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Steamed Silken Tofu in Mustard Seed and Coriander Broth

1 Jul

Do you ever wonder what to do with leftover pickle juice?  I’ve used it in potato salad and coleslaw, as a brine for chicken thighs, as seasoning in a vegetarian casserole, and in chicken salad.  But the brine leftover from the pickled red onions I made a few weeks back was unique, and I wanted to use it in a bit of a different way.  I thought about it for awhile, because it contained strong flavors that wouldn’t work with just anything.

And then I remembered the silken tofu in aromatic broth I made awhile back.  I remembered how the clean flavors of the tofu amplified those of the broth without competing with any other element in the dish.  And I thought – perfect!  By pairing the punchy flavors of coriander, pepper, mustard seed, black pepper, bay leaf, crushed red pepper flakes and garlic with the relatively blank canvas of silken tofu, I would ensure that the dish wasn’t too fatiguing on the palate.  The plan paid off, and this dish was an extremely flavorful, healthy, and delicious entrée.  It’s also quite pretty, as the red of the radishes and pinkish hue of the broth and onions contrasts nicely with the white tofu and mushrooms.  Substitute the homemade chicken stock for homemade vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian dish.

Steamed Silken Tofu and Soft Boiled Egg in Mustard Seed and Coriander Broth

Adapted from, Elizabeth Chong

1 lb. package silken tofu, drained

3/4 lb. enoki mushrooms, cleaned (any mushroom would do)

1/4 cup pickled red onions

2-3 radishes, thinly sliced

1 cup brine from pickled red onions

1 cup homemade chicken stock

A few turns of freshly cracked black pepper

Bring brine and chicken stock to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Cut tofu into 2 even-sized squares.  Transfer each piece to a bowl for steaming.  Place an even amount of mushrooms on the bottom of each dish.  Pour about 1/2 cup of simmering brine/broth combination over each piece of tofu.  Top each piece of tofu with some radishes and a few red onions.

Add about 1/2″ – 1″ of water to a vessel large enough to fit the dishes and appropriate for steaming, such as a wok, stock pot, or sauce pan, and bring to a boil.

Add the bowls to the pot directly into the water and cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Steam about 13-15 minutes until heated through.

Season each piece of tofu with a turn or two of freshly cracked black pepper.

Cold Vermicelli Salad with Fried Mushrooms

17 Jun

It’s finally really and truly heated up around here, so I was looking for an entrée that didn’t require the oven or a whole lot of stove top simmering.  This meal came together in a matter of minutes and was deeply satisfying.  The mushrooms added a nice meaty bite to this meal.  The vermicelli noodles had a nice springy texture and were brightly flavored with ponzu, vinegar, and lime.  This meal also makes for  excellent leftovers.

Cold Vermicelli Salad with Fried Mushrooms

Cold Vermicelli Salad:

8.8 oz package vermicelli noodles (green bean thread)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 cup carrots, peeled and chopped

1 shallot, thinly sliced 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Lime and ponzu dressing, see below

Coriander and peppercorn mushrooms, see below

Soak vermicelli noodles in hot water for 3-5 minutes, or prepare according to package instructions.  Run under cold water until chilled.

Toss together all ingredients except the mushrooms.  Serve mushrooms over the noodles.

Lime and Ponzo Dressing:

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup ponzu (or use soy sauce and extra lime)

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

3-4 tbs. fish sauce

1 lime juiced

1 tsp. sugar

Whisk together, or put into a closed container and shake, until well combined.


1 package white shimeji mushrooms

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tbs. coriander seeds, whole

2-3 tsp. szechuan peppercorns, whole

In a cast iron pan, heat oil with seeds and peppercorns over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and cook, turning frequently, until golden brown.  Drain for a few minutes on a paper towel and serve over noodles.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Pickled Red Onions

4 Jun

Now that the weather has warmed up, I need to try and think of recipes that don’t use the oven.  Preferably, some of them will involve the grill.  These were absolutely perfect for the increasingly hot weather – light, refreshing, and bursting with flavor.

The flavors in these tacos were extremely fresh and bright.  The cilantro and lime marinated shrimp picked up the smokiness of the grill and retained their natural sweetness.  The onions packed a punch of spices and a delicious tartness from the vinegar.  The vivid green of the marinade contrasted nicely with the pinkish hue of the onions.  Both pretty and flavorful, these were an extremely easy, refreshing, and flavorful taco.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Pickled Red Onions

Michael Symon’s Pickled Red Onions:

Adapted from Live to Cook by Michael Symon (I <3 my signed copy!)

1 large red onion, sliced 1/4″ thick (about enough to fill a 1-quart jar semi-snugly)

Vinegar – half apple cider vinegar, half rice wine vinegar


Kosher salt

2 tsp. mustard seeds

1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

2 tbs. coriander seeds

2 tbs. black peppercorns

4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

2-3 bay leaves

Pack the onion slices in a 1-quart jar and cover with water to come within 1/2″ of the rim.  Pour the water out into a measuring cup.  Note the volume, then pour off half of the water.  Replace it with half apple cider vinegar and half rice wine vinegar.  For example, the total volume of water was 2 1/2 cups.  So I used 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 3/4 cup rice wine vinegar.

Pour the vinegar mixture into a nonreactive saucepan.  Add 2 tbs. sugar and 2 tbs. salt for every 3 cups of liquid.  Add the mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Allow the liquid to boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Pour the hot liquid into the jar over the onions.  Stir to evenly distribute the spices.

Screw on the lids and shake a few times.  Let cool to room temperature.  Transfer to refrigerator.  Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Cilantro-Lime Grilled Shrimp:

1 lb. shell-on jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cups loosely packed cilantro

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 lime, juiced

1/2 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed

1/3 cup olive oil

Add cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and jalapeño to a food processor.  Pulse a few times to chop the cilantro and garlic.  With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil.  Add the shrimp and the cilantro mixture to a ziplock bag and marinate for thirty minutes.

Meanwhile, heat up your grill.

Thread shrimp onto skewers, making sure they have some space between them.  Brush with leftover marinade.  Add the skewers to the grill.  Depending on the heat of your grill, cook about 4-5 minutes per side, brushing with any leftover marinade as they cook, until pink and no longer translucent.


Pickled red onions, see above

Cilantro-lime grilled shrimp, see above

Soft tortilla shells, heated thirty seconds per side on the grill

Add 4-5 shrimp to each tortilla.  Top with some onions.  Fold into taco shape and devour.

Short Rib and Goat Cheese Empanadas

2 Jun

I have to start by apologizing for my long and unexplained absence.  Finals rolled in, then wedding stuff and work and a day or two slid into a week or two before I looked at my homepage and realized it had  been weeks since I posted.  I’ve really no excuse, other than a little bit of business and a whole heck of a lot of laziness.  So, to those of you who check this blog from time to time hoping to see something new, I’m sorry.

Anyway, I thought I’d get my butt back into gear.  These short rib and goat cheese empanadas were absolutely bursting in flavor, thanks in no small part to the delicious Pinot Szechuan sauce from The Czar’s Fine Foods, which I won awhile back from Noble Pig and finally had the occasion to use.

Empanadas are admittedly quite a bit a work, but there are several ways you can cut it down so it isn’t completely overwhelming.  The first thing is to use leftovers, or mostly leftovers, for your filling.  I already had some short ribs hanging out in the fridge from having some friends over for dinner, so it was as simple as chopping up some mushrooms, tossing with sauce, and adding a dollop of goat cheese to each empanada.  The second tactic is to use pre-made empanada shells, if you are so inclined, or even puff pastry.  You can also make the dough the day before and keep it refrigerated until you want to roll it out and assemble, which is what I did.

Regardless of whether you use all of the short cuts or none of them, these tasty mouthfuls of succulent beef and mushrooms with spicy, peppery sauce and tangy, creamy goat cheese are totally worth the investment.

Short Rib and Goat Cheese Empanadas

Empanada Dough:

4 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup cold water

1 whole egg

1 egg white

1 tsp. vinegar

1/4 cup shortening

Lightly whisk together water, egg, egg white, and vinegar.  Set aside.

Add flour to a food processor.  A little bit at a time, while pulsing, add shortening.  If necessary, add more shortening or flour to get a crumbly, moist consistency.

With machine running, slowly pour in egg and water mixture until dough just forms.

Remove from food processor and knead until dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, up to 24 hours.

Short Rib and Goat Cheese Filling:

3-4 leftover beef short ribs, shredded (for example, beet braised beef short ribs – the ones I used were braised in the slow cooker with pinot noir and some Pinot Szechuan sauce)

1/2 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/4 cup Pinot Szechuan sauce (or substitute something like hot barbecue sauce or sriracha or Tabasco)

Mix together all ingredients.

Assembled Pork and Sweet Potato Empanadas:

Makes about 6-8 empanadas

Empanada dough, see above

Short rib filling, see above

1/4 cup goat cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

Kosher salt

Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400º

When making empanadas, work with a floured surface and rolling pin.  Roll out dough and, using cookie cutter (or, if you’re like me and don’t have them, a round bowl 6″ in diameter), cut into circles.

Place a heaping tbs. of filling (see above) in the center of the empanada dough.  Add a tbs. or so of goat cheese.  Brush edges with water and fold in half to form a half moon.

Crimp edges on both sides with a fork.

Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Add empanadas.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake about 35 minutes or until golden brown.

General Tso’s Tofu with Edamame

19 Apr

Americanized Chinese food is a guilty pleasure of mine.  Though I’m usually pretty adventurous and love ordering off the “secret menu” or going to Cleveland’s little Asia-town for an authentic bite, sometimes I want something that you could find in the average mall food court.  Because it’s tasty, gosh darn it.  And General Tso’s chicken is one of my favorites in that category – it’s sweet and spicy with some yummy fried breading to sop up the sauce.  I didn’t have chicken at the house but was inexplicably craving some General Tso’s, so I Googled around and came across the recipe below which substitutes tofu.

We were both very happy with how the dish came out, though in the future I might reduce the brown sugar to a couple of tablespoons, add a tablespoon or two of sriracha and/or bump up the chiles, and actually remember to slice scallions for a garnish and add some sesame seeds at the end.  As written, the recipe is sweet and slightly spicy with all of the classic flavors of a great General Tso’s chicken.  The tofu nicely sops up the sauce and the edamame provides a nice burst of color and texture.

General Tso’s Tofu with Edamame

Adapted from The Life and Times of Grumpy’s Honeybunch


15 oz. block firm tofu

3-4 tbs. cornstarch

1 tbs. vegetable oil


1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tbs. hoisin sauce

3 tbs. shaohsing rice wine

3 tbs. ketchup

2 tbs. soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1 tbs. Korean chile flakes (or crushed red pepper), or to taste

1 tbs. sesame oil

1/2 cup edamame, shelled

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

Slice tofu into 1/2″ slices and then again into thirds.  Place in between two layers of paper towels and place a heavy pan or baking sheet weighed down with canned goods on top.  Let sit about an hour, changing paper towels once.

Whisk together brown sugar, hoisin sauce, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, water, and chile flakes.

Place cornstarch in a shallow dish.  Toss tofu slices with cornstarch to coat lightly.  Add vegetable oil to a large wok and heat over medium-high heat.  Add tofu, working in batches, and fry until golden brown and crispy.  Set aside on paper towels to drain.

Carefully wipe pan clean with a paper towel.  Add sesame oil and heat over medium heat.  Add edamame and mushrooms and sauté 3-5 minutes until tender.  Add sauce mixture.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for about 2 minutes.  Add the tofu back to the pan and toss to coat.  Cook a few minutes to warm through.

Serve over white rice.

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