Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Stir Fry

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Serving mushrooms whole, according to Asian tradition, is a sign of wealth. 
These are just some of the things I have learned through my travels in Asia. 

While my parents lived in Bangkok for many years, I had the opportunity to visit with them several times. Bangkok would serve as my hub to bounce to Hong Kong, and visit my family there. My fathers’ first cousins developed a thriving import/export business in Hong Kong. Luckily I was raised close to them and we made every effort to get together during the summer. If it was not Hong Kong, it was NY. If it was not NY, it was somewhere across the globe at a Club Med. It was chaotic, but fun.

When I visited my family in Hong Kong they were so kind to me. We went to Lang Kwai Fong which was the HOTTEST place for international restaurants and nightlife.
Now if I am in Hong Kong, what do I want to eat?
Chinese Food – of course.

A number of different styles contributed to Hong Kong Chinese cuisine, but perhaps the best known and most influential is the Sichuan cuisine. It is is a style of Chinese cuisine originating in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China famed for bold flavors, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as as ginger.

This Bok Choy with Shiitake mushrooms reminds me of those days in Hong Kong with my family dining at a typical Szechuan restaurant in red decor. All ingredients are so classic to the cuisine and so tasty. Pour it over rice noodles where the sauce is absorbed by the noodles.

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Bunch Baby Bok Choy, roots trimmed
4 ounces fresh shiitakes, stems discarded
1 teaspoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water
Directions:

  1. In a large non stick skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add bok choy and mushrooms. Stir until the vegetables have softened.
  3. Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine, soy sauce, red pepper and water. Pour over the vegetables and continue cooking until the leaves are just limp.
  4. Serve hot over noodles.

Tom Kha Kai – Thai Coconut Soup

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Since I was ten years old, I have been traveling to Bangkok to visit my parents, who were once living there. We usually ate at home with the cooks preparing a dish that my mother taught them in Central Asian style, usually made vegetarian, because kosher meat was hard to find. Being so young, I did not venture out on my own in Bangkok and just ate what was served at home.

In my late teens, when I returned to Bangkok to visit my parents, I had more of a social circle and would go out with my father’s clients. My father operated a vast gemstone business where he would broker deals between the miners and purchasers. At that time, the Holiday Inn on Silom Road opened up, and looking to try some Thai foods, I ventured over there. There was a restaurant overlooking Silom Road on the top floor of the hotel. I caught my eye on the Thai Coconut Soup called, Tom Kha Kai. It’s a coconut broth soup with seasonal vegetables, that is spicy with lime and usually made with seafood or chicken.

I explained to the waitress that I would like this soup made vegetarian, since the menu stated “with chicken”. It’s very standard for Asians to put fish broth in almost everything they cook. So when I explained to her that I was vegetarian, (because Thai think that fish broth is vegetarian), I also told her that I am allergic to any fish and meat, and I will choke and need hospital care if there is any flesh in the soup. I had to make this point clear, even though I over dramatized it. She obliged and told me, “no problem”.

Twenty minutes later, came out this lemon scented coconut rich soup that was permeating the surrounding air. I had a sip, and it was AMAZING! I loved the juxtapositions of flavors that just worked. Spicy, sour and sweet, all at the same time. Years later, being now, I have replicated this soup. It is so easy to make and so flavorful.  It will impress all your friends. Trust me. Since I am in full fledged CSA season, I have just added the vegetables that I had available. You can add any vegtable like, even tomatoes work.

A note about the noodles and lemongrass. You may have heard of Zero Noddles, which is the same as Tofu Shiritake. It’s a traditional Japanese noodle made from the konjac plant, which contains high amount of fiber and zero carbs. It has no taste and like tofu, absorbs the flavors of the surrounding ingredients. You can find it in any Asian supermarket or health food store. Lemongrass is prevalent in Thai cooking, and is optional in this recipe, but if you have it or can get your hands on it, it makes the difference and adds more of a citrus zing to the soup, which also is great for colds and flu.

Tom Kha Kai

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces tofu shiritake
2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk

1 (14-ounce) can water (use the coconut can to measure)
1-2 stalks minced lemongrass, optional*
2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
3 large minced shallots
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt, or to taste

Lots of seasonal vegetables, for example this pot had:
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
16 ounces shiitake mushrooms
3 scallions, sliced
Garnish with squeeze of fresh lime juice and handful of fresh cilantro into each bowl

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot over medium high heat, bring the coconut milk, water, lemongrass (if using), ginger, shallots, red pepper flakes and salt to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five to ten minutes.
  2. Add the seasonal vegetables to the simmering coconut milk, and cook until just tender. Depending on the vegetables used, it can be anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles from the bag and mix into the soup. Cook an additional 7 minutes.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a generous squeeze of lime and lots of cilantro.

* You can find fresh lemongrass in most Asian food and grocery stores. It is usually located with the other fresh produce, and is often sold in bundles of 2 or 3 stalks. When buying fresh lemongrass: Look for stalks that are fragrant, tightly formed, and of a lemony-green color on the lower stalk (near the bulb). The softer, fleshier part of the lemongrass – which is what you want to use in your cooking – is located under the tough outer leaves. Peel away these layers with your fingers and discard. What you will uncover is a pale yellow stalk that is softer and easier to slice. Cut off two inches from the bulb and make thin slices up to 2/3 of the stalk. Stop slicing when the stalk is no longer yellow and “fleshy”. Because lemongrass is so firm and fibrous, it helps to process the slices a little further. Place the lemongrass in a food processor (or chopper) and process well on “high”, OR pound for a minute or two with a pestle & mortar. Now it’s ready to use in your cooking. You can store leftovers in freezer bags and store in the freeze for up to six months.

Quinoa and Swiss Chard with Parmesan

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Short of 2 weeks ago, my CSA started up for the season. This is my 4th year hosting the Great Neck, Long Island site (uhmm… that I started- bragging rights). Happy to say that over the years there has been an overwhelming response to the CSA in Great Neck, that it had to spill over to another site close by. Although there is less traffic in my garage, which is where my makeshift CSA is, I at least get to know everyone in my group on a more personal basis.

Typical of crops that grow well in the late spring, is the Swiss Chard- which made it’s first appearance the first week of the CSA. It contains a lot of fiber, and a host of antioxidant vitamins. It is a tall leafy green vegetable with a thick, crunchy stalk that comes in a fuchsia stem with wide fan-like green leaves. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile: it has the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of spinach leaves. Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible. I decided to cook it with quinoa, which is a complete protein and makes a fulfilling and satisfying dish that could last for a couple of meals. Cremini mushrooms are added, also known as the “younger” portobello mushroom, for a hearty and meaty chew against the nutty quinoa.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Swiss Chard, stems and leaves cut into 1/2 inch pieces, rinsed well
Coarse  Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved

Directions

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Meanwhile heat 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook Swiss Chard, stirring until wilted and tender, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and season with pepper. Add pepper flakes and toss. Transfer to a platter.
  2. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the garlic to skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring until garlic is slightly golden, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, and cook stirring occassionally, until they release their juices, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in cooked quinoa; cook to heat, about 1 minute and add thyme. Serve the mushroom-quinoa mixture over the Swiss chard, topped with parmesan.

Zucchini & Mushroom Salad in Chili Lime Dressing

Just came back from Europe- was in Amsterdam and Berlin. Amsterdam is a beautiful city with over 100 canals where homes- as old as from the 1600’s were built on the canals. Amsterdam was not always a city of canals- it’s reclaimed land from the ocean. To keep up with the growing demand of the ever growing population during the Golden Ages, Amsterdam had to build out.

Berlin….. is another story. Trying to encapsulate the feeling of Berlin is a bit difficult. It’s not a particularly beautiful city- there is a certain dreary feeling. After WW II, the U.S. flattened most of the city. So what remains are some historical places- in German called PLATZ. The University where Albert Einstein went to college is still a sought after university. All the statues are still intact. Sadly, the largest synagogue in Germany was burnt down, but what does remain is the facade and inside in a museum of what was. Most of the city has been built up and parts of it look like a throw back to the 1950’s.

So I came home this past Friday which is after my CSA delivery on Wednesday. When ever I go away, I make sure to arrange for my share to be donated. As I came home to no food from my summer crop, I had to scrape a meal together with the little food I had left in the fridge. The next day, I ran into a friend of mine- Phil who lives in Kings Point and has a large lush property with tennis courts and along the tennis courts he grows zucchini. If you have ever grown zucchini then you know when it comes in- it really come in. The garden gets taken over by these large yellow flowers that look like they have given birth to zucchinis. So Phil generously offered that I come by and do my shopping. That’s where this salad comes in….

This summer salad harmonizes sour and spicy flavors into a burst of freshness. The cilantro is aromatic and brightens the mild flavor of zucchini and mushrooms. An ideal and easy dish to prepare when there is a plethora of zucchini popping up in your local market, which is just about to come. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and enjoyed over the course of a day or two. This recipe comes from one of my most favorite vegetarian cookbooks, 15- Minute Vegetarian by Sasann Geiskpf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

3 zucchinis
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
½ red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

Dressing
¼ cup freshly squeezed limes (3 limes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
Ground Pepper to taste

Instructions

1 Slice each zucchini in half lengthwise, then cut the halves crosswise into ½ inch slices.
2 Place a steamer basket into a large saucepan. Fill the pot with enough water so that is just barely reaches the bottom of the steamer basket. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, add zucchini and cover. Steam for 5 minutes or until tender crisp.
3 Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper until emulsified.
4 In a medium bowl, place the mushrooms, zucchini, and onion, and toss. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables, sprinkle the cilantro and toss to combine.


Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Stir Fry (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Serving mushrooms whole, according to Asian tradition, is a sign of wealth. 
These are just some of the things I have learned through my travels in Asia. 


While my parents lived in Bangkok for many years, I had the opportunity to visit with them several times. Bangkok would serve as my hub to bounce to Hong Kong, and visit my family there. My fathers’ first cousins developed a thriving import/export business in Hong Kong. Luckily I was raised close to them and we made every effort to get together during the summer. If it was not Hong Kong, it was NY. If it was not NY, it was somewhere across the globe at a Club Med. It was chaotic, but fun.


When I visited my family in Hong Kong they were so kind to me. We went to Lang Kwai Fong which was the HOTTEST place for international restaurants and nightlife.


Now if I am in Hong Kong, what do I want to eat?
Chinese Food- of course.


A number of different styles contributed to Hong Kong Chinese cuisine, but perhaps the best known and most influential is the Sichuan cuisine. It is is a style of Chinese cuisine originating in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China famed for bold flavors, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as as ginger.


This Bok Choy with Shiitake mushrooms reminds me of those days in Hong Kong with my family dining at a typical Szechuan restaurant in red decor. All ingredients are so classic to the cuisine and so tasty. Pour it over rice noodles where the sauce is absorbed by the noodles.



Serves 2


Ingredients


1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Bunch Baby Bok Choy, roots trimmed
4 ounces fresh shiitakes, stems discarded
1 teaspoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water



  1. In a large non stick skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add bok choy and mushrooms. Stir until the vegetables have softened.
  3. Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine, soy sauce, red pepper and water. Pour over the vegetables and continue cooking until the leaves are just limp.
  4. Serve hot over noodles.


Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto (Gluten Free)

Here in the Northeast, winter has started early. We have been seeing temperatures hover in the 30 degree mark for weeks. Normally we don’t experience this chill until late January early February. In fact, New York had one of it’s biggest snow storms in recorded history just two weeks ago dumping almost 3 feet of snow with the wind drifts.

My everyday walk with my dog for 40 minutes has now dwindled down to a quick hop and jump up the block and around in 10 minutes flat. So both my dog and I have a lot of pented up energy. He has been sniffing away at my garbage, wrestling with all my papers in there, and I have been cooking good ol’ comfort foods.

This past week I returned to my Italian fare… Risotto.

As a child I used to visit with my famalia in Italia every year, twice a year. I would stay with my aunt, who regularly made pasta every night for dinner. Sometimes she would indulge herself into making a Risotto. This would involve nursing this creamy dish for at least a good hour, while her armed tired from the stirring of this heavy dish. It was a good workout as beads of sweat used to gather by her brow. I think she enjoyed it.

Interestingly with all the pasta mia familia consumed, everyone of my cousins was THIN. Go figure… (no pun intended). Fresh pasta with a fresh suggo (marinara sauce) paired with red wine (for the adults) was a diet to thinness.

In any event, back to this Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto I prepared. The combination of leeks with the chewy texture of mushrooms already lends this dish to a hearty fare. The lemon just lightens up the flavor with a delicate sprinkling of Parmesan. What’s even more perfect about this dish is that everyone, including the kids will love it. It is just that good and versatile.

To clean leeks: with a knife slit the leek lengthwise and clean between the layers with running water
The rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto (flavor base) of onion and butter to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot vegetable stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. At that point it is taken off the heat for the mantecatura when diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano cheese is vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat.
Serves 4
Ingredients
2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
8 ounces Cremini mushrooms, wiped and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
6 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 3/4 cups short grain brown rice
5 cups hot vegetable stock
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesen cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the garlic for 1 minute taking care not to burn it. Add the leeks, mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until softened and browned. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to the pan and cook the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until golden and soft.
  3. Stir in the rice and cook for about 1 minute. Add a ladleful of the stock to the pan and cook gently, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Gently stir in more liquid as each ladleful is absorbed; this should take 20-25 minutes in all. The risotto will turn thick and creamy, and the rice should be tender, but not sticky or gluey.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the leek and mushroom mixture, remaining butter, grated lemon zest and juice and half the Parmesan. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  6. When serving, sprinkle remaining Parmesan and springs of flat leaf parsley.

Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I belong to a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) which I run out of my garage for the local farm in Great Neck. So when the CSA season beings I look out for recipes that work with the produce of the week. I came across this recipe Spinach Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms from the Vegetarian Times Issue: May 1, 2008

If you have ever had Greek food, you have had to come across some spinach and feta stuffed vegetable dish of some sort. Take for example, spanikopita, the filo dough filled with spinach and feta. Yum. I find Mediterranean diets so filling, healthy and really so simple. With just a bit of olive oil, garlic, spinach, feta… and presto you have a delicious meal ready in no time. This recipe called for artichoke bottoms, however since I did not have any on hand I used portobello mushroom caps for variation, and I am so glad it worked out that way, because these came out stupendous!

I think if I did this recipe again, I would still use portobello mushrooms, because they have this great chewy hearty texture similar to a piece of meat. This would be a great dish for your carnivorous friends who would be equally satisfied with this classic twist on this Greek dish.

Serves 6

Ingredients
2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 large leek, white and pale green part finely chopped (1 cup)
2 cups chopped spinach OR 1 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1/2 cup reduced-fat crumbled feta cheese
6 portobello mushroom caps
2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. dried oregano
1/3 cup Gluten Free crumbs OR 1/3 cup crushed gluten free millet/buckwheat flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add leek, and sauté 5 minutes, or until translucent and soft. Stir in spinach and garlic, and cook 3 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat, and stir in feta until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cool 10 minutes, or until easy to handle.
  3. Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel- never wash mushrooms with water because it absorbs the water. Place the mushrooms gills side down in an over proof baking dish and place in a preheated oven of for 15 minutes.
  4. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray, and place mushrooms face up on baking sheet. Fill each mushroom cap with spinach mixture, and top with tomato slice. Sprinkle each tomato slice with salt, pepper, and oregano, then with breadcrumbs. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are browned and crispy.

Cauliflower & Mushroom in Scallion Ginger Broth (Vegan, Gluten Free)


This dish is essentially a marriage of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something of a Thai curry which always has chili and ginger. Chilies were introduced to Thai cooking during the late 1600s by Portuguese missionaries who had acquired a taste for them while serving in South America. The overpowering chili spice is toned down in this dish with yoghurt and enhanced with fresh ginger and scallions.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2 cauliflower florets, divided into small florets
1 bunch scallions, trimmed
4 cloves garlic
2 inch piece fresh root ginger
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound large button mushrooms, sliced
1 small chili (seeds removed)
¼ cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cilantro (coriander)
½ teaspoon salt
12 ounces of plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mango chutney (or any other of your choice)
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro, to garnish

Directions

              1.  In a large stock pot, simmer cauliflower after reaching a boil in lightly salted water for 5 minutes.         Drain and set aside.
             2.  In food processor, puree scallions, ginger and garlic with 2 tablespoons of water.
             3.  Heat half of the oil in a frying pan and toss mushrooms and pureed mixture to sauté for 5 minutes or until browned.
             4.  Remove from pan, pour remaining oil and add tomato puree, ground coriander, salt, chili, chili powder and fry for a few minutes.
             5.  Add yogurt and stir well, bringing to a simmer. Once simmering add the chutney and whisk to blend and emulsify the ingredients together.
            6.  After 5 minutes, add cauliflower and mushrooms and gently simmer 10 minutes more. When done, garnish with cilantro and serve.