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Sichuan Chili and Garlic Prawns

If you follow my blog you know that I’m a big fan of spicy food, and Sichuan/Szechuan food in particular. It’s such a unique regional cuisine. From the smoky fermented vinegar to lip numbing Sichuan peppercorns, it’s a flavor explosion.


When I want a spicy food fix, this is the perfect dish. The interplay between the ingredients is classic Sichuan. Additionally, I like the simplicity of this recipe as the marinade becomes your sauce.

It’s well worth searching out the Sichuan peppercorns, as they add a an authentic flavor that really can’t be substituted. They are not particularly spicy, but give a tingling mouthfeel that is very unique. They are best ground fresh and it’s the perfect place to use your spice grinder.

As I’ve mentioned before I have two coffee grinders and one is exclusively used for grinding whole spices. The white one for spices and black one for coffee beans. They are both well over 20 years old, so they were a good investment.

Ingredients

3/4 lb raw peeled Prawns/Shrimp
2…

Turkish Stuffed Eggplant

This is a variation on a traditional Turkish dish. I love the bold spices and the richness of the tomatoes in the savory sauce. It is not difficult to prepare, but does take a little bit of time, as you need to cook the eggplant prior to stuffing them.


Ingredients
4 medium Eggplant, about 2 lbs 1 lb of Boca Crumbles 2 Tbsp Olive Oil 3 cups of diced Tomato 1 Onion, finely chopped 1 tsp Oregano ¼ tsp Cinnamon 1/8 tsp Cloves 2 cloves Garlic, crushed 1 Tbsp Pomegranate Molasses 4 Tbsp roasted Pine Nuts 1 cup Greek Yogurt, or suitable non dairy substitute
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Slice the eggplant in half and scrape out about half of the flesh and set aside. Then brush the halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake the eggplant halves for 20-25 minutes until just soft to touch, but not mushy.
While the eggplant is baking, start preparing your sauce by browning the Boca crumbles in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and set aside. Then add in the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil to your pan and sauté the …

Spaghetti with Poached Salmon

I’ve made this recipe two ways and both are very good. The first is lightly poaching the salmon in the pasta sauce and the second is using some leftover broiled salmon from the night before. The key to both methods is not to over cook the salmon.


The only other interesting ingredient is the Parmesan cheese. Normally, in Italy, pasta with fish or seafood do not include cheese, but it works well here.

Ingredients

1 lb Spaghetti
2 cups fresh Salmon, cut into 1/2 inch cubes or 2 cups cooked Salmon, flaked with a fork.
3 Tbsp Butter or Earth Balance.
Juice of one Lemon
1 medium Shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1-2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup White Wine
1/4 tsp Sea Salt, this is only for the sauce, you will need 2 Tbsp for the pasta water.
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Sprinkle of Chili Flakes, optional
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, about 1 cup.

Start the water for your pasta in a large pot with lots of water, and while you were waiting for the water to boil, begin making your sauce.

Add…

Grilled Shrimp with Harissa

Harissa is a fiery paste which is commonly used in North African cuisine. You see it show up in Tunisian and Moroccan food quite often. It is packed with flavor and comes in many varieties, but common ingredients are chilies, olive oil, garlic, sundried tomatoes, salt, coriander, cumin and caraway seeds.


You can certainly make your own, but for a quick meal, I always have some on hand. It’s a versatile ingredient and can be used in many ways. That being said, I’m particularly fond of it with fish, shrimp, vegetables and anything grilled. It’s amazing in shakshouka, makes a mean mayonnaise and would certainly be great paired with any grilled meat.

I decided to make this at the last minute, so having the paste on hand was essential. It’s not often that you can find a recipe with only three ingredients that tastes this good.

Harissa du Cap Bon, Zamouri, Mina and Traditional Harissa Spread by Les Moulins Mahjour (this is the brand I use, as it’s made by a family in Tunisia and organic) are a…

Taglierini al sugo d’arrosto aka Spaghetti with Marmite

Years ago I had this authentic rustic dish in an old converted farmhouse restaurant near Turin. It was a very local place and didn’t look like much, but it was packed with truck drivers and a beef roast was cooking in front of an open fire. 
They collected the drippings in a pan below the roast and then used them to toss with the pasta. I still remember it as one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It was called Taglierini al sugo d’arrosto. There are many recipes for it, but how do you make it if you no longer eat meat? 



Well, when I found this Spaghetti with Marmite on Nigella Lawson’s blog, I thought this would be great place to start recreating the sugo d’arrosto. With some minor changes and additions it came out absolutely amazing. Basically, we are recreating a roast beef flavor using Marmite, garlic and rosemary. 


Note: This can easily be made vegan by replacing the butter with Earth Balance and the cheese with non dairy Parmesan.

Ingredients
1 lb Spaghetti  3 Tbsp Butter 1 Tbsp Extra…

Miso Glazed Pacific Cod

I wanted to find a way to make the incredible Nobu black cod miso, without having to wait three days for it to marinade. Additionally, black cod can be difficult to find and expensive in many regions, so I wanted to try an streamlined version utilizing Pacific cod. Any flaky white fish will work, but fresh cod is perfect.



This version can be ready in as little as one hour, but I do think it benefits from 4-5 hours of marinating before you cook it. Read through the recipe in its entirety, as there is a hint that will make prepping the glaze a lot easier.

I found this recipe on the NYT cooking site and modified it slightly. I was very happy with how it turned out. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs fresh Pacific Cod filets, skinless.
1/4 cup Sake
1/4 Mirin
4 Tbsp White Miso
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil

To prepare your sauce add the mirin and sake into a small saucepan and bring up to a soft simmer for 20 seconds. Reduce the heat to low and add in the miso, then increase the heat to medium and …

Moong Dal-Indian Comfort Food

Dal is an Indian staple which can be eaten in the morning, lunch, dinner as a side dish or for a snack. It can be eaten with rice, bread or on its own. Bottom line, it is Indian comfort food. A thick stew of moong (mung) beans, spices and creamy goodness.
I had eaten various types of dal in many places around the word, including India and was always impressed with its creaminess, but speaking frankly I wouldn't have gone out of my way to make it at home. A friend kept mentioning that he was gong to cook “mug” which was a recipe from his Indian friend and I finally asked what he meant and he said moong dal.
I was intrigued and after comparing many from my own cookbooks and ones online, I came up with this recipe which is nothing short of amazing. The house smelled wonderful while it was cooking and the flavor was hearty, wholesome and a bit spicy and just perfect for a fall afternoon.

Ingredients

2 cups of Whole Green Moong Beans, rinsed thoroughly and then soaked overnight in 6 cups o…

Lucky's Chili and Garlic Fish

This is such a amazing dish. It has all the spiciness of Sichuan cooking, with that sweet and sour undertone that I really enjoy. 

The story behind it is that we had a wonderful Sichuan restaurant near my old office in City of Industry, California called Lucky Dragon aka Lucky’s. We probably ate this fish accompanied with dry sautéed string beans and ma po tofu at least three times a week.
To make it simpler to prepare, I’ve divided the ingredients into stages. Additionally, any of these ingredients can easily be found at your local Asian or Korean markets. Once you buy them, they last forever in your pantry, so you will be able to prepare many meals from just one buying trip. 
In Asian cuisine, the prep time is important, as the cooking time is minimal. You want everything within reach. Try to give the fish at least an hour with the glaze to soak up the flavors. 
Note: This could easily be made as a vegetarian/vegan dish by substituting extra firm tofu slices for the fish. 
Step One, Fish

Nobu’s Miso Black Cod

There is no dish that epitomizes Nobu more than Miso Black Cod. Such a simple dish, but flawlessly prepared and finished so that is has a rich crispy caramel glaze.

I must admit finding black cod took some doing, but it was worth the wait. I was able to special order it from Whole Foods and it arrived in two days.

While I was waiting for it to arrive, I did some research and found out that Black cod is not even in the cod family. Black Cod, also known as butterfish or sablefish is an entirely different family of fish, and also when black cod is smoked, it is the deli classic known as sable.




The key to this dish is letting it marinade for a full 2-3 days. I made a slightly smaller recipe, as there were only two of us, but even with only 4 filets, I still recommend the full amount of marinade.

Ingredients

1 cup of Sake
1 cup of Mirin
8 Tbsp White Miso
1/2 cup White Sugar
6 Filets of Black Cod (Sablefish), about 1/2 lb each

Marinade:

Begin by adding the sake and mirin into an average sized saucepan…

Marcella Hazan’s Pesto, but with a twist.

Marcella Hazan is the chef that taught me how to cook authentic Italian. She was tough and demanded authentic ingredients and no short cuts, but the recipes are timeless and still work today as well as them did 20 years ago. If you want one cookbook on Italian cooking, you can’t go wrong with her classic, “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”.

Summer is the perfect time to make pesto. With all the rain we’re been having, my basil in pots has been going crazy.

There are many recipes for pesto, but I think Marcella gets the balance just right. I make a small change, because I’m not a huge fan of pine nuts. I’ve even seen authentic recipes from Genoa where they use walnuts, but I love pecans, so that’s my hack.

The basil, washed and patted dry, olive oil and butter

Use a food processor, with garlic, pecans and basil to begin.

Pesto, finished by hand.

Ingredients

1 lb Pasta, I think Spaghetti, linguine or spaghettini work best. But if you can’t manage that, fusilli, orecchiette or farfalle can…

Pan Fried Cod with Gochujang Glaze

This is very good recipe for any firm fish, but is particularity well suited to cod. Additionally, this would also be good on a grill.

If you are unfamiliar with gochujang, it is a Korean fermented chili paste which is packed with flavor and recently has become a very popular ingredient in the food press. Now there's gochujang catsup, mayo and potato chips.

I used a pan and it created an amazing glaze on the cod. One day I will tackle the Black Cod Miso from Nobu. Stay tuned.

Ingredients

Marinade:
1 Tbsp Gochujang Paste
1/2 cup White Wine or Rice Wine
Freshly ground Black Pepper

2 Tbsp Shallots, minced
3 Tbsp Clarified Butter
1/2 cup White Wine
4 pieces Atlantic Cod loins or evenly sized filets.

Mix up your marinade and thoroughly coat the cod loins. Cover and put into the refrigerator. I find they improve with at least an hour in the marinade.

Remove your cod from the refrigerator. Add your shallots and white wine into a small saucepan and gently simmer them for 5 minutes and set aside.

Heat y…

Pan Seared Scallops

These are so simple to make, yet people seem to shy away from preparing them. You often see them on the menu in fine restaurants. They are a popular and tasty restaurant dish, so why not learn make them at home.
I find the frozen raw Costco scallops to be very good. They are not treated with chemicals and are frozen immediately after harvesting. Just thaw them, rinse them and pat them dry and they are ready to go.

The key to getting these seared to perfection is to make sure they are absolutely dry before they go in the pan. The pan must be very hot, hence why you need to use clarified butter. Normal butter would burn before the pan got hot enough to sear.


If you do not have clarified butter use a sturdy vegetable oil, but the clarified butter gives them an amazing flavor.

Finally, and most importantly, do not over cook them. Literally, they need 2 minutes on each side.

Ingredients

10 dry Sea Scallops, 15-20 ct or slightly larger
Celery Salt
Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Clarified Butter
1/2 Lemon, juice…

Seafood Rice Pilaf - Updated

This is an interesting pilaf recipe because it uses Thai brown jasmine rice rather than normal white long grain rice. Also, I've omitted the traditional orzo, as I just don't feel it adds anything to the recipe.

I find the resulting pilaf has more flavor and when prepared with the seafood stock it’s the perfect side for any sort of fish or seafood. Or, any grilled or roasted dish for that matter.


With the seafood stock and the addition of the Thai fish sauce, I don’t find that additional salt is needed.

Ingredients

1 cup Brown Jasmine Rice
2 cups Seafood Stock. I think Imagine stock is very good.
1 tsp Thai Fish Sauce
3 Tbsp Butter
1/2 Onion, chopped
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground Turmeric
2 Bay Leaves
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Smoked Paprika

In a saucepan, add the butter and sauté the onions, red pepper and garlic. After these are translucent, add the rice and brown it until it starts to smell toasty.

Add your seafood stock, fish sauce, bay leave…

Pasta, the long and short of it.

I have probably had this conversation with more people than just about any other subject in Italian cooking. The usual comment is, "Isn't all dried pasta basically the same"? "Are the imported pastas really worth the extra money"?
Well, let me get the first question out of the way. Yes, if you are looking at a reputable brand, which we will discuss later, they should all be made with 100% Durum wheat semolina and water. As for the second question, well that requires a bit of explanation.
If the ingredients are basically the same, then what could contribute to a better tasting pasta? I believe there are a few fundamental differences. One, the wheat used should be 100% Durum wheat semolina, not durum flour. This is one the most basic differences. And, how does this effect the final result? If a pasta is made with durum flour, it will tend to be starchy and not really hold up to be al dente when cooked. This durum flour is commonly used in American pastas, and is ch…

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs

This is a wonderful dish from Yotam Ottolenghi. It is a stable in his famous London restaurant, Ottolenghi. 

It is not difficult to prepare, but just takes a bit of time to roast the sweet potatoes. It is infinitely better with fresh figs, but in a pinch, you could use dried figs. 




Yotam's suggestion to use a balsamic glaze is a good one and really saves a lot of time. If you can not find a balsamic glaze, then you can make your own by slowly reducing balsamic vinegar with some added sugar.

Ingredients

4 medium Sweet Potatoes (2 lbs in total, try to get them in a similar size, so they will cook evenly) 

5 Tbsp Olive Oil 

3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

12 Spring Onions, halved lengthways and cut into 2 inch segments 

1 red chilli, thinly sliced 

6 fresh and ripe Figs, quartered 

1 tsp Sea Salt 

Black Pepper 



Preheat the oven to 475F.Wash the sweet potatoes, halve them lengthways and then cut each again similarly into three long wedges. Mix with three tablespoons of the olive oil, sea salt and s…

Hummus, the ultimate mezze.

I'm always trying to improve my recipes, so when I get in the mood to make some hummus, it's time get out the chemistry set. Hummus is so simple to make, yet so easy to ruin. It can be too garlicky, too much lemon or coarse and lumpy. 
After quite a few batches, I have a very good recipe and one secret technique to produce the most creamy hummus you've ever tasted. After making this, you will never want store bought hummus again.

Often, I find that people add too much garlic in hummus and it becomes bitter and sharp. The garlic should be an afterthought, not front and center. My way to avoid this, is to roast the garlic prior to adding to the hummus.

Additionally, I always use organic chickpeas, because the non organic will have preservatives and it leaves a bitter taste that can not be washed or rinsed away.

Ingredients
1 29 oz can of Organic Chickpeas, drained. Or retained for other uses. 5-6  cloves of fresh Garlic, roasted. 1/2 cup Tahini Juice of 3-4 Lemons
1 Tbsp Lemon Zest 3 …