Eggplant with Chili Garlic Sauce

Have you tried it yet? Huy Fong Foods Chili Garlic Sauce.

I got a small bottle a few days ago and it’s already almost half gone. Yes, it is that good.
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The ingredient list is short: chilies, salt, garlic, vinegar,  a couple of preservatives and a thickener. The taste is nothing short of delicious. It’s not super spicy, and the garlic and vinegar gives it a depth that cannot achieved with chili peppers alone. I used it with stir fried rice noodles, and now it’s made its way into my eggplants.

This is a simple recipe, think weekday meal in a pinch. The soft eggplant is a perfect “sponge” for the chili garlic sauce. I imagine green beans, asparagus, and carrots would also do well here (although perhaps not altogether in one dish).

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Eggplant with Chili Garlic Sauce

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 2 Chinese eggplants (the long, skinny kind), sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (for moderately-spicy, adjust as needed)
  • ~400 g fried tofu, cut into cubes
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/8th wedges
  • 2-3 tbsp water for cooking

Method

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the salt and eggplant, allow them to sit for 15 minutes while you gather the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a wok or large saute pan, heat up the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chili garlic sauce and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add eggplant and tofu, stir to coat in the yummy sauce. Add 2-3 spoonfuls of water to prevent burning. Cook for ~ 8-10 minutes.
  4.  Add tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salty/ spicy level as desired before serving.
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Green Lentil & Wheat Berry Salad

I remember the days when whole grains were the latest and greatest food trend.

First, there was an explosion of whole grain breads, the options beyond “white” and “whole wheat” multiplied overnight. Other food products soon followed suit: pasta, tortilla chips, granola bars, popcorn, and breakfast cereal all claimed to be “made with whole grains” to appeal to the health conscious consumer (regardless of their actual nutritional content).

With time, the hype around whole grains faded, and the spotlight shifted to other foods. But unlike some passing food trends, whole grains have earned a spot in my heart. They are a diverse bunch: their tastes, textures, and appearances vary greatly. Generally speaking, they’re more filling due to their higher fibre content, and contain more protein, minerals and vitamins compared to their refined counterparts.

The whole grain I picked up at the store was wheat. Yup, that’s right, the same wheat that’s used to make wheat flour. Each wheat berry is made up of the bran (outer brown shell), the germ (the part which will become the plant if the grain germinates), and the endosperm (starchy part which is often ground into white flour).

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Wheat berries! Each of them can grow into a wheat plant! 

This salad is made with wheat berries, lentils, fresh cucumbers, and tomatoes. It’s seasoned with a pomegranate dressing, and topped with spiced peanuts to garnish. This recipe is so easy to toss together, super satisfying, and tastes better the next day. Served slightly warm or cold, the tangy dressing, chewy grains, and crunchy nuts make an unforgettable meal.

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Green Lentil & Wheat Berry Salad

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup wheat berries, soaked for 3-5 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.
  • 3/4 cup green lentils
  • 1/2 English cucumber, seeds removed (optional) and diced
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes, seeds removed (optional) and diced
  • 1/3 cup blanched skinless peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin to taste
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

Method

  1. In a medium sized pot, bring 3 cups of water and the wheat berries to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. To the same pot, add the green lentils and cook for 20 more minutes. The wheat berries and lentils should be tender, but not mushy. Drain well, and return the lentils and wheat berries to the pot.
  3. While the lentils and wheat berries are cooking, toast the peanuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. When they are golden brown, turn off the heat. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin to taste. Reserve for garnish.
  4. Add diced cucumbers and tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, and sugar to the cooked lentils and wheat berries. Mix well, season with salt to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp of salt).
  5. Garnish with toasted peanuts on top and serve.

Sprouted Mung Bean Wrap

I love beans. They’re a nutritional powerhouse full of protein, fibre, iron, B-vitamins, and carbohydrates. Replacing meat with beans can contribute to a healthier diet overall, and help reduce the ecological costs of animal farming.

Sprouted Mung Bean Wrap

Beans are the seeds of plants. Given some moisture, they will readily sprout roots and shoots. During the sprouting process, enzymes change the nutritional  composition of mung beans– iron and phosphorus in the beans are more readily absorbed, vitamin C and folic acid content increases, and digestibility of protein is improved.

This recipe is inspired by The Settler’s Cookbook– A Memoir of Love, Migration, and Food  by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The novel documents the histories of East Indian settlers in Uganda and East Africa. These stories are interlaced with recipes for delicious Indian-African dishes; a true testament to the significance of food in her culture, as well as her life as a woman of the Indian diaspora.

The most addictive part of this dish would have to be the sour-salty-spicy taste from the lime, salt, and chilies. I ate it wrapped in some store-bought roti, which made a delightful lunch.

Sprouted Mung Bean Wrap

Serves: 3

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry whole mung beans
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3/4 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
  • 3/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 3/4 tsp ground dried turmeric
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp green chili, minced
  • 1 dried red chili, broken in half
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 6 cooked rotis

Method

  1. In a bowl, soak the mung beans in water for 24 hours at room temperature. Beans will expand to about twice their size during the sprouting process, so using a larger bowl is wise.
  2. Rinse mung beans, add some water (not enough to completely cover, but about half of the beans should be submerged). Place a damp cloth on top. Allow to sit for 12-24 hours. The beans should have tiny shoots by now. Rinse and drain before using.
  3. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add oil. When hot, add mustard and cumin seeds. When the popping slows down, add turmeric, ginger, garlic, and chilies. Cook until aromatic but not burnt.
  4. Add water and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add sprouted mung beans, cook over medium heat until almost all the water is absorbed/ evaporated, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Season with ground coriander, cumin, salt, and lime juice. Serve with warmed rotis.

Coconut Chickpea Curry

Some things in life are beyond description, like the shades of sky at sunset, smell of air after rain, or my first taste of coconut cream. Thicker than coconut milk, coconut cream is sensual, luxurious, and deeply satisfying.

Make this curry as spicy as you can take it, or keep it mild to let the other flavours shine through. Let your taste buds guide your exploration of this dish and many more.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Most are spices and require only measuring. You can also substitute garam masala for the spices. If you do not have dried mango powder, I suggest trying lemon/ lime juice.
Chickpeas in Coconut Curry

Coconut Chickpea Curry

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight then boiled
  • 4 tbsp oil, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 russet potato, diced (about 1.5 cm cubes)
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 1.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1.5 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp grated/ minced fresh ginger
  • 2 whole dried red chilies
  • 1/2 tsp ground chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 1 tsp dried mango powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 200 mL canned coconut cream
  • 2 small or 1 large tomato, diced

Method

  1. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp oil and saute onion over medium heat until golden brown, add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  2. Add diced potatoes, 1 cup water, and some salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer until potatoes are soft. Add more water to prevent burning if necessary.
  3. Add chickpeas to potatoes and continue to cook.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan with a lid, heat remaining oil (3 tbsp) over medium-high heat. Add whole cardamom, mustard, coriander, and cumin seeds. Put a lid on the pan and let the spices splutter and pop. When the spluttering slows down, add ginger and whole chilies, stir for 15 seconds. Next, add the ground spices and cook for 15 seconds.
  5. To the spices, add coconut cream and the remaining 1 cup water.
  6. Pour the coconut and spice mixture into the pot with the chickpeas, add tomato(es). Simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow flavours to blend. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove whole cardamom pods and chilies before serving with rice or a bread of your choosing.

Crisp Tofu in Tomato-Pepper Sauce (Dau Hu Sot Ca)

Here’s another episode in my food adventures with Christine! I love trying new recipes with friends because it’s so much fun to cook and taste new foods. And if the recipe doesn’t work out, you’ve at least shared a good laugh together.

tofu in tomato-pepper sauce

We made two Vietnamese dishes: crisp tofu in tomato-pepper sauce, and vegetables cooked in soy-sauce (recipe to follow). I would highly recommend both of these dishes if you’re looking for something a little different, but not too difficult.

Start by deep frying the tofu in 2 batches. Frying the tofu is probably the most time-intensive and technically challenging part (oil splatters during deep frying are not fun). You could try to coat the tofu in vegetable oil and baking it if you’re so inclined–maybe 425° F for 10-15 min, turning once during the cooking process. The sauce involves boiling tomatoes and a bunch of other seasonings together. The fried tofu gets coated in the tomato sauce, and the whole thing is garnished with thinly sliced scallions and cilantro.

For vegetarian and vegan-friendly version, substitute soy sauce for fish sauce.

What makes this dish so good? It’s the contrast of flavours and textures. The acidic tomatoes with salty fish sauce, slight hint of heat from the chili flakes, and mellowness from the sugar — everything is in perfect balance. The boldness of the ingredients work well with tofu, which is essentially a blank canvas for flavour. Deep frying tofu forms a crisp exterior with tiny bumps, which helps the sauce to cling on.

Crisp Tofu in Tomato-Pepper Sauce

Crisp Tofu in Tomato-Pepper Sauce

Recipe adapted from: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/crisp-tofu-cooked-tomato-pepper-sauce-dau-hu-sot-ca

Serves: 3

Ingredients

  • 454 g medium-firm tofu, diced, 3 cm (1.25 inch) cubes
  • 200 mL vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced, 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) cubes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 100 mL water
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2-3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 5-6 sprigs coriander, minced

Method

  1. Heat oil in a wok over medium-high. When the oil shimmers, add half of the tofu and fry on all sides until golden and crisp, drain on a plate. Repeat with other half of tofu.
  2. Leave 1 tbsp of the oil in the wok and pour out the rest. Over medium-high heat, stir-fry garlic, shallots, and chili flakes until fragrant, approx 30 -60 seconds. Add tomatoes, salt, sugar, fish sauce, and water. Reduce sauce by boiling uncovered for 10 minutes.
  3. Add pepper, spring onions, coriander, and fried tofu. Stir to coat with sauce.
  4. Serve with some form of starch (steamed rice for example).

What I would do differently next time:

  • Add more chili flakes (closer to 1 tsp, but this may be because my chili is old and not as flavourful)
  • Add more ground pepper (1 tsp rather than 1/2 tsp)
  • Maybe try with silken tofu

Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes

This recipe comes from the cookbook La Dolce Vita by David Rocco. His recipe was entitled “Day at the Beach Tomatoes”, I think he called them that because they’re simple enough to prepare at the beach! But good luck eating these babies down at the beach, a fork and a knife are strongly recommended. 

Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes
Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes

This is truly a very simple recipe where the flavours of the ingredients combine perfectly. Creaminess from the mayo, freshness from parsley, and tangyness from brined capers elevate ordinary canned tuna to extraordinary deliciousness. If you are missing an ingredient (especially the capers or parsley), I would strongly recommend that you go to the grocery store and get it for this dish! 

Mix together tuna, mayonnaise, chopped parsley, capers, and black pepper
Taste and add salt only if necessary, capers are very salty
Carefully cut off a thin slice from the top and bottom of the tomato and remove the inner pulp
Carefully spoon the tuna filling into the tomato and serve
Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes 
Serves: 1 
Ingredients 
  • 80 g (~3 oz.) canned tuna (chunks or flakes)
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) finely chopped parsley 
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) roughly chopped capers 
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground black pepper 
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) mayonnaise 
  • Salt (optional) 
  • 1 medium sized tomato 
Method 
  1. Mix together tuna, parsley, capers, black pepper, and mayonnaise until well combined. Taste to check for seasonings. Add salt if necessary. 
  2. Cut off the top and a little bit of the bottom of the tomato, then carefully run the edge of a paring knife around the inside of the tomato and scoop out the inner pulp. 
  3. Stuff tomato with tuna and serve. 

Rajma (Spiced Red Kidney Beans)

Today I went on an Indian cooking spree. For dinner, I made rajma and saag. This post is about rajma, which is an Indian red kidney bean stew (For saag, see the next post).  I really like this recipe since it is super healthy, high in fibre and a source of iron. That’s not bad for these little beans! Feel free to enjoy it with some rice or whole wheat chapattis.

Rajma (red kidney beans)
Rajma: kidney beans cooked with onion and spices 
This recipe starts out the night before with soaking the kidney beans overnight in the fridge. The water to bean ratio should be 3:1. If you’re preparing this for dinner, soaking can be done in the morning and simply left out in room temperature.

Once the beans have been soaked, boil them in unsalted water for about 1 hour until they are soft. Drain and reserve.

In the meanwhile, dice two tomatoes, one onion, mince three cloves of garlic, half an inch of ginger, and one green chili.

Rajma ingredients: tomatoes, green chili, ginger, garlic and onion
Top: diced tomatoes, bottom left to right: minced green chilies, ginger, garlic, and diced onion
In a pan, heat oil and add ginger, garlic and chilies and fry for 1-2 minutes, watch the garlic closely so it doesn’t burn. Then, add the onion and tomatoes and cook for 5 more minutes. Add a pinch of turmeric at this point. The turmeric will turn everything a lovely shade of yellow and impart its characteristic aromatic fragrance. Add the boiled red kidney beans, cayenne pepper, coriander powder.

At this point, the recipe told me to “simmer until a thick gravy is formed” but the mixture was pretty dry to begin with, so I added some of the liquid that the beans were cooked in for the gravy.

After about 20 minutes, the flavours from the tomatoes, chilies, spices will have infused the kidney beans. Add a pinch of garam marsala. Taste them at this point and add salt to taste. Garnish with some minced fresh coriander leaves and ring the dinner bell.

Rajma (red kidney bean)
Rajma for dinner anyone? 

Taste test: 3.5/5
Slightly spicy from the green chilies and cayenne, this left a pleasant heat  in my mouth. I don’t think I cooked the kidney beans for long enough, they were a little too chewy for my liking. Otherwise a lively and brightly coloured dish. This would make a lovely filling for an Indian-style burrito, and I’ve also read about using it as a pizza topping, or simply eaten with plain rice.

Rajma

1 cup dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 tbsp vegetable oil/ butter/ ghee
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
1 green chili, minced
1 small onion, fine dice
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 pinch ground turmeric, about 1/4 tsp
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp ground coriander powder
1/2 tsp garam marsala
salt to taste
2 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), minced

  1. Boil red kidney beans until they are soft, about 1 hour, drain and reserve the cooking liquid 
  2. Heat vegetable oil/ butter/ ghee in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add minced garlic, ginger, and chilies and cook for 1 minute 
  3. Add the onion and tomatoes, cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and tomatoes are softened 
  4. Add turmeric, cayenne pepper, ground coriander, and cooked kidney beans 
  5. Add enough of the cooking liquid from the kidney beans to form a sauce, about 1 cup; simmer until the sauce is thickened and coats the beans 
  6. Sprinkle with garam marsala, do a taste test, salt accordingly 
  7. Garnish with minced coriander and serve