Peanut Sesame Noodles

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD, you won’t be sorry!

YES, I mean it, get in there … play with this noodle dish.  Experiment with textures and colours, and then when its time to mix with the dressing your hands are the best tools in your kitchen, a great time to get the kids to help ….. (after they’ve washed up).

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw peanuts
  • 1 small jalapeño, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, halved
  • One 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2  cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black bean sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

 

Heat peanut oil in sauce pan, and add peanuts.  Heat until golden brown and allow to cool slightly.

Grind garlic, jalapeno and ginger with a 1/2 tsp of sea salt with mortar and pestle.  (Yes, you can use a food processor if you have one and would rather!)  Add sliced scallions.  Pour warm peanuts (with oil) over top.  The warmth allows the flavours to bloom.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well.  I can’t say this strongly enough but taste it!  Taste, taste, taste.  Everybody has a different brand of each ingredient, and that will make the overall taste slightly unique in every household.  Get a balance that you like, in other words, when you realize you are still tasting just to eat it ……

Soften rice noodles according to package instructions.

Thinly slice coloured sweet peppers, celery and any other vegetables you are inclined to add – this is so forgiving and just allows you to express yourself.

Asian noodles

Toss everything together until well blended.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

This noodle dish is easy to turn into a main dish, or one dish meal by adding chicken or seafood.  Keep it the way it is for a vegetarian meal or add some cubed, fried tofu.

KFC – Korean Fried Cauliflower

KFC

Slightly spicy, slightly sticky and a world of deliciousness.  Welcome to KFC.

I can tell you right now, this is worthy of the time investment.  Hayley had mentioned this dish to me years ago, when she and Andrea had it in Vancouver.  I was intrigued at that point, and tried it in a few restaurants, without feeling the love.  (at least not the love Andrea and Hayley expressed)   We finally did experience that, in Mexico City of all places!  Fat Boy Moves is the name of a Korean restaurant there, and it had such amazing reviews we had to try it out.  We went twice.  This cauliflower is the one item that makes Grant say he could be vegetarian … me too.  Once we got home I went on the search.  There are lots of recipes out there, but none of them had the steps or the ingredients I thought it would take to get that taste experience you just can’t get enough of.  Finally, with a recipe sourced out of “Carbon Bar” (restaurant in Toronto) I think I’ve nailed it.  The sauce makes more than you will need, so just enjoy that, and use it on whatever you feel like.

(sidebar here …. I have no idea if this is authentically Korean, but we had it in a Korean restaurant, so I’m calling it Korean!)

1 head cauliflower

green onions (for garnish)

Cauliflower

BUTTERMILK MIXTURE

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 sprigs finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

FLOUR MIXTURE

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder

KFC SAUCE

  • 1 cup gochujang (Korean fermented chili paste)
  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use reduced sodium)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

 

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it and add cauliflower florets.  Cook for only 1 minute, then shock in ice water bath and allow to drain completely.

To make the KFC sauce, combine all ingredients in heavy bottom saucepan and stir until it comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and continue to stir occasionally until it reduces slightly and becomes somewhat like a syrup.  (Should take about 15 min) Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  This keeps well in the fridge for 10-14 days in a covered container.

KFC Sauce

Whisk buttermilk with cayenne pepper, nutmeg and thyme.  Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 4 days to allow seasonings to permeate buttermilk.

Whisk flour and dry ingredients together.

If you have a deep fryer, set it to 350, if not use a heavy bottom, deep saucepan and about 8 cups of vegetable oil for frying.  If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a chopstick into the oil … if little bubbles form around the chopstick you are ready to go!

Put your buttermilk mixture, and your flour mixture into separate large bowls.

Toss handfuls of florets into flour mixture and shake off excess flour.  Using a slotted spoon, dip cauliflower into buttermilk and again, let excess drip off.  Roll wet cauliflower back in flour mixture again, to coat.  Place on plate.  Repeat until all florets have been coated.

In small batches, carefully place florets in hot oil.  Do not overcrowd your pot or the temperature will drop and the florets will stick together.  You don’t want either to happen!  Fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon to a paper towel line plate.

In large bowl toss fried cauliflower with about 3/4 cup of the KFC sauce until each is covered lightly and evenly.  Garnish with the green onions and serve immediately.

Prepare to be licking your fingers, looking for more, and already planning the next time you’ll make it.

Messy kitchen

Sadly, this is what my kitchen looked like by the time I finished. Was it worth it?  You bet, a thousand times yes, and I’ll be doing it again soon.  (and, I have no idea why the reflection out the window looks more like an apartment building and not like the tomato field it is …..)

Pickled Mexican Vegetables

Pickled Veg

I don’t know if any dinner featuring the tastes of Mexico would be complete without this dish … in Mexico it is often found sitting on tables just waiting for you to nibble.

This keeps for weeks in your fridge and is a great accompaniment to sandwiches or burgers and always perfect for tacos.

Like many pickled recipes, this is just a guide.  Use whatever vegetables are fresh and ready at hand.  Today’s version included garden fresh cauliflower, zucchini, green & yellow beans, carrots and sweet Walla Walla onions.  Prepare vegetables in bite size portions, i.e., cauliflower florets, wedges of zucchini, carrots sliced on diagonal … you get the idea.  I like to prepare everything ahead of time, and have them ready on the cutting board so I can see the colours and shapes together to make sure it is a pretty picture.  (yep, I’m that weirdo)  If you like a bit of spicy kick, slice up a jalapeño or two as well.

Start by heating up some good olive oil, (a generous portion – more than you would normally use to sauce) sauté onions until soft.  Add garlic, carrot, and any veg you think might take a while to soften.  You are only looking for crisp tender as your finished product, not soft and overcooked veg.

Add:

2 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp peppercorns

1 tbsp dried mexican oregano

4 bay leaves

Simmer just until heated through and remove from heat.  Store in glass jar (or non reactive container) in the fridge for weeks!

 

 

 

 

Basil Chive Vinaigrette

Nothing smells like fresh basil – definitely my favourite herb.  Summer is the only time of year I make this vinaigrette, when the basil is plentiful and salads grace every meal.

Basil Vinaigrette 1

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 oz (45 g) fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups leaves)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup really good quality extra virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients, except for the olive oil.  Give it a good whiz, until all the herbs are bright flecks of green, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil until creamy and smooth.

Basil Vinaigrette 2

I really think this needs either an immersion blender or food processor to get the consistency.  If you don’t have either, chop herbs very fine and whisk it all up.

This will yield about 1 pint jar, and I’d suggest trying it in a variety of ways …

Basil Vinaigrette 3

salad dressing   ~   vegetable dip   ~   blend with cream cheese for a spreadable bread topping   ~   toss with zucchini ribbons   ~   brush over grilled chicken or seafood

 

Red Wine Vinaigrette

 

Making your own salad dressings is so easy that it never makes sense to buy them!  Forget the packaged dressings and give it a try.  I made enough of this for our Family Reunion this year and it was a hit.  Remember to taste as you go ….. I ended up eating a lot of lettuce before I got the balance right – hard to do with such a large quantity.

P1110070

  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Blend well, stirring until sugar has dissolved.

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Slowly whisk in the olive oil until it is emulsified.

Variations:  This is my basic “house” vinaigrette …. and you can switch it up any way you like, during the summer I like to add in fresh herbs.

 

Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing & Dip

This smooth, creamy and herb packed dressing packs a bunch of flavour into any salad – don’t use as much buttermilk and it doubles as a fan fave for vegetable dip (or chips, but who would do that????…)

P1090588

Served this year at the Wittal/Steli Family Reunion 2017, and it was a real hit.

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup mayonnaise (use the best quality you can find)

2 minced garlic cloves

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 – 2 tsp fresh minced parsley

1 – 2 tsp fresh chopped dill

1 – 2 tsp fresh chopped basil

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

just a few dashes of hot sauce

Taste and adjust for seasonings ….. everybody has different condiments, and the level of freshness of your herbs will also affect the taste.  I think I went through a whole serving of salad dipping lettuce leaves in and adjusting for taste!

 

Blend everything together really well and allow to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours before using.  This keeps really well for a week or so in the fridge.

Coconut Curry Noodle Bowls with Peanut Dressing

I’ve been trying to simplify some of my dinner plans ….. as much as I like puttering in the kitchen for a couple of hours after work (what I call kitchen yoga), there are times I just need to make a quick dinner.  This is one of my favourites …. quick, easy, healthy and most of all, absolutely delicious.  You don’t really have to make the peanut dressing to drizzle over, but honestly, isn’t everything better with peanut sauce?

coconut-curry-noodle-bowl

Tonight’s version of this bowl included prawns, mushrooms, snow peas, bok choy and lots of colourful peppers.

PEANUT DRESSING:
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 heaping Tbsp natural salted peanut butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
splash of lime juice
scant 1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
splash of very hot water (only if too thick)

COCONUT CURRY:
1 tablespoon oil
2 shallots
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 14-ounce can regular coconut milk
1 ½ cup reduced sodium chicken or veggie broth
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hot chili paste (sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)

BOWL: (These are suggestions, use whatever veg you have on hand)

4 ounces rice or egg noodles
1 tablespoon oil
half an onion, chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
sesame seeds & chopped peanuts for topping
limes for serving
a handful of fresh basil & cilantro for serving

I’ve also used snow peas, zucchini, sweet peppers & bean sprouts.

To prepare your peanut sauce combine all ingredients except the hot water, blend well and stir in just enough of the hot water to allow everything to become smooth and creamy.

Preparing the curry sauce is pretty easy.  Heat oil in a sauce pan and stir in shallots and fresh ginger, saute briefly just until translucent and stir i the curry paste.  Fry curry paste for 2-3 minutes, just to allow flavours to wake up.  Stir in the coconut milk, and stock.  Simmer for a few minutes just to allow flavours to get to know each other…… Taste …. if you can handle a bit more heat stir in the hot chili paste.  Remove from heat and add the sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Taste again and adjust.  Remember, every brand of these ingredients will have a slightly different profile, and you need to make adjustments for that.  Last thing is to add the lime juice.  It should wake everything up and make you want to keep tasting …..

The method is fairly flexible, saute your veg in a wok with the oil just until crisp tender and set aside.  Alternatively, if you are using egg noodles, once you have removed the egg noodle from the boiling water, plunge the veg in for just 1-2 minutes until crisp tender and remove.

SERVING TIME:

Place noodles in the bottom of your bowl, layer on the veg, and sprinkle with toppings.  Gently pour over the coconut curry.  You can make this as saucy as you like by doubling up the curry sauce if you want more of a soup.  Drizzle over the peanut sauce and enjoy!