Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

Summer in the South means that, at any given time, I receive tons of home-grown vegetables from people with extra to give. Recently, I received some fantastic Alabama tomatoes along with homegrown okra and peas. In addition, I ended up with a glut of jalapeno peppers, both from my parents as well as my roommate's parents (thanks, Billy & Cindy!!). Not sure what to do with the peppers, I decided to pickle them. 

This recipe doesn't require canning, so you don't have to worry about fussing with a boiling water bath or a pressure canner (especially in this heat!). These jalapenos are perfect for chilis and nachos, or simply eaten by themselves!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gyoza - Japanese Pan-Fried Dumplings

I'm pretty particular about dumplings; whether gyoza (Japanese), mandu (Korean) or jiaozi (Chinese), I can spot a factory-made frozen batch from a mile away. That being said, HOMEMADE dumplings can be made and frozen, with no difference in taste once reheated. 

I have yet to find a restaurant dumpling that can compare to the ones my mother makes; she kindly gave me her recipe to share with you. Making dumplings is a time-consuming and tedious process (hence why most restaurants use store-bought frozen ones), so I typically make a HUGE batch over the course of a lazy day and freeze them in bags to be cooked at my convenience. To cook them, you can steam them, boil them, deep-fry them, or do what I do - pan-fry them for a few minutes, then add water to the pan and steam them until done. 

For the dumpling wrappers, make sure you purchase the ROUND wrappers, not to be confused with wonton/egg roll/spring roll wrappers. They are typically sold frozen in most Asian markets, and will need to be thawed about a day ahead of time. I also occasionally use a dumpling press when making gyoza, as I never mastered my mother's skill of perfectly folding and pleating each dumpling (I'm also incredibly impatient and easily frustrated). 

For the sauce, you can buy a premade gyoza dipping sauce, or simply make your own. I usually make my own sauce, since I almost always already have the necessary ingredients. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rice Cooker Kayaku Gohan (Japanese Mixed Rice) - (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Kayaku gohan is a Japanese mixed rice, usually cooked in a rice cooker. Simply a mixture of various vegetables and a bit of seasoning, this meal is hearty, filling and healthy. This recipe is vegetarian, though subbing tamari for soy sauce makes it vegan. The ingredients may seem strange, but are available at most Asian markets, and a good number of health-conscious stores (here in Birmingham, Whole Foods carries burdock root). 

The key to this recipe is to have the additions and rice in a 1:1 ratio. This dish works wonderfully as a main course, or as a side dish with a larger meal. Make sure you use glutinous, short-grain Japanese rice instead of long-grain, though. 

Kinpira Gobo (Japanese Burdock & Carrot Salad) - (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Gobo (Burdock) is extremely high in fiber as well as a good source of iron, calcium and potassium. It's also low-calorie and popular in the macrobiotic diet. It has an earthy taste, but can be bitter if not soaked or peeled first. You should be able to find burdock at most Asian markets, though I have also seen it at health-conscious grocers (such as Whole Foods). Asian markets often have frozen burdock, already sliced into matchsticks as well. 

Kinpira is a Japanese sauteed/simmered salad made with this healthy root; the carrots add a touch of sweetness as well. Popular in bentos, kinpira freezes well and is filling yet healthy. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lemon Sorbet

I love dairy and always have. However, I do have a touch of lactose intolerance, but typically just deal with the unpleasant side effects. That being said, though milk & cheese don't bother me too badly (and yogurt is fine), ice cream is pretty rough on me. Thankfully, I love sorbet, which is dairy-free as well as fat-free. 

Sorbet is simply a frozen dish of fruit and sugar syrup that is often confused with sherbet, which DOES contain some dairy, and has a creamier texture than sorbet. Since less air is whipped into the sorbet, it has a dense, icy texture compared to the lighter, fluffier textures of custard-based ice creams and frozen yogurts. It's incredibly simple to make, and much cheaper than buying it in stores. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Spam Fried Rice

Fried rice; it's on every Chinese restaurant menu and almost everyone likes it. However, very few people will prepare this dish at home, and I don't understand why. It's a great way to use up leftover rice as well as a great way to clean out the fridge. Cheap, easy and fast, fried rice is an easy go-to meal for me when time or money is tight (or when I just feel like having fried rice). 

There really is no set recipe for fried rice; personally, I HAVE to have peas and carrots in mind, as well as egg. The only added flavoring is from soy sauce, though some people will occasionally use hoisin or fish sauce as well. Most people add some form of meat to their fried rice, usually in the form of cubed ham or Chinese sausage. I know Spam always seems to conjure up the side-eye and hate, but it's the perfect meat for fried rice. Inexpensive and salty, Spam fries up well in this dish without being greasy. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Not-So-Sloppy Joes

I like to think that, whether they will admit it or not, all people, young and old, love sloppy joes. For the few of you who never ate one in the cafeteria or busted out a can on Manwich, a sloppy joe is simply a mixture of ground beef, onions, tomato sauce and spices, served on a bun, similar to a "loose meat" sandwich. This recipe uses extra-lean ground beef (93/7), and incorporates cooked lentils to add fiber, protein & bulk, all while keeping the sandwiches delicious, affordable, and a bit more healthy. For parents of picky eaters, it's a great way to sneak some healthy options into a kid-approved favorite!

These sandwiches don't require fancy side dishes; clean out your fridge and use up that leftover potato or macaroni salad. I chose to cook corn yet again, but this time I roasted it in the oven instead of firing up the grill. Simply cook the corn, still in the husk, in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes.