Chinese Van Vegetable Fried Rice

Growing up in India, I loved Indian-Chinese food (especially from the Chinese food vans) and miss it sorely in the U.S. So I tried my hand and making some vegetable fried rice that matched my memories. This was pretty good. I paired it with Chilli Potatoes (recipe forthcoming), which hit the spot!

The whole thing takes about an hour to put together.

You need:

  1. 1 cup rice, preferably basmati
  2. A handful of fresh green beans, julienned (cut into very thin strips, about 1-2 inches long)
  3. The same amount of julienned carrots
  4. 4-5 spring onions, sliced finely. Separate the greens and whites.
  5. 2 tbsp julienned ginger
  6. 1 cup bean sprouts
  7. 2 tbsp soy sauce (low-sodium if you have it)
  8. A pinch of Chinese five-spice (optional)

You can also use other vegetables like bell peppers or celery, but make sure everything is cut to the same size, which will ensure even stir-frying.

How to:

  1. Cook the rice with 1 tsp oil. While it is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Do not begin to cook them until the rice is done, as they will cook quickly.
  2. Put the cooked rice into a big plate and spread out to cool.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a hot pan. Keep the pan on a medium to high heat.
  4. When it is hot, add the white of the spring onions, and stir quickly. Add the rest of the vegetables and keep stirring until they are cooked. They should still be crunchy, so keep tasting them until they are cooked and then move to the next step.
  5. Add the soy sauce and stir. If you scrape the bottom of the pan gently as you do this, it will pick up the bits stuck to the bottom and they will add good flavor. Don’t scrape too hard–you don’t want any burnt bits.
  6. Add a pinch of five-spice and mix well.
  7. Add the rice and mix well, taking it off the heat as soon as possible.
  8. If you need more salt, add salt, not more soy sauce.

Enjoy! I hope you like it. It has a very simple flavor of soy sauce, with the vegetables in the foreground. The five-spice is a very subtle taste in the background.


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Celery and Leek Risotto with Variations

Fennel, Leek, and Celery Risotto

Fennel, Leek, and Celery Risotto

Happy new year!

I made this risotto for Christmas dinner this year, and it was light and lovely. The white wine is optional–I find it adds a sweet tang to the risotto, but if you don’t want to add it, it won’t hurt.

Risottos are a labor of love–they take about 25-30 minutes to cook, and you are stirring constantly, so don’t start this unless you have the time.

You need:

  1. Two medium-sized leeks, whites only, finely chopped.
  2. One medium-sized onion, finely chopped.
  3. Two sticks celery, finely chopped.
  4. 5 cups vegetable stock
  5. 1 cup white wine (a nice one you could drink while cooking)
  6. 1 cup arborio or other risotto rice
  7. 1 tbsp olive oil
  8. 1/4 cup grated aged gouda (I used Rembrandt–you could also use other cheese, like parmesan or romano)
  9. Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt, or whatever salt you have), to taste
  10. White pepper (or black), to taste
  11. 2-3 sprigs of thyme

How to:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan or dutch oven. I used a saute pan, but make sure it’s a heavy-bottomed pan. Keep the heat on medium.
  2. Add the onions, leeks, and celery and sweat them–cook until the vegetables are soft, stirring frequently. Add the salt. Don’t caramelize them, but they should be near that point. They shouldn’t turn brown. If they are starting to stick to the bottom, lower the heat.
  3. Add the rice, stirring frequently until the rice turns translucent. This may take a few minutes. The middle of the rice will still be white.
  4. Add the white wine and cook, stirring frequently until the wine is cooked off. If you are not using wine, simply skip this step.
  5. Add the thyme and stir gently.
  6. Add the stock, a cup at a time. Here’s how. Add a cup of stock. Cook, stirring often. When it is almost cooked out, add another cup of stock. Repeat. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked. It should be cooked al dente–still a little hard, but done through. Risotto typically has a creamy consistency.
  7. Add the pepper and stir gently.
  8. Turn off the heat, add the cheese, stir, remove the thyme, and serve hot.

I have frozen this risotto, but it lost something in texture and flavor when I reheated it.

Variations:

  1. Replace one leek with a small bulb of finely chopped fennel.
  2. Instead of the thyme, use rosemary or basil or fennel fronds.
  3. Replace the white wine with 2 tbsp 18-year balsamic vinegar + 2/3 cup water.
  4. Replace the white wine with red wine. Note: this will totally change the color of the risotto.
  5. Replace the white wine with a dark beer. Note: while wine adds a tangy aftertaste, beer can give it a hoppy, bitter aftertaste. Not for everyone.
  6. After adding cheese, add toasted almonds or crushed pecans.
  7. Top with panko breadcrumbs. Do not mix these in as they might (just might) get a wee bit soggy.

Savory Cornbread Muffins

I love cornbread. It has such an excellent taste, and then, when you top it with golden, slightly-melted butter, it’s ambrosia! I still had some dill leftover from when I made the Poppyseed/Dill Kohlrabi, and we bought some hot banana peppers at the Farmer’s Market. So here are two kinds of savory muffins. I adapted the cornbread recipe from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook.

For the cornbread:

You need: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour; 1/2 cup coarse cornmeal, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda; 1/4 tsp salt; 1 egg white; 1 cup yogurt; 1 tbsp honey; 1.5 tbsp melted butter.

How to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients well.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  4. When you are ready, add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, and mix just enough to combine well. Do not stir aggressively.
  5. Pour into a greased muffin pan or square baking dish and bake for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  6. If you are pouring into a muffin pan, do not fill the cups more than halfway.

Dill and Hot Banana Pepper Muffins:

  1. Proceed to prepare the cornbread as above, but do not mix wet and dry yet.
  2. Add 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill and 2 very finely chopped hot banana peppers (or jalapeno, or whatever hot peppers you like) to the dry ingredients.
  3. Add the wet ingredients, mix as above, and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Celery and Onion “Stuffin’ Muffins”:

A variation on a traditional holiday stuffing.

  1. Finely chop one stick of celery (or two) and one small red onion.
  2. Add 1 tsp butter + 1/4 tsp oil to a pan. When hot, add the onion.
  3. When the onion is pink and translucent, add the celery.
  4. Cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Prepare cornbread mixes, keeping wet and dry separate.
  6. Add the celery and onion to the dry mix.
  7. Add the wet ingredients and mix well as above in the cornbread recipe.
  8. Bake in a hot 350F oven for 20-22 minutes as above in the cornbread recipe.

Eggless Cornbread Dressing

This is adapted from my mother-in-law’s recipe. It’s simple, easy, and scrumptious.

You need: 4 cups crumbled cornbread (this version is eggless); 4 tbsps butter or margarine; 3 stalks celery; 1/2 a large onion; 1 cup vegetable broth; salt, pepper, and thyme to taste.

My vegetable stock had a habanero in it. If you are using non-spicy stock, you could add some heat to the cornbread with jalapenos or cayenne pepper.

How to:

  1. Chop the onions and celery into very small pieces (easy in a food processor).
  2. Sautee them in the butter, first onions then celery. Cook until well done.
  3. Mix gently with the crumbled cornbread.Use a large fork or your hands.
  4. Add enough broth to get the desired consistency. I prefer it to be slightly dry. Mix gently again.
  5. Add salt and pepper, and serve warm.

Vegetable Momos with Red Chili Paste

Momos. Dimsums. Potstickers. I’ve heard all these terms used, and I don’t know what the difference is. Where I come from, they’re called momos, and the best kind were the ones you could get at the Yashwant Place market near Chanakya cinema in Delhi.

Heads up: I’m still figuring out my dough recipe, so I used store-bought wonton wrappers which were splendid.

For the filling: 1 carrot; 1 medium-sized red onion; 5 small green onions; 2 sticks celery; 1 small bell pepper; 2 small bok choy; 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce; 2 tbsp oil

How to: Julienne all the vegetables (cut them into very small, thin pieces). Heat the oil in a large wok or kadhai. Throw in the red onion and cook for a few minutes. Then add the carrots and peppers and cook some more. After a couple of minutes, add the celery and green onions. Stir and cook 2-3 more minutes. Add the soy sauce and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes.

Follow the instructions on the wonton wrapper package to fill and cook the momos. If you boil the momos, add a little oil to the water. It might help with the sticking. I did not pan-fry mine after dunking them in hot water.

For the red chili paste: 3-4 dried red chilies, 3-4 tbsp cider vinegar, 2 tbsp garlic.

How to: put it all in a food processor and blend it into a coarse paste.

Put a wee bit of the red chili paste on a momo, dip in soy sauce, and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Vegetable Stock

I love vegetable stock. I especially love to heat it and drink it as is. The store-bought stocks tend to be very high sodium, even the low-sodium ones, so I prefer to make my own. It’s very easy, and if you have a slow cooker (e.g. Crock Pot), you can leave it to cook while you do other things, like work. There are a number of vegetables you can put into your stock, and people often use odd ends and trimmings of vegetables, but I don’t use anything I would ordinarily feed to my worms (yes, we have a worm bin in our kitchen).

You need:

1 leek, 1 bulb fennel, 3-4 sticks celery, 1 large onion, 1-2 chili peppers of  your choice, 2 bay leaves, 5-6 leaves basil

How to:

  1. Prepare the vegetables and chop them into large pieces. (Click HERE for how to prepare various vegetables)
  2. Add them to your slow cooker.
  3. Add enough water to cover the vegetables.
  4. Add the herbs and chili peppers.
  5. Cover and turn on high for 5-6 hours.
  6. Pour broth into a container.
  7. Place the vegetables in a food processor and blend well.
  8. Pour into the container through a fine mesh strainer. Use a spoon to rub it in to get it all.
  9. Refrigerate immediately and use within 3-4 days.

If you want to store the stock, cool it in the fridge for a couple of hours, then pour into ice trays. When it is frozen, put the broth ice cubes into a Ziploc bag and return to the freezer. Use within 3-4 months.

Slow Cooker Celery Soup

A lovely and light soup, perfect for a cold evening.

You need:

10 sticks celery, chopped

1-2 leeks, cleaned and roughly chopped
½ cup onion, finely chopped
3 small potatoes , peeled and diced
2 cups water
1 tbsp. oil
to taste salt
to taste black pepper

How to:

1. Put the oil and onions in the slow cooker. Stir and cover. Set cooker on “high”.
2. After half an hour, add the celery, potatoes, leeks, salt, and water. Stir and cover.
3. Let cook on “high” for 5-6 hours or until the potatoes are soft. You can also set it on low and let it cook for 8 hours.
4. Remove the solids and puree in a food processor. Do not discard the broth. Strain and add the puree back to the broth. Optionally, leave them in the slow cooker and use a hand blender, if you have one, then strain.
5. Return the strained soup to the slow cooker. Add pepper and serve.

Notes:
You can also add half a cup of milk to the soup after pureeing and before reheating. If you do this, reduce the water by half a cup. Do not add the milk directly to the hot soup as it will curdle. Instead, take out a cup of soup from the slow cooker and add it slowly to the milk, stirring all the while. Then add this mixture to the soup, stir well, and serve.

Light Summer Soup

light-soup.jpg

I made this yesterday. No fat. No dairy. No onions. No garlic. No spices. And still so good. I call it a summer soup because it seems to be to be the kind of soup you can drink on a hot summer evening in Delhi. It’s very light, and very easy to make.

Preparation time: 20 minutes at the most

Cooking time: 20 minutes (no need to watch!)

Get a big stock pot or kadahi or something. Dice and throw into it the following:

1. 2-3 small leeks (only the white part) – wash ’em well!

2. 2 medium-sized yellow squashes (use lauki as a substitute in India)

3. 2 sticks celery, or as much as you can stand.

4. 1 jalapeño – cut off the top and tail (it won’t be too strong)

5. Keep 1 bunch of chopped cilantro ready, but don’t add it yet.

6. Two cans of vegetable broth, or enough to make it soupy!

7. 1 stalk lemongrass, score it well to release the flavor.

Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat and simmer for twenty minutes.

Add the cilantro, stir well, turn off the heat, and eat!