven proof dishes, layer buttered rice thinly & lightly (2/3 – 1″), and pour over the white sauce. Top with grated cheese (and panko if you like), and bake until golden brown.

Kitchen Wizard Tips:

  • Grate extra cheese, and save it in a sealed container.  Use it when you make pasta, soup, salad, toast, etc.
  • Make extra white sauce, cover it with plastic wrap on top, squeeze the air out completely to prevent thick skin from forming.  Use it for something else later. Huge time saver!

As you can imagine, you could make this with short pasta instead of rice. Then it’s simply called “gratin” in Japan as well. In this case, you should mix the cooked pasta with heated sauce (or chowder) first, and top it with more sauce, before adding cheese.  It tastes better that way, than biting into bland pasta.

Now I figured out a quick way to make a decent doria, I can guarantee we’ll see them on our table more often.  I may even serve it to our guests and see if they can figure out how I made it.  : )

Try both, and please post which one you liked it.

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 3: “It’s Not Only For Chowder! It’s For Seafood Doria Too!”

"It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!  It's Seafood Doria Now!"

"It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder! It's Seafood Doria Now!"

As I mentioned on Monday, as I was enjoying this creamy yumminess of “Not Bleeding Chowder!” inspired seafood chowder, I realized this smoked-fish-less version would be also good to be turned into a doria, a quintessential Japanized yoshoku (western food).

It’s basically some buttered rice in a heatproof dish with white sauce with some kind of sautéed meat or seafood with onion (chicken and shrimp are popular) and baked with lots of cheese on top.  Something I loved as a child when I was growing up in Tokyo, along with the macaroni version which we simply called them “gratin”.

Since my mom never wanted make something complicated, nor white sauce, for me they were something I’d order when we go out to eat.  To give her some slack, to make doria from scratch, it takes more than 1 hour, and you have to deal with making white sauce.  And the challenge is, there are no dorias in the restaurants in the US!

Because of that, I, too probably made it only a few times in last 20 years, which equals the number of times I ate doria, because they are nowhere to be found in the US (except for, of course, these Japanese Yoshoku restaurants in Los Angeles.  A bit too far!)

Now with my “It’s Not Only For Bleeding Chowder!”, it can be for doria too.  Very easily.  Especially if you have some of these rice balls in the freezer.  If you do, microwave it first so that butter will melt.  As I confessed in my last post, this is a super-short cut version.  I will post the proper way to make a doria on my next post.

Seafood Doria

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

Directions:

  1. Mix butter into hot rice and season well.
  2. Pour seafood chowder on top of buttered rice.  Then top with grated cheese.  Optionally, sprinkle with some panko.
  3. Bake in 400F oven until bubbly and golden brown. (If both the rice and sauce are hot, you can broil it in the oven or “Toast” setting on toaster oven until golden brown, about 7-8 min.)

Yummy doria in 1/3 of the effort and time! I love it!

The next post…  Another way to make doria, another useful trick when you already have sautéed chicken or shrimp, or white sauce. Or if you are in a mood to make this from scratch.  Also few key time-saving tips, so that even if you make this from scratch, you can still optimize and save time and effort later.

Yes… Kitchen Wizarding is all about optimizing your resources (time, money, ingredients, etc…) in the kitchen.  Maximized food with minimized effort.

So stay tuned.  You can subscribe to Secrets of Kitchen Wizard via email (best in my opinion), RSS or Facebook Networked Blogs application.  Click the link from the top right of the page, right below the red pots on the header photo.

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 2: My version of “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder” Seafood Chowder

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Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant Inspired "It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!"

So here’s the recipe for my “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!”, inspired by the Best Irish Chef 2009 Kevin Dundon’s “It’s Not a Bleeding Chowder”. (Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL)

Ingredients (4-6 servings – Reserve half for the doria)

  • Cleaned and chopped leeks: about 1 large. Dark green part removed.
    • How to clean leeks:  Split the leek from the center lengthwise, bottom part attached, and wash off sand/dirt well with running water.
    • Save the tops for making chicken/fish/vegetable stock.
  • Diced boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Gold): 2 medium
  • Seafood (scallops & shrimps) chop them if they are large: 2/3 lbs (300g)
  • Bay leaf: 1
  • White Wine: 1/4-1/3 cup
  • Fish stock or Milk and fish bouillon (or chicken stock/bouillon): 2 1/2 cup
  • Corn:  1/2 – 2/3 cup
  • Cream: 1 1/2 cup

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle salt, pepper and white wine lightly on seafood.
  2. Clean leeks well and chop them.  Sautee in extra virgin olive oil, and light amount of salt.
  3. Add diced potatoes and sauté for a while, add seafood and white wine.
  4. Add fish stock or milk and crumbled fish bouillon and cook until hot, and seafood is heated through.  Make sure to not to boil it.
  5. Add cream and corn, and adjust the seasoning.  Serve hot.

Kitchen Wizard Tip: I highly recommend you clean and saute the entire bunch of leeks, and save the rest in a zip-loc bag for later use, either in the fridge or freezer (keep it thin, less than 1/3 inches so that you can break only the amount you need).  It’ll be very handy.  I promise!

The original version from Raglan Road has a lot more seafood, such as smoked fish, mussels, fancy prawns etc… It might have even had some shredded cabbage in it…  They had a Colcannon soup called Colpucchino that had cabbage in it… Mine is easier weeknight version.  You can also use other mild seafood on hand.  If you are planning to make doria later in the week, it’d be better not to use smoked fish.

Tomorrow on Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard…

Drum roll please… (Some people have been waiting for this post for a while!)

Leftover Make-over of this…  “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!  It’s Now Seafood Doria!”  Don’t miss it!

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 1: Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!

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Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant Inspired "It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!"

One of my passions is Irish things.  Some of you may have seen my Facebook post about U2. Yes, I love them since the Edge had a mop of hair, and Bono and Larry looked like 10 years old. I also love pretty much all other kind of Irish music too, even the kind used for traditional dancing which some people find to be repetitive.  Irish music makes me feel happy and calm.  When I visited Ireland, I felt I came back home – even more than when I go back to Japan.  Probably too much baggage associated with Tokyo! I think I was Irish in my previous life.

My love of Irish things even took me to a couple of months of Irish dancing lessons. It doesn’t look like much of a work out because the only things that are moving are the dancers’ legs, but Boy, it’s a major work out!  After one jig or reel, I was huffing and puffing!  After I learned a few different pieces, my teacher decided to move the location from Ft. Mason, walking distance from our home, and in the same building as our print-making class I was taking back to back, to more of an Irish American neighborhood.  Her marketing decision resulted in the loss of one student (me) and probably a gain of many students that fit much closer to her ideal target market profile.  So our (me and my teacher’s) dream of me dancing with these curly blond wigs and these elaborate stitched outfits never came true.  Maybe it’s a good thing. Or maybe I should make my silly dream come true on one of these Halloweens.

Anyway, when we had a chance to go to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, I insisted to my husband that we HAVE TO go to Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Downtown Disney. They have an Irish band and dancing every night! My inner Irish wanted to have some comforting Irish food and most of all, Irish music. The chef cooked for U2 and Queen (not Freddie Mercury, but Elizabeth II.)  That was good enough of a validation for me.

I was in heaven there, because not only the band excellent, they played for hours, just like in Ireland. (My husband had to drag me out because we had a very early morning flight.)  Many photos of my favorite Irish (and non-Irish) celebrities like U2, Pierce Brosnan, Thin-Lizzy, Sting, etc. adorned their walls leading to the bathroom.  Love this sense of humor! Perfect thing to look at when you are waiting for your turn to pee after many pints of Guiness!  No worries, their bath room accommodates many people, and you can even continue to listen to the fine music!!

OK. Food.  Irish food is not known as the best food in the world.  Maybe the reputation is getting better now, compared with when I was there in 95. Yet, maybe because  I’m Irish in my previous life(?), I thought most of the food was very good and satisfying, even though not fancy.

One of the dishes we chose  at the restaurant was called “It’s not the bleeding chowder!” and it was really delicious!  The inside was super dark, so I couldn’t see what was in it.  Along with the loads of seafood on top, I identified something green most likely leeks, yet since it’s an Irish restaurant, there may have been cabbage, especially since they DO have frothy colcannon (potato & cabbage) soup called Colpucchino.    They use smoked fish as a base, and bit of bacon (I think), and that gave the chowder (or “not the chowder”) an interesting twist.

It was good enough to inspire me to make similar chowder at home using smoked trout I can get from Costco.

So when I found a pack of heavy cream that was near the expiration date one rainy evening, I realized that we haven’t had the “not the Chowder” thing for a long time.  I also had some sauteed leek.  Yes, the green things I identified in the chowder.  That’d save quite a bit of time and headache.  I didn’t have all the fresh seafood, but I always have some shrimp and scallops in the freezer!  That should work!

What I didn’t realize until I tasted it was that I forgot the smoked fish.

None the less it was very tasty.

As I ate it, and tasted the difference between the usual version with smoked fish and the one without, I realized that this would be perfect to make seafood doria!

That’s right! It’s not named “It’s not bleeding chowder!” for no reason. It’ll be DORIA tomorrow!

Doria is something we Japanese love.  It’s basically buttered rice in oval baking dish, covered with white sauce with either chicken or seafood in it, and baked with cheeses on top.  It’s a perfect fall to winter dish.  It’s quintessential Japanese Yoshoku (Western Food), Japanized French/Italian influenced food.

So two days later (I prefer not to eat leftovers and their spin-offs back to back for nutritional reasons), I decided to do something unthinkable for those with conventional minds.  I wanted to experiment what I would end up with a minimum effort.  So rather than making buttered rice in a skillet, I made buttered rice by just mixing butter, salt and generous amount pepper into some microwaved hot rice from the freezer. And I poured a generous amount of chowder, topped it with grated cheese and baked it in the toaster oven until it was golden brown.

To compare, I made one with cold chowder on hot rice, another with heated chowder on hot rice.  The result?  Taste-wise, negligible.  However, if you heat the chowder first, the dish will be hot and bubbly faster. But you need to add the time to heat it first, so both end up taking about the same…

Of course, if I made a proper doria with real buttered rice, sauteed aromatics and seafood, and white sauce, bake it with cheese, and compare it with the short cut version side by side, I might have been able to tell the difference. But I was so smart! I didn’t!  So I was able to taste the quick version as it is, without anything to affect my judgment.

At the beginning, my husband couldn’t even tell how I made it. (that’s always a good thing.  You want your family to think you made it from scratch, you are just a wizard in the kitchen whipping up tasty meals like this in no time!)

And the verdict was a solid A, and I was stoked to find out that I can make doria without making white sauce.

Of course, if you have some sauteed shrimp, bite size chicken etc, you can use that leftover, make a quick white sauce and do a proper version of doria too.

Either way, something that used to take close to 1 hour and a lot of work, is now done in pretty much in no time.  Your child can even make it…

Tomorrow, I’ll post my version of “It’s not the bleeding chowder!”, followed by How to make doria from chowder, then how to make doria from sauteed leftovers.

So stay tuned…

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!

Must Have for Colder Months! Batch and Fridge – Sautéed Mirepoix Meat and Tomato Mixture

The Meat Sauce Made with Sauteed Mirepoix Meat & Tomato Mixture and Gnocchi

The Meat Sauce Made with Sauteed Mirepoix Meat & Tomato Mixture and Gnocchi

Some of you, my early readers may remember that I posted an article about Sautéed Mirepoix and Meat Mixture back in April 09.  This is my workhorse during colder months.

As I get better, and get my appetite and cooking bug back, the first thing I thought was that “I need to start making some sautéed mirepoix and meat mixture”, because it allow me to create so many variety of dishes in a snap!  I knew that I had a busy week ahead, this was my No. 1 priority.

Since the celery I had was limited (1/2 of a heart), I decided to make only sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato version.  This for me is the most versatile, and those dishes I had a cravings for all had tomatoes in it, I knew what I needed to do.

Had I had more celery, I would have made double or more batches, and kept about 1/4 as sautéed mirepoix, 1/4 as sautéed mirepoix meat mixture, and 1/2 as sautéed mirepoix meat tomato mixture.  Well, next time.

Anyway, after I made the mixture all I had to do was boil some gnocchi we had, and some nice salad, and voila, we have dinner!  And tomorrow we’d have stuffed cabbage, and then later in the week lasagna, then aushak, my favorite Afghan ravioli thing…  (OK, my version of aushak may be a bit different from authentic version, especially because my husband doesn’t eat red meat, and it’s a short-cut version.  None the less, it’s tasty, healthy and people love it!) Oh, maybe I’ll do shepherds pie…  I haven’t had one for a while…  All with virtually no effort nor time…

Ah, life is good when you cook Kitchen Wizard style…  It’s so easy and fast to create many varieties and so much fun! No wonder my husband had so much fun while I was sick.

And best of all, having a good appetite back is a godsend ! (Next to getting my health back!)

Sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato Mixture

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Onion, chopped small: 2 large
  • Carrots, chopped small: about half to equal amount of onion
  • Celery, chopped small – about half to equal amount of onion (about the same with carrots)
  • Uncooked Sausage: 1 – 1 1/4 lbs
  • Can of tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Make sautéed mirepoix by sautéing 2:1:1 ratio of chopped onions, carrots, celery in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  2. Add uncooked sausage and brown.
  3. Add a can of tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Optional: Add tomato paste and anchovy paste (Additional flavor enhancers.)
  4. If this will mainly become Italian dishes, add Italian spices (basil, oregano, etc. fresh preferred), chili peppers, red wine, milk/cream or broth.

Note: If you want to make a large batch of this, and use half for Italian dishes (lasagna, Bolognese, etc.) and half for chili, after adding tomatoes, cook for a while, then split and save in the fridge. Then the one for Italian dishes add Italian spices, red wine and cream/milk.  I personally use this version for other dishes like shepherds pie and the sauce for aushak, the Afghan ravioli. Add Mexican spices and beans into the one saved for chili.

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.

Easy, Exciting (Grilled) Eggplant Extravaganza 2: Chinese Eggplant Salad with Chicken and Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Chinese Noodle Salad)

Chinese chicken cukie and eggplant salad

There are so many dishes you can make with grilled eggplant.

Today’s recipe is Chinese Eggplant Salad with Chicken.

This is really easy to do especially when you have shredded chicken (click here for how to make it) on hand, and perfect for summer.

Chinese Eggplant Salad with Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Cooked, shredded chicken – 1 c
  • Grilled eggplant, cut in about 2” –1 c
  • Cucumber – 1 small cucumber or about 2” English cucumber
  • Napa cabbage or romaine lettuce – 2-3 c (preferably center part and/or top 1/3 of the bulb)
  • Sliced tomatoes (Optional) – 1 or 2
  • Chinese dressing (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Roll up the napa cabbage leaves and slice thin. If using romaine lettuce, you can just chop them into bite size pieces. Cut cucumbers into thin sticks. (If using regular cucumbers, peel the skin, cut in half, remove seeds first.)
  2. In a salad bowl, pile up napa cabbage/romaine lettuce at the bottom, and arrange shredded chicken, eggplant and cucumber (and tomato if using).
  3. Serve with Chinese dressing. Optionally, top with cilantro, fried wonton skins etc.

Note: If you don’t have chicken, you can substitute with a can of tuna (in Olive Oil preferred.)

Chinese dressing:

  • Mix equal parts sesame (or vegetable) oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and some sugar (adjust the amount based on your taste). Add either grated ginger, chopped green onion and/or ground sesame seeds. Add chili oil if you have any.
  • You can use this dressing for Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Chinese Noodle Salad), or on any other salad, as well as dipping sauce for gyoza and marinade.  Especially tasty with vegetables with high water content, such as grilled eggplant, cucumber, tomatoes as well as wakame seaweed.

Since summer is almost over, here’s the bonus recipe of Hiyashi Chuka.

hiyashi chuka w sesame sauce

Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Chinese Noodle Salad)

It’s pretty much the same with the Chinese eggplant salad above, except, you’d want to use boiled and chilled fresh Chinese noodles instead of napa cabbage.

When it gets really hot, I lose my appetite (many of you who know me personally probably do not believe that’s possible).  I survived the muggy summer in Tokyo with this dish, and still make it when it’s hot in the Bay Area (even though the the humidity is a lot lower, we don’t have an air-conditioner, so all I want to eat is something cold when it gets beyond 85F!)

Traditionally we use shredded toppings of various colors and nutritional values – protein from egg and ham or chicken, and vitamins from vegetables. The most typical veggies we use for this dish are tomatoes and cucumbers. Yet you can use bean sprouts, boiled and julienned asparagus or green beans, as well as corn (my favorite!) or wakame seaweed.

Directions:

  1. Boil fresh Chinese noodles (thin egg noodle or spinach noodle – I use 3 oz per person,  6 serving to one pound of noodles).  Should be done in 2-3 min. Drain and wash with cold water until noodle is cold.
  2. If using egg (about 1/2 per serving), either boil eggs cut into thin wedges, or beat egg with a little bit of salt and sugar, make a very thin omelet (just like you would make a crepe). When the egg is set, let it cool, and julienne.
  3. In a salad bowl, pile up cold noodles in the center, and arrange shredded chicken/ham, and julienned vegetables and egg attractively.
  4. Pour generous amount of Chinese dressing. (Note: You’ll need enough amount of dressing to coat all the noodles, make a large batch and dilute the dressing with water or dashi broth a bit.)

Our 26 month old nephew Hugo loves Hiyashi Chuka (he’s 100% American, no Asian blood at all as you can tell from his size), and so are many of our friends and their kids.  (Sorry I forgot to take photo of him when he was eating it…  So instead, here’s the photo of him adult-size coffee ice cream – all by himself.  I’m so proud of him!)

Try it before the summer is over and please leave us a comment on how you liked it.

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