We could all use a little more green in our lives, right? But eating a salad can sometimes be a bit boring. Something I can never get tired of though–roasted vegetables. It’s amazing what a little heat and seasoning can do to ordinary veggies to make them spectacular.
Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetable side dishes. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a heavy meat dish, to complete a weeknight meal, or even to be the star of the dish. Try it topped with a poached egg and hollandaise for a healthier take on traditional eggs benedict. Yum! This recipe for Herb Roasted Asparagus is so easy and comes together in no time at all. Plus, asparagus just seems so elegant and impressive–no one needs to know how easy it was to make!
- Asparagus, 1-2 bunches
- Herbs de Provence (can find in Trader Joe’s for a great deal)
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Preheat an oven to 425 degrees
- On a sheet pan, place a piece of parchment paper — while not necessary to cook, parchment paper prevents sticking and also makes for easy cleanup
- Cut or break off ends of asparagus spears — if using your hands, the fibrous ends will break off naturally. You won’t want to eat these since they’re very woody and tough, but they’re excellent for soups
- Toss the asparagus with enough olive oil to coat, a big pinch of salt, pepper and herbs de Provence — Remember to season aggressively!
- Using a microplane or part of a box grater, add the zest of 1 lemon to the asparagus
- Squeeze the juice from half of that lemon onto the asparagus as well
- Roast the asparagus in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they’re tender and slightly crisp
- Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley, and a squeeze of lemon
Risotto is one of those dishes that sounds super fancy–and it definitely tastes luxurious!–but is actually far easier to make at home than most people think. In fact, it doesn’t even need cream or milk to make it creamy. You just need to buy the right kind of rice and give it a little love and attention and you’ll be whipping up some restaurant worthy risotto in no time. Flavor it with your favorite mix-ins like roasted asparagus, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash or more. Bon appetito!
- Arborio rice, 2 cups — you must use arborio rice for this dish. Arborio rice has a super high starch content and this is what makes your risotto creamy and delicious!
- Garlic, 5-6 cloves chopped
- White wine, 1 cup
- Chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want to keep it vegetarian/dairy), 4 cups — if you wanted to do a super rich and earthy mushroom risotto, you could make some mushroom broth by rehydrating dried porcini mushrooms for a truly luxurious risotto dish!
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan (or nondairy substitute such as nutritional yeast), optional but always worth it
- 1 cup of Herb Roasted Asparagus (or your favorite mix-in)
- Heat the stock in a saucepan and add any flavorings you’d like to it such as herbs, lemon juice, spices etc.
- Sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant and slightly brown. Season with salt and pepper
- Add rice and toss to coat. Sauté the rice so it gets nice and toasty. This will give it a wonderful and deep flavor later on
- Add about a cup of white wine of your choice — you can also use champagne, sparkling wine etc. Just make sure it’s something you like. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it! The flavor will just concentrate as it’s cooking
- Stir the rice, and once it’s absorbed the wine, start adding about a cup of broth to the rice and stir it around
- Every time the rice absorbs the liquid, it needs to be stirred. As it cooks and gets stirred, it will start to release its starches which creates the creaminess that is characteristic of risotto
- After about 18 minutes, you will have added several cups of liquid and the ride should be creamy and have expanded. Give it a quick taste for seasoning and to make sure the rice is al dente (should have a little bit of chew left)
- Now would be the time to add anything to the risotto like some roasted asparagus, maple roasted butternut squash if you wanted to go sweet, or anything you like
- Turn off the heat and add some nutritional yeast (if meat meal) to give it some umami or a cup of grated Parmesan cheese if a dairy meal and stir.
- Serve while still warm. To reheat, heat risotto into a saucepan with a 1/4 cup of water and stir until steamy and ready to inhale
So I’ve recently started offering small group cooking classes through my catering company, J2Food, and the theme for the first session was all about love. It was a few days before Valentine’s Day, and it was a couples-themed class, It’s a Date! And what can be more romantic than cooking for your loved one? Or, even better, cooking together. So as I was considering what we should make for the meal, I thought we should have all foods that not only taste delicious but also look amazing and can be made by any amateur chef (and easy to clean to boot!).
Chicken Marsala is one of my favorite dishes to make for guests and even crowds. It sounds and tastes very complex, but is actually very simple to make and very impressive in its presentation and flavors. It’s a recipe that I teach all of my cousins when they go to college so that they have at least one quality trick up their sleeve to throw down. This dish is also great for a quick weeknight meal. Serve it over some herbed egg noodles, with creamy garlic mashed potatoes or even with a fresh arugula salad. Enjoy and let me know how yours turns out!
- Chicken breasts, boneless – while I often opt for the more forgiving chicken thighs, it’s very traditional to use chicken breast in this recipe for texture and size
- Mushrooms, halved – I like Cremini (mini portobellos), but button mushrooms or any variety are good to use. Sometimes I like to use a mix of mushrooms…you can never have too many
- Bottle of Marsala wine – I would definitely use real Marsala wine (usually found in the dessert wine section near the Madeira or sherry). Resist the urge to use Marsala cooking wine found in the grocery store since those are loaded with salt and MSG.
- Chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
- Dried herbs – whatever your favorite flavors are (we used rosemary, thyme, and oregano)
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Garlic, 8-10 cloves chopped
- Olive oil
- Pound the chicken breasts out to about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. Doesn’t need to be super thin since these are getting twice-cooked
- Add enough olive oil to a heavy-bottomed sauté pan to coat and start to heat on medium
- Mix a heavy pinch of dried herbs, salt and pepper into about 1.5 cups of flour — you may need more later on, so don’t be skimpy now
- Dip the chicken pieces into the seasoned flour mixture one by one to coat then add to the hot pan — How hot should the pan be? You should hear a small sizzle or see some small bubbles form around the edge of the chicken
- Cook the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes per side so they both get a slight crisp and are golden to golden brown on each side
- Reserve partially cooked chicken for later to finish cooking
- In the same pan, add a heaping tablespoon of chopped garlic
- After the garlic has started to brown, add the mushrooms — it’s important that mushrooms have room to cook or they’ll steam instead of sautéing so don’t overcrowd the pan
- One the mushrooms have cooked, add a few spoonfuls of the flour mixture to the pan and stir to coat the mushrooms and so that all of the flour gets to cook off some
- After a couple of minutes, deglaze the pan with about half the bottle of Marsala — the pan should start to sizzle rapidly and this is the time for you to use your spatula/spoon to scrape up the good, crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. This is pure flavor…Yum!!!
- Add about 1 cup of chicken stock to the pan, and also season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce mixture come up to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cook for a couple of minutes to get rid some of the sharpness from the wine and stock
- At this point, the floury mushrooms acted as our roux, and the sauce should be starting to thicken. Add the chicken back into the sauce and submerge.
- Cover the pan with a lid of tight aluminum foil and cook for another 20 minutes on simmer or medium-low heat. The chicken will get nice and tender and the sauce will thicken some more
- Once done, serve on a big platter with some risotto, egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley
I love coming up with new ways to cook with some of my favorite ingredients, especially comfort foods. To me, a big wok full of curry is super comforting and was one of the dishes I made all the time when I moved into my first solo apartment. It’s warm, earthy, spicy and makes me feel good all over. Plus, it’s amazing for leftovers! So, when Mama Lam’s, a local food vendor making and selling their own Malaysian Curry Paste that I had the pleasure of meeting at the annual Queens Taste, event contacted me about partnering up, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to try cooking with their homemade, Malaysian curry paste and curating a couple of dishes to use their product in.
I decided to create a curry themed meal featuring Mama Lam’s Curry Paste two ways—a Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon and a Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu. Check out the recipes below and also watch my YouTube cooking demo here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PCoQ8uLQYU.
Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon
- 4-6 salmon filets (skin on)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
- 1 tbsp Sambal Olek or another Southeast Asian chili sauce—Sriracha works fine.
- I recommend not skipping this ingredient, even if you don’t like spicy food. The fish has a warming heat and it is very much tempered by the coconut milk and acidity of the lime juice
- 1/2 can of coconut milk
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tbsp of ginger, chopped
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into pieces–you can also use 1/2 tbsp of chopped lemongrass from a tube. You’ll find this near the fresh herbs in the market
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 cups of roasted pistachios, shell removed
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp of black pepper
- Create a marinade with the chili sauce, ginger, garlic, lime juice, coconut milk, lemongrass, oil, salt and pepper
- Marinade the salmon for at least an hour and up to 4 hours
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Crush the pistachios with either your hands or a mallet. A rolling pin works well too—this is very cathartic and a great way to take out your aggression. Ha!
- After the fish has soaked, dip the salmon into the pistachios and coat on sides and top with the nuts
- Place the salmon skin side down on a greased baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until the crust is set—The fish should be cooked through, but still a bit pink in the center and very moist. It will continue cooking for a few minutes once it comes out of the oven
- Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice over the top
- This fish is delicious served all on its own with a fresh salad or some roasted asparagus, but is even better with some Curry Noodles!
Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu
- 1 package of firm tofu, 14oz
- 1 pound of broad rice noodles
- 2 bell peppers, chopped
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 1 eggplant—chopped into bite sized pieces. I love to use Japanese or graffiti eggplant for this dish not only because of the beautiful color, but also because it has less water in it than an Italian eggplant, so it’ll be sweeter and stay firmer when cooked down
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp of fish sauce
- 1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
- 1 tbsp of Sambal Olek chili sauce
- 1 bunch of scallions, chopped (reserve some for garnish)—also called green onion or spring onion in some supermarkets
- 1 can of coconut milk—do not use reduced fat as the texture and thickness of the sauce will be off. Plus, coconut milk is a healthy fat
- Vegetable or peanut oil—any high heat oil will do such as canola, corn, grapeseed oil, etc.
- The first step of this dish is to make the crispy tofu—who doesn’t like their tofu crispy?
- Tofu has a lot of water, which is why it usually tastes bland. In fact, the biggest mistake that most cooks make when handling tofu is not getting rid of the excess water. This will never work! Even if you just want to marinade the tofu you’ll still need to do this step
- Put the tofu between two paper towels and press. Repeat this process 2-3 times, and then let the tofu sit between the towels for at least 20 minutes to really draw out the moisture
- Heat up your wok until it starts to smoke a little, then add the oil. It’s important that you don’t add your oil before this as you don’t want it to bubble up and burn you
- Add the tofu to the wok and spread it out in a single layer—you should hear it sizzle. If there’s no sizzle, then your wok isn’t hot enough and your tofu will steam instead of crisp up
- Let the tofu cook on one side for a couple min, then mix it up and repeat this process a few times until it’s crispy on all sides. This shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes or so
- Put your tofu on a plate and place aside for later on
- Heat your wok back up on the stove while you get the rest of your ingredients ready
- Add some more oil, then add the garlic, ginger and scallions—this is the holy trinity of Asian dishes!
- Let these sauté for a minute, then add the curry paste and heat through, followed by the onions, peppers and eggplant
- Let the veggies cook for a few minutes, then add the fish sauce, chili sauce and coconut milk and stir until it becomes a homogenized sauce
- Cook the curry for at least 10 minutes or longer depending on how thick you like your sauce—as it cooks the flavors of the salty fish sauce, spicy chilis, earthy curry and more will concentrate
- Meanwhile, drop the rice noodles into some salted boiling water—off the heat—and let soak for 5 minutes
- Add the par-cooked noodles to the curry and toss together in the wok
- Let the noodles and curry cook together as the noodles absorb the sauce and meld together into one cohesive dish
- Garnish with the crispy tofu, fresh cilantro, chopped scallions, and some chopped peanuts or pistachios if you’d like to tie the two dishes together even more
- Eat while still hot or add some sesame oil and have as a cold salad the next day for lunch. Yum!
Enjoy these dishes together with a Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad for a fabulous Southeast Asian inspired dinner at home.
You can order Mama Lam’s delicious Curry Paste here: https://www.mamalams.com/shop-1/curry-sau
To watch the cooking demo for these recipes, click here or watch below.
Having eaten such fresh and delicious seafood in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, especially at Shucker’s, I was inspired to make my work fish dinner at home. Everything that comes out of kg kitchen has a twist though, so here’s my idea of a delicious fish dinner for company or family. Sushi grade tuna is marinated in a salty, spicy mix of soy, ginger and chili, then crusted in sesame and seared. To go with the tuna is a spicy cucumber salad, and peanut noodles that are so easy to make, you’ll be wondering why you’ve ordered them from takeout all these years.
Sesame Crusted Tuna:
- 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce—the fish sauce is already salty, so a lower sodium soy is better. A sweet soy sauce like tamari would work nicely too
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon of Sambal Olek—an Indonesian red chili paste flavored with salt and vinegar. It is very spicy, without the sweetness associated with sriracha sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon of fresh ginger
- 1/3 of bunch of scallions, sliced
- 3-4 large sushi-grade tuna steaks–I recommend you splurge for the high end tuna. Trust me, you’ll taste the difference
- 2 large bulbs of baby bok choy
- Combine soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, sambal, ginger, and scallions in a medium bowl
- Add the tuna to the marinade, and let the fish sit in the marinade for 1-2 hours to absorb the flavors of the sauce
- Remove the fish from the marinade, and shake off excess liquid
- While the fish is slightly wet, drip it into sesame seeds and crust both sides with sesame
- In a sauté pan, heat up some vegetable oil on medium heat, and get the tuna ready
- Cook the tuna steaks for about two minute per side—pay attention because it cooks fast, and higher quality tuna is best cooked rare
- Sauté some baby bok choy with garlic and excess fish marinade
- To serve: lay the bok chy on a big platter, and then set the sesame crusted tuna atop the bok choy
- 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
- 1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 3 heaping tablespoons of (crunchy) peanut butter
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- 1 box of angel hair pasta
- 2/3 bunch of scallions, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of white sesame seed
- Combine the first 6 ingredients and whisk together until it becomes a thick, homogeneous sauce—a blender or food processor works as well, but I like the texture that the nut pieces give to the sauce when it’s hand mixed
- Chill the sauce for at least 20-30 minutes
- Cook the pasta according to package directions, and drain well
- Toss the hot pasta with the sauce, sesame seeds and scallions
- Chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator
- Serve in a big bowl, garnished with chopped scallions, and some chopsticks
Spicy Cucumber Salad
- 2 hot house cucumbers–also known as English or seedless cucumbers. I like this variety of cucumber since it’s longer and the skin is much thinner, so you can eat it easily. Plus is has much less seeds and comes prewashed
- 1 tablespoon of sambal olek
- 1/2 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon of white sesame seeds, for garnish
- Chop the cucumbers—skin on—into half moon pieces
- In a bowl, combine the sambal, sesame oil, soy sauce and vinegar
- Toss the cucumbers with the sauce and let sit for at least 20 minutes—the longer it sits, the more the cucumbers will expel liquid, and absorb the flavors of the sauce
- Serve garnished with sesame seeds over the top on a bright plate
This is a wonderful meal to serve for dinner to your family–like I did–or use it to wow your dinner guests as you take them on a culinary tour of Asia. Leftovers from all three of these dishes will taste even better the next day!
I learned pretty late in the day that people were coming over for offer and dessert after dinner. I didn’t want to just serve them fruit or store bought cookies, and decided on one of my favorite pies–key lime pie. This recipe is derivative of many other basic key lime pie recipes, so I can’t take credit for the idea. Sometimes you just don’t want to mess with a classic. I made 2 pies, so the ingredient amounts were doubled, but I’m listing it as a single pie recipe. This dessert is delicious all on its own, but tastes even better with a big dollop of homemade whipped cream!
Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1 sleeve of graham crackers
- 6 tablespoons of melted butter
- 1/4 cup of white sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 whole eggs
- Lime zest—zest the whole lime, but reserve a few pinches for later
- 1/2 cup of key lime juice—I might have to turn in my foodie card, but I actually like the sweet tanginess of bottled key lime juice. Just make sure it’s a quality brand!
- 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
To Make the Pie:
- Mix together the crust ingredients until they take on the texture of wet sand
- Press the mixture into a pie tin or dish and bake at 325 degrees for about 10-12 minutes
- Let the crust completely cool before proceeding to the next step
- For the filling, combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix until it becomes a homogenous blend
- Pour into pie crust so that it goes almost to the top edge, but leave a slight border all around so you can see the crust. Plus it saves room for whip cream!
- Chill for 10 minutes to slightly set, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees
- Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes—make sure it doesn’t brown
- Immediately transfer from the oven to the fridge for at least 3 hours, and up to overnight
- Garnish with whip cream, a sprig of mint, and a sprinkle some reserved lime zest before serving
One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to experiment, and, of course, make my own version of restaurant dishes at home. Earlier in the day, I had gotten some Indian food for lunch, and of course eaten some fluffy, warm naan bread. The best part of naan—for me at least—is that you can use it to mop up the delicious curries and sauces. So, I asked myself, “What can I dip into my leftover lamb sauce?” Then it hit me—pita! But, plain pita is boring, so what about pita chips? These were so easy to make it’s ridiculous. Make these pita chips at home, and you’ll never feel like buying them at the store again. This recipe yields 18 chips, but feel free to make much, much more!
- 3 whole pita breads
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley–I happened to have fresh herbs for another recipe, but dried herbs would work just as well
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- Cut each pita in half lengthwise
- Cut each half into 3 equal sized wedges
- Mix the parsley, rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper with the oil
- Let the herb oil mixture sit for about 15 minutes, and set the oven to 300 degrees
- Toss the pita triangles with the herb oil to lightly coat, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet
- Bake the pita chips for about 20-22 minutes, or until they are browned and crisped up
- Allow the chips to cool before consuming with hummus, guacamole, onion dip, or delicious braising liquid from lamb shanks!