Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Chopped Asian-style Salad

Restaurant menus are a constant source of inspiration for my home cooking. This recipe was inspired by a recent lunch at a local gastropub. I ordered a hearty ramen noodle salad with tofu, and even as I took the first couple of bites, I knew I had to recreate it- which would be easy enough. The salad had mixed greens and shredded carrot, a soy-sesame vinaigrette, and lots of tasty toppings- pickled onions and jalapeños, green onions, fried wonton strips, crushed raw ramen noodles, and some grilled tofu.

Ramen salad with tofu

Veggie Reuben sandwich with fries

There was another reason to try making this chopped Asian-style salad: I had the perfect dressing for it waiting in my pantry. A few months ago, V got us a really fun holiday gift- the "By Jing" box of Sichuan flavor essentials from the gourmet Sichuan spice company, Fly by Jing

V is a huge fan of spicy chili crisp- an absolute essential in our pantry- and I think he came across this fancy set and thought it would be fun to try. It came with a bunch of chili oils, chili crisps, a spice powder, and a chili crisp vinaigrette that I had been waiting to use. 

I started by making a batch of this beautiful, colorful salad mix
  • Romaine lettuce, shredded
  • Red cabbage, shredded finely on a mandoline slicer
  • Carrots, shredded
  • Cucumber, cut in medium dice
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions
Meanwhile, I made some quick pickled onions: Slice onions thinly and place in a mason jar. Boil water, vinegar (white+ apple cider vin), salt and sugar, pour into the mason jar, and refrigerate. 

When we were ready to eat, I cooked a few vegetable potsticker dumplings, from Trader Joe's and pan-fried a block of tofu

To serve: Place salad mix in a bowl, top with tofu and dumplings, and crunchy chow mein noodles (optional; sold in the Asian section of supermarkets), and drizzle with the chili crisp vin. A fantastic dinner! 

Days later, I got a chance to make this salad again, when the middle school parents were asked to bring in salads for a teacher appreciation potluck dinner. This time, I made the same salad mix, skipped the tofu and dumplings, and made my own version of the vinaigrette with chili crisp, soy sauce, maple syrup, canola oil, and sesame oil. I sent the salad mix in a box, and sent the vinaigrette "on the side", in a squeeze bottle. 

Using red cabbage and shredding it finely on a mandoline makes all the difference here, in my opinion. It tastes and looks just beautiful. The mandoline I own is a very basic one, purchased from an Indian cookware store decades ago. I should really use it more than I do! 

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The second dish I took to the teacher dinner was a potato salad. Instead of the usual American-style mayo-based potato salad (which I also love), I tried a long-pinned recipe, Vaishali's potato and peas salad in a turmeric coconut dressing. I followed the recipe quite closely, adding a few chopped fresh curry leaves to the tempering. The salad was terrific and I will definitely make it again in the coming warmer months. 

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I am on a neighborhood email list of a thousand or so people. Among the workaday emails flying back and forth all day- strollers for sale, recommendations for plumbers, lost cats, cranky complaints about traffic- there is one neighbor who sends along poems once a week or so. Every so often, one of the poems strikes a chord with me. 

This is a recent such poem if you would like to read it- For everyone who tried on the slipper before Cinderella by Ariana Brown. 

Happy Spring Equinox 2024. Coming up in the next post: a classic Spring pasta recipe. Can you guess what it is? 

Sunday, March 03, 2024

A Sunday Afternoon Cooking Spree

For most of my cooking life, I've not really been one to meal prep, preferring to cook a meal most evenings. Lately, though, evening activities and scheduling have made it so that it is nice to have pre-made food on hand, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays. When I get around to making 3-4 dishes on Sunday afternoon, the week gets off to a more peaceful start. 

Today, I managed to do that with these 4 dishes. Without planning it that way, it ended up being a variety of proteins (eggs, paneer, tofu, beans) and a variety of veg in each, and a diversity of cuisines and cooking styles- curry, stir-fry, salad, casserole. 

First up, hash brown casserole, made with pesto this time. My kids love this for breakfast, dinner, snack.

The second dish was a tandoori paneer and mushroom kati roll filling. We eat paneer rarely but I had this block left over from the cooking class. I marinated paneer, mushroom, red peppers and onions for 20 minutes or so in a tandoori marinade (yogurt, besan, kasuri methi, tandoori masala, salt, red chili powder, cumin coriander powder, turmeric) and then sauteed it in a pan.

Third, a bean salad. I soaked and cooked black eyed peas (not pressure cooked- they would turn to mush. Black eyed peas cook quickly on the stove top) and then tossed them with fresh tomato and cucumber, a little onion and cilantro, salt and pickled jalapenos. 

Finally, there was some Thai red curry paste in the fridge, and I used that along with half a can of coconut milk, some cabbage and carrot and extra-firm tofu to make a quick curry in the instant pot. 

All of this, along with clean-up and a side mission- pantry tidy-up- all took me more or less 2 hours. 

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Some random photos from the last couple of weeks:

My spouse went to Australia for 8 days for a work trip and sent me this pic of a koala perched in a tree, somehow looking more like a stuffed animal than most stuffed animals.

Koala near Melbourne

While their dad was away, I promised the kids I would take them out to dinner anywhere they liked, and my son inexplicably chose a pretty fancy Italian bistro- not what you would call a kid-friendly place. I honored my agreement after many reminders that he would have to use his nice manners and inside voice. We went and were sat in the loveliest booth in our regular school and work clothes, amid nicely dressed couples on dates and groups enjoying celebratory dinners. The meal was quite a success but the 7 yr old discovered that he does not like fancy pizza (a Margherita with buffalo mozzarella) and fancy spaghetti (with lemon and cream) as much as he likes regular pizza and regular spaghetti- lol. 

Fancy mango gelato topped with
toasted coconut 

A dear school friend came by for Sunday brunch with her family- I was seeing them after 7 years. The success of the meal was...mixed. It was an idli brunch and while the sambar was tasty, the idlis were the absolute worst I have made in my life. I have to reluctantly concede that no matter your perceived level of expertise, idli batter does have a mind of its own, especially in winter. My heart sank, much like the idlis themselves. Everyone was gracious, of course, and no one left hungry- there was other food and they even bravely ate the idlis. The one success were the eggless rose and pistachio cupcakes I made, which my daughter adorned with a simple glaze of icing sugar, rose water and lemon juice, and a sprinkling of dried edible rose petals.

Eggless pistachio and rose cupcakes

Our town has had hazy skies for a while because of wildfires in neighboring areas. Today we were graced by clear spring-like weather and I sat on the deck and was mesmerized by this sight. Also, two turkey vultures circled over my head for 10 minutes. Should I be worried??

Turkey vultures have their eyes on me

I'll end with a link to a lovely article I read recently. I've been reading off and on about meditation and was intrigued with the concept of non-dualism and did a quick web search looking for some extra reading on it. I stumbled upon an article, a truly lucid and beautiful explanation of the rather abstract (but really, not abstract at all) concept of non-self.

Happy March! How was the last half of February for you? Also, One Hot Stove turned 19 years old last month. Thank you for being here 💙