What we’ve been cooking this week

May 17, 2015 at 8:01 pm (Beans, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, East and SE Asia, Georgeanne Brennan, Indian, Isa C. Moskowitz, Middle East / N. Africa, Nancie McDermott, Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Tofu, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

I say what we’ve been cooking instead of what I’ve been cooking, because with the new baby, Derek has been doing about as much cooking as I have, if not more. In the first few months he was mostly just making old standbys, but in the last week or two we’ve finally started to branch out and try some new recipes. I don’t have time to write full blog posts about each one, so I’ll write a short blurb here for each. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thai mushroom and tofu stirfry with fresh mint

December 31, 2014 at 4:14 pm (B plus, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Quick weeknight recipe, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

I bought a large bunch of mint for this lemon mint lentil potato ragout recipe, but didn’t use it all up, and went looking for something to do with all the mint. I found this recipe in Nancie McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook. It looked pretty simple and called for a whole cup of mint leaves, so Derek and I made it for dinner the other night. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chinese cabbage with black pepper and garlic

October 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm (breakfast, B_, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Quick weeknight recipe)

I occasionally buy napa cabbage to make this wonderful vietnamese slaw, but then I never know what to do with the leftovers.  I have very few recipes that actually call for napa cabbage.  This time I bought the napa to make kim chee, but the end result was the same—leftover napa cabbage languishing in the crisper drawer.  I searched in my cookbooks for a new recipe to try and found this one in Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott.  It’s a really simple recipe.  You just saute up the cabbage with a lot of garlic and a bit of a sweet/salty/soy sauce, and add lots of freshly ground pepper. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red curry with winter vegetables and cashews

January 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm (B plus, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Fall recipes, Nancie McDermott, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Seitan, soup, Starches, Winter recipes)

Back in Pittsburgh I used to make this recipe several times each winter.  This dish has all four essential Thai tastes: sweet, salty, spicy, and sour. It tastes just like the curry you’d get in a restaurant, except the addition of vegetable broth results in a lighter dish that’s less overwhelmingly rich. The crunchy cashews make a nice textural contrast to the silky broth and creamy-soft vegetables.  Based on a recipe from Nancie McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai. Read the rest of this entry »

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Green curry with zucchini and bamboo shoots

December 12, 2010 at 10:31 am (B_minus, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Quick weeknight recipe)

We’ve been eating the green curry I made last weekend all week.  First we ate it on roasted veggies, then I improvised a green curry with chard and tofu.  It came out okay but not great, so I decided to actually follow a recipe the next time!  This recipe for green curry with zucchini and bamboo shoots from Nancie McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thai curry paste, four ways

December 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm (Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Sauce/dressing, unrated)

I was making roasted veggies for dinner tonight, and Derek asked me to make some Thai curry paste to go along with them.  Amazingly, I actually happened to have all the ingredients on hand.  I used to make Thai curry paste all the time back in grad school, but I haven’t made it much (if at all) since coming to Germany.   But now that it’s snowy and cold in Saarbruecken, the intense heat of a curry paste sounded very appealing.

The recipe I made tonight is a green curry from Nancie McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai.  It’s one of five different curry recipes in her book.  All of them are fiery and very fresh tasting–a great accompaniment to the sweetness in  roasted carrots and parsnips.  Traditional Thai curry paste includes shrimp paste, but McDermott’s vegetarian version is not missing a thing: it’s fresh, complex, and intensely spicy.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Sesame noodles (peanut style)

February 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm (B plus, Chinese, Derek's faves, Isa C. Moskowitz, Nancie McDermott, Other, Pasta, Peter Berley, Seitan, Starches, Tofu, Website / blog)

I make Madhur Jaffrey’s sesame noodles all the time. It’s one of Derek’s favorite dishes. Tonight when I asked him what he wanted for dinner he said “chiliquiles!” but all my tortillas were frozen, so he went with his second choice–sesame noodles. I agreed, but didn’t tell him that I wasn’t going to make our standard recipe. I had recently come across a recipe for cold sesame noodles from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes. I really like McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook, so I decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegetarian Pad Thai at Home

December 30, 2009 at 2:15 am (Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Pasta, Starches, Tofu, unrated)

I love paht thai, but I rarely order it in restaurants anymore because I’m always disappointed by the oily, bland mockery they serve.  Restaurant pad thai is invariably insufficiently sour, and often too sweet.   Proper pad thai requires a careful balance of sweet, salty, and sour, as well as warm heat and a strong peanut flavor–two other features that are often lacking in restaurant versions of this popular dish.  Traditionally, pad thai is made with salty dried shrimp and fermented fish sauce.  Nancie McDermott, in her book Real Vegetarian Thai, suggests that vegetarians substitute Asian bean sauce (dao jiow), a pungent condiment made from salted, fermented soybeans.  She says that either the “brown bean sauce” or “yellow bean sauce” will work fine.  McDermott’s excellent cookbook includes a recipe for vegetarian phat thai that is superb, if decadent.  If you’re going to eat pad thai, and don’t have any excellent Thai restaurants around, I strongly suggest making it yourself rather than settling for another mediocre mockery.  Here’s Nancie’s recipe, with a few adjustments to reduce the oil content and speed up the process just a little. Read the rest of this entry »

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Zucchini and Tofu in Roasted Chili Paste

August 4, 2008 at 6:31 am (B plus, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

This is currently my favorite way to eat Thai roasted chili paste. This recipe from Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott is simple and satisfying. For more color, use half yellow squash, but add it slightly before the zucchini as it’s slower to cook. Alternatively, throw in a handful of halved cherry tomatoes when you add the tofu.

  • 10 – 14 ounces medium-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp. – 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. coarsely chopped garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
  • 1 large onion (about 10? ounces), cut lengthwise into thick strips
  • 3 medium or 2 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch rounds (about 1.5 pounds?)
  • 3 Tbs. roasted chili paste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omit or reduce if your vegetable stock is salted)
  1. Heat a wok or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and onion and cook until shiny, fragrant, and softened, about 1 minute. Add the zucchini and cook, tossing occasionally, until shiny, tender, and a brilliant green, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chili paste, vegetable stock, soy sauce, and salt. Toss well. Add the tofu and cook, giving it an occasional gentle toss, until it is heated through and evenly coated with the sauce, about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot or warm.

Serves 4.

Rating: B+

Derek: A-

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Thai Roasted Chili Paste

August 4, 2008 at 5:32 am (A minus, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Sauce/dressing)

A few years ago I made the Roasted Chili Paste (Nahm prik pao) from Nancie McDermott’s cookbook Real Vegetarian Thai.  We used it in a recipe with butternut squash and spinach, and everyone enjoyed it.  For some reason, however, I never made it again, until this summer.  I gave my mom my big Kitchenaid spice grinder with the washable bowl,  since it won’t work in Germany, but she didn’t know what to do with it, since she already had a normal coffee grinder.  I suggested she make Thai roasted chili paste in it, and she wanted me to show her how, so we cracked open her pristine copy of Real Vegetarian Thai, and made half a batch of Roasted Chili Paste.  After tasting it and discovering how utterly delicious it is, we felt foolish for only making half a batch!

Here is my recipe for 1.5 batches of thai chili paste:

  • 3/4 cup loosely packed small dried red chilies such as chilies de arbol or chiles japones (about 48), stemmed, halved crosswise (about 3/4 ounce)
  • almost a cup of unpeeled shallots, cut lengthwise into chunks, about 4.5 ounces
  • generous 1/3 cup unpeeled garlic cloves (12 to 15 large cloves), about 2 3/4 ounces
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (my mom uses 3/8 cup, and the original recipe calls for 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tamarind liquid
  • 1.5 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  1. Measure out the chilies, shallots, and garlic, and cut the shallots as specified.
  2. In a wok or heavy skillet, dry-fry the chilies over medium-low heat until they darken and become fragrant and brittle, 3 to 5 minutes.  Shake the pan and stir frequently as they roast.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate to cool.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and dry-fry the shallots and garlic, turning them occasionally, until they are softened, wilted, and blistered, about 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and transfer to the plate to cool.
  4. Stem the chilies and shake out and discard most (but not all) of the seeds. Add to a mini processor or spice grinder, and pulse twice.  Trim the shallots and garlic, discarding the peel and root ends.  Combine the garlic, shallots, and chilies in a mini processor, blender, or spice grinder, and pulse to a coarse paste, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.  Add 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil and grind to a fairly smooth paste.
  5. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup oil into the wok or skillet.  Place over medium heat until a bit of the paste added to the pan sizzles at once, about 1 minute.  Add the ground chili paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the paste gradually darkens and releases a rich fragrance, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  6. When the paste is cool, add the sugar, tamarind, soy sauce, and salt and mix well.  The paste will be quite oily, and must be stirred before each use.  Transfer to a jar, cap tightly, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.  Use at room temperature in recipes or as a condiment.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups (if using 1/2 cup oil), or maybe just a bit less.

Notes:

I love this versatile sauce, as did my mom, and Derek.  It’s spicy, sweet, salty, and just a tad sour from the tamarind. Make a big batch and keep it in the fridge, and you’ll be glad.  It’s quite a bit of work, but it lasts in the fridge for a month.  With this sauce it’s super easy to whip up a quick Thai weeknight dinner, that tastes like something you’d get at a Thai restaurant.  My mom and I used it in a dish with zucchini and tofu, which we scarfed down.  Derek and I made a green bean, tofu, and red pepper version which was almost as delicious.  The original recipe I tried was a vitamin packed butternut squash and spinach hot pot. I’ll post the recipes separately.

If you have a thai mortar and pestle you can make the paste the traditional way, adding oil little by little to grind the sauce to a fine paste.

You can buy Nahm prik pao in an Asian grocery store, but it will ususally contain fish sauce and dried shrimp.

Open a window and turn on the stove fan if you can while frying and seeding the chilies–otherwise your whole house will be spicy and everyone will be coughing all day.

This version gives a rich, tangy chili-tamarind paste softened by the brown sugar. For a more pure, fiery version skip step 6.

How to make tamarind “liquid”: To get the required tamarind paste, soak 1/2 cup of tamarind pulp/seeds (the kind that comes in a hard brick) in 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes.  Use a wooden spoon to break it up a bit, then use a wooden spoon to push the pulp through a fine mesh sieve, getting out as much tamarind paste as possible.   You’ll have extra tamarind paste leftover–store it in the freezer.  It won’t freeze, but will stay soft and ready to use at a moment’s notice in any Thai or Indian dish, or as a substitute for lemon juice. Pour boiling water over the remaining seeds and stringy paste, and let sit for 30 minutes.  Strain it and use it for a nice cooling Thai beverage–tamarind juice/tea.  Add a bit of honey or maple syrup if it’s too sour for you.

The first time I made this with my mom I was religious about getting out all the seeds, and the final paste was delicious, but totally without heat.  The next time I was less conscientious, and the paste was appropriately fiery.  Derek ate a few Tablespoons of it and then sat around in a numb daze after dinner.

The original recipe yields a very oily sauce, and then all the recipes that call for it have you cook the vegetables in more oil, which results in very tasty but overly greasy dishes.  So I reduced the oil a bit the second time I made it, and although the final dishes were still oily, they weren’t unpleasantly greasy.

Try to choose peppers that aren’t too tiny, as the tiny ones are really hard to seed.

I was initially hesitant because the recipe seems to call for a lot of salt, but you only use a few Tbs. of this sauce in a whole dish, so it doesn’t end up being too salty.  Really.

Rating: A- (soon to become an A?)

Derek Rating: A

Update May 2010:  I accidentally seeded my chilies before dry frying them.  I wonder what effect that will have?  I also used olive oil as the oil.  I followed the original recipe in the cookbook except I was a tad short on shallots and I used 5.5 Tbs. oil rather than 8.  I wanted to use less but it took 4 Tbs. before the mini processor would blend the mixture.  I probably could have left out adding the extra oil in the pan, but I wasn’t sure so I added 1.5 Tbs. just to be on the safe side.

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