Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

There is nothing sexy about how I came up with this recipe for black bean tacos with kabocha squash. In truth the real impetus came from the fact I had some cooked black beans in the freezer and kabocha squash that was a couple of weeks old sitting on the counter. I had to use them or lose them. However mundane the origin of an idea, the process of creating a meal requires some inspiration and creativity and that is sexy.

Often, my inspiration for the food I cook comes from the people I feed. Between all my friends and family, I will take into consideration everyone’s diet preference. This is why you will find on my blog a selection of meals to serve, omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, low-glycemic, gluten-free, and dairy-free recipes. In these times, all cooks should have a few recipes that will feed their diverse community.

While creating this recipe for black bean tacos it was important to me that this recipe be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. Therefore, any dairy is supplemental and added separately as a topping for individual tacos. That meant all ingredients in the beans and squash must be plant-based.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Distinctive flavor of Black Bean Tacos

This recipe started with frozen cooked black beans I made several months ago. Freshly cooked beans taste a lot better than canned beans, and they have a lot less salt. So, now and then I will plan and cook some fresh beans. However, I always have a selection of no-salt canned beans in my pantry. They are just too convenient and ideal for a spontaneous meal.

If you do want to cook with dried beans, add epazote and garlic to the pot when you cook them. Just like beans cooked with a ham hock, epazote and beans are a perfect pair. The flavor is so distinctive it is hard to describe. It is herbal and similar to Mexican oregano with some medicinal characteristics. The flavor is unique and thus there is no good substitute for epazote. However, once you taste beans cooked in epazote you will always want to eat them prepared this way. I use dried epazote, as fresh epazote is hard to come by in the east coast. You can find it online or at a Mexican market.

To make the black bean filling for my tacos, I sautéed some onions and minced garlic until soft and added some crumbled dried epazote and Kosher salt. Then I added the cooked black beans. Because I love beans cooked with smoked pork, the epazote helps me forget about the lack of pork and smoky flavor whenever I cook vegan beans. I’ll think to myself, “Oh these beans are soo good.” Not, “you know what these beans need, some bacon.”

The next thing I did to give the black beans a creamy texture. I puréed about a third of the sautéed beans and onions to a somewhat smooth consistency, then added the purée back to the skillet with the beans. This emulsion made the beans into a spread preventing any loose beans from slipping out of the tacos. They are similar to refried beans but with more texture.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Green Tacos, a recipe.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Spicy Winter Squash for Black Bean Tacos

The squash will take the longest to cook so I begin preparing the squash and cook everything else while they roast. I used kabocha squash, but butternut squash or pumpkin are good substitutes. Any winter squash is fine. The squash is where I punched up the flavor with lots of spices and ground chili pepper. Cayenne, cumin, ground coriander, ground garlic and Mexican oregano make up the spice mix. Whenever I roast vegetables and want a garlic note, I often use ground garlic because fresh minced fresh garlic will burn in a 400°F (200°C) oven. Nothing beats fresh garlic, but burnt garlic is very bitter.

Both the beans and the winter squash pair well with chili peppers, but I did not want to overdo it with the heat. Every meal needs a solid foundation to build from and the black beans are the structure from which the taco filling is built. If there is too much competition from the spices and chilies you can’t taste the food. Here, the bean filling and the winter squash do not compete for attention. The spicy winter squash nicely compliments the filling with its natural sweetness and spices. This flavor combination of chili heat with something sweet never ceases to amaze me.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Toppings for Black Bean Tacos

As I mentioned in my post about Fish Tacos, a taco is not a taco if avocados are not in them. I realize there are plenty of traditional tacos, like carnitas without avocado, but I look for any excuse to eat avocados and tacos is one of them. In all seriousness they fit with these tacos. Yet, with all these soft and creamy fillings something fresh to bite into is needed. Cucumber, iceberg lettuce and sliced radish are all great toppings with these tacos and a great way to get more vegetables in your meal. Or, serve them on the side in a salad with a citrus vinaigrette.

If you and your dinner companions eat dairy, I highly recommend using cotija cheese or feta cheese.  The briny and salty flavors punch up the earthy flavors of the beans and winter squash. It adds a much-needed bit of acid to make every thing stand out. I could not find cotija, so I used feta cheese and loved it.

If you do not eat dairy, add  pickled vegetables like onions or jalapenos to get that salty-briny punch.

The other toppings I believe make this black bean taco so special are peanuts and toasted hulled pumpkin seeds. They give some needed crunch to bite into between all the soft layers of beans and roasted squash and the nuttiness just fits right in.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

3 ways to heat up corn tortillas.

Final Thoughts

I started with a purpose use up the beans and kabocha squash but as I progressed my primary focus was to create a meal for vegetarian and vegan diets. Even though my children do not live at home any more, they still inspire me to create meals I believe they would enjoy. Now I have even more inspiration from my growing family with the addition of daughters-in-law. While making these tacos it gave me great pleasure knowing my daughter-in-law and brother-in-law would particularly appreciate these black bean tacos. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this dinner. These tacos are very fulfilling with great of depth of flavor built in. You will not miss the meat.

I do not have a vegan dessert of my own to recommend but try this vegan chocolate cake recipe from Food 52.  For all other purposes, Yogurt Panna Cotta with Spiced Figs would pair nicely with these tacos and they can be made ahead. Or if you want a Mexican themed meal serve with Classic Margaritas and Double Coconut Pie.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Category: Entrée

Cuisine: Mexican Inspired

4 servings

Serving Size: 2 tacos

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Black beans cooked with onions and epazote make a flavorful foundation for spicy roasted winter squash in these vegan black bean tacos. Add different toppings like feta or cotija cheese, or pickled onions or jalapenos for some extra brightness. Top each taco with nuts, avocado and salsa verde.

To make these tacos really shine buy freshly made tortillas from a local taqueria or Mexican market.

Vegetarian, vegan option and gluten free

Ingredients

    Winter Squash
  • 1 (1 lb 12 oz / 788 g) winter squash like butternut or kabocha
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¾ Kosher salt
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
    Black Beans
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz (102 g) white onion, minced (about half an onion)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled, green germ removed and minced
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried epazote, crumbled
  • 1 lb (500 g) drained and rinsed cooked black beans, or 2 -15 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed. Reserve some of the bean liquid.
  • Kosher salt to taste
    Assemble the Tacos
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Roasted winter squash
  • Black bean spread
  • 1 avocado, sliced thin
  • Cotija Cheese or Feta cheese
  • Creme fraiche (optional)
  • Small handful of cilantro, minced
  • ¼ cup roasted salted peanuts
  • 2 TB hulled pumpkin seeds
  • Salsa verde

Instructions

    Roast the winter squash
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C
  2. Peel the winter squash and slice into wedges, thicker than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
  3. Place the winter squash in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. In a small bowl mix together Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, garlic powder and Kosher salt until evenly combined.
  5. Drizzle olive oil and spice mix over the prepared squash. Toss the wedges with your clean hands until they are completely coated with olive oil and spice mix.
  6. Place the seasoned squash on a baking sheet and arrange the wedges on their side. Bake in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
  7. Check the squash and turn them over on the other side. Continue to bake until the centers are soft. Depending on the thickness of the squash wedges, determines how how long they need to roast. Mine took a total of 40 minutes, but they were very thick wedges.
  8. Turn down the oven to 350°F / 175°C and remove the squash. Loosely cover and keep warm. If you have a warming oven, keep the squash warm in there.
    Black beans
  1. While the squash is roasting in the oven, cook the black beans. In a medium skillet, turn the heat to medium and heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook until soft but not browned. Stir occasionally so the onions do not burn or brown, about 6 - 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the minced garlic and epazote, and stir into the onions.
  2. Once the onions are done, add the cooked black beans and stir to mix, then cook until heated all the way through.
  3. Taste and correct seasoning with more Kosher salt, or epazote if needed.
  4. Turn off the heat and remove about a third of the cooked beans and place in a small bowl, or food processor. Add about 1 -2 tablespoons of reserved bean liquid and mush the beans with a fork, or purée with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Add the puréed beans back into the skillet with the black beans and onions. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and loosely cover to keep warm.
  5. If you need to reheat the beans turn on the heat to medium and add a little extra virgin olive oil. Warm the beans until your desired temperature.
    Tortillas
  1. Warm your tortillas in a 350°F (175°C) oven. Stack 4 tortillas and wrap in foil. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Place the tortillas in the oven and bake until warm for15 minutes. If possible, time it so tortillas and black beans are done at the same time. See blog story for a link about other ways to warm up tortillas.
    Assemble the tacos
  1. Place a heaping tablespoon of the beans on a tortilla and spread it into a circle in the center of the tortilla. Place a couple of wedges of the winter squash on the beans. Add one slice of avocado. Garnish with some crumbled feta or cotija cheese, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde, minced cilantro, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.
  2. Serve immediately

Notes

You will probably have more beans than you need. You can save the beans and make them into black bean spread or dip as an appetizer. Or serve with rice and roasted or sautéed vegetables for a complete vegetarian meal. Or as a side dish with grilled meats.

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Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Cold Sesame Noodles

Cold Sesame Noodles, a recipe.

Pasta, Recent Posts, Recipes, Vegetarian | February 16, 2018 | By

Next to avocados, cold sesame noodles is one of my all-time favorite foods. Often, I crave that nutty sesame taste with light but rich silky noodles. My first introduction to sesame noodles happened during my college years when I was living in the West Village of New York City. I had very little money to spend so I often looked for food that was within my meager means. Next to spending $2 for a falafel sandwich, cold sesame noodles was the next best deal.

My favorite sesame noodles came from a tiny restaurant in China Town called Little Szechuan. These noodles were light and not weighted down with peanut butter and sesame paste. They also had a great spicy kick. To this day I have not had sesame noodles that even compare the Little Szechuan’s noodles.  Often, I walked from my apartment on West Street in the Village to China Town just to have these spicy Szechuan noodles.

Cold Sesame Noodles, a recipe.

Cold Sesame noodles, a recipe.

Little Szechuan was a tiny restaurant located in a remote area of China Town. At most it had a total of 6 tables and was located on a hidden narrow street leading to another meandering road. I can’t remember the name of the street or how I knew about it. Yes, it sounds odd to describe a place in Manhattan as “remote”, but they exist, even on an island populated with over 8 million people.

Because I adore anything made with sesame seeds, it is not a hard job researching and testing recipes for the perfect cold sesame noodles. My main criteria are, they are not thick and gloppy with peanut butter. I want to taste the toasted sesame and not be weighed down by a pasty sauce. However, peanut butter is an important ingredient in sesame noodles because it keeps the sauce emulsified, like Dijon mustard does in a vinaigrette. Without peanut butter, the tahini or sesame paste will taste chalky and dry.

Cold sesame noodles, a recipe.

As I researched and tested many recipes over the years, I discovered they usually share the same ingredients. The main difference is how many of the specialty Chinese ingredients are used vs a more available substitute. The main differences come down to the proportions of each ingredient to get the deep umami and spicy flavor without feeling like you just ate a brick.

Unfortunately, if you want to make cold sesame noodles you must buy some specialty ingredients. The primary ones are the dark sesame oil and the sesame paste or tahini. The other ones are easier to work around. For instance, instead of Chinese sesame paste use tahiniBlack vinegar has a deep dark flavor that adds a nice element, but rice vinegar is much more common and affordable. I specified garlic chili paste  but chili oil is as common in most recipes. Or you can make the garlic chili paste or chili oil if you prefer. It is a lot to think about and these ingredients do add up, so do what is best for you. The good news is, if you invest in buying some of the ingredients like sesame oil, it will keep for a long time in the refrigerator. Also, there are other recipes to use them in.

Cold Sesame Noodles, a recipe.

I am feeling guilty asking to buy all these specialty foods. Fortunately, some of them are easy to get at your grocery store and might already own them. Soy sauce, tahini (Jayva brand is usually next to the peanut butter), and natural peanut butter are widely available. Rice vinegar is also located in the grocery with the other types of vinegar, or in the International section.

The other crazy thing is the packaging of the noodles. Unlike dried Italian pasta, most Asian noodle brands come in different size packages. I have seen them in sizes ranging from 5 oz to 12 oz. However, the amount of dried noodles or pasta you buy does not need to be exact.  It is my opinion, the amount of sauce in this recipe is perfect for 10 ounces of noodles. If you need to make more, just double or make one and a half times the amount of sesame sauce to nicely coat your noodles. After you made it once you will learn how much sauce you need. You can find Asian noodles at the grocery located in the International food section and at Asian markets. You can also buy as many packs of dried Ramen noodle soup you want and throw out the seasoning packet.

Serve cold sesame noodles with

Pork Fried Dumplings, Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach, Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms, Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Cold sesame noodles are great for family gathering, vegetarian meals, or vegan dinners if your noodles don’t have eggs. When I want a more substantial meal I add shredded pieces of cooked chicken to the noodles for some extra protein. Other vegetables like broccoli also taste great with cold noodles.

Cold Sesame Noodles, a recipe.

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Cold Sesame Noodles

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Category: Side Dish or Vegetarian Meal

Cuisine: Chinese

4-6 servings

Cold Sesame Noodles

Cold sesame noodles have a nice toasted sesame flavor and a great slippery texture. I love to pair crunchy cucumbers and daikon, or watermelon radish will these nutty noodles for a contrasting crunch and refreshing bite against the smooth and rich noodles. If you like your sesame noodles spicy, add more of the chili garlic paste to your liking.

Add some shredded cooked chicken meat for a light dinner.

Ingredients

  • 10 oz Chinese Lo Mien, Ramen, or spaghetti noodles
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin on a diagonal. White and green parts
  • 1 medium (5 - 6.5 oz / 145 - 190 g) seedless cucumber
  • 2-inch piece of daikon radish, or 1- 2 (3 oz / 88 g) watermelon radishes, or carrots
  • 2 TBS (21 g) toasted sesame oil,* extra to coat the cooked noodles
  • 3 TBS (46 g / 150 ml) soy sauce
  • 2 TBS (25 g) unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 TBS (40 g) tahini or dark sesame paste
  • 1 TB (21 g) smooth natural peanut butter
  • 1-2 tsp (4 - 8 g) brown sugar
  • 1 TB (18 g) chili garlic paste*
  • 1 tsp (2.5 g) Chinese black vinegar8
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, green germ removed and minced or grated
  • 1½ - inch (4 cm) piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • roasted and salted peanuts rough chop, for garnish
  • chopped cilantro for garnish, optional

Instructions

    Prep your vegetables
  1. Peel and scrape out any seeds. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then cut each half in quarters. Cut each quarter into 1 - 2-inch (2.5 - 5.5 cm) strips. Set aside
  2. Peel the radish and slice into very thin disc less than 1/8-inch (2 mm) thick. Cut each disk into matchstick size strips. Set in a small bowl filled with ice water. Set aside.
  3. Take the sliced scallions and add to a small bowl filled with ice water. Keep the scallions and radishes in their ice bath for 15 minutes, or until you assemble and serve the sesame noodles. Set aside.
    Cook the Pasta
  1. Bring a big pot of water to boil and cook the noodles according to the directions. Some noodles take 3 minutes to reach al dente, some take 10 minutes. If you are using the curly lo mien noodles stir with a fork to help separate the noodles without breaking them. Be careful not to burn your hand and overcook the noodles. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse in cold running water to stop the cooking. Once the noodles are cooled, shake out any excess water and carefully dump the noodles on a clean flour sack towel, or other lint free kitchen towel. Carefully pat the noodles lightly dry.
  2. Plop the cooled noodles into a large mixing bowl add 2 teaspoon of dark sesame oil and using clean hands carefully toss the noodles until nicely coated. Set aside.
    Make the sauce
  1. In a medium mixing bowl add the toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste or tahini, peanut butter, brown sugar, chili garlic paste, black vinegar, minced garlic and minced ginger. With a wire whisk, whisk all the ingredients together until smooth and incorporated. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning with using any of the sesame sauce ingredients you wish, if needed.
  2. Add about 2/3 of the sauce to the noodles and toss with your clean hands to evenly coat the noodles. Taste and add more sauce if needed.
  3. Drain the scallions and radishes and pat dry.
  4. Add most of the remaining vegetables to the noodles, leaving some for a garnishing. Toss with your hands to mix together.
  5. Scoop the cold sesame noodles out of the bowl and onto a serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, cilantro if using, and remaining vegetables.
  6. Serve immediately.
  7. Do ahead note- If you make this in advance. Mix together the noodles and the vegetables and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Make the sesame sauce and cover with plastic wrap and keep on the counter until ready to serve. Add the sauce to the noodles right before serving.

Notes

There are two types of sesame oil. One is light in color and the other is darker because it is made with toasted sesame seeds. This recipe uses the darker sesame oil and is found in health food stores, Asian markets, or the international food section at your grocery store. Store dark sesame oil in your refrigerator, especially if you do not use it that often. My favorite brand is Spectrum and found in Health Food Stores, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods.

Chili garlic paste is found in most Asian markets and similar too Sambal Oelek. You can substitute these items with Hot Chili oil if you cannot find them. Add a little and taste as you mix the sauce, then add more as needed. If you want to keep your costs down and already have Sriracha sauce, use that instead. It has a very different flavor from the garlic chili paste but it does have a nice spicy flavor.

Black vinegar is also a specialty item found in Asian Markets. It has a very strong flavor and adds some great depth to the sauce. I totally understand if you want to skip out on buying it, but it will last forever in a cool pantry and is used in many Asian food recipes.

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A recipe for Cold Sesame Noodles

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Celebrate Chinese New Year Lunar Year of the Dog

Celebrate Chinese New Year Lunar Year of the Dog

I don’t need an excuse to make Chinese food at home, but Chinese New Year is a fun excuse to have. I love Chinese food. All the different seasonings like soy sauce, chilies, ginger, and dark sesame oil, create a rich and flavorful meal. Additionally, some meals like stir fries are quick and easy to prepare. As a cook, it is one of my aspirations to learn how to make a variety of Chinese foods. I have an insatiable curiosity about all things food related so it is hard to resist the temptation to write a post about this special occasion. As I learn about different foods and cultures, I want to share my findings in hopes to encourage you to expand your food repertoire. Also, in the process of sharing, I might learn a thing or two from one of you.

With such a rich and important Chinese American history in the US, learning about the different traditions is one way to respect our differences and common values. Traditions. Good Health. Long life. Success. Prosperity. Auspiciousness. Family. Food.

A list of some dishes served for Chinese New Year and their meaning

Celebrate Chinese New Year Lunar Year of the Dog

Spring Rolls symbolize wealth because their shape resembles a gold bar.

Dumplings, because of their shape symbolize family reunion and wealth. The crescent shape is like the ancient Chinese coins called silver ingots.

Longevity Noodles symbolize long life and happiness. Never cut the noodles, it is ok to slurp these babies up.

Celebrate Chinese New Year the Lunar Year of the Dog

Celebrate Chinese New Year the Lunar Year of the Dog

Whole fish symbolizes an increase in wealth, or surplus, “May you always have more than you need.” The word for fish in Chinese, “Yú”, sounds like the word for surplus. I linked my recipe for rainbow trout. If you make this recipe for Chinese New Year, do not cut off the heads and tails. Serve the fish intact. The “beginnings” and “ends” have significant meaning for Chinese New Year. Another recipe to try is whole steamed fish from David Tanis of the New York Times.

Whole Chicken, is usually boiled in a flavorful broth and cut up. Yet, I think it is ok to serve a whole roast chicken. A whole chicken is a symbol for family togetherness and happiness.

Celebrate Chinese New Year the Lunar Year of the Dog

Vegetable dishes are also important because the spring is the time to plant new seeds. Bok Choy is a favorite or try my Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms. Even my Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise would work.

Fresh fruit like oranges are important, as the round shape and color represent wholeness and good fortune.

Glutenous Rice Cakes  Nian Gao, the round shape symbolizes family togetherness and the sweet taste means a rich and sweet life.

Celebrate Chinese New Year, the Lunar Year of the Dog

On New Year’s Day it is important to eat a vegetarian meal. You can make my fried rice recipe and omit the salmon and add sautéed broccoli and spinach.

Links for more information about Chinese New Year

This list of foods and their symbolism is short and generalized. My idea to write about the different foods and their symbolism is not meant to Americanize an important Chinese tradition, but to introduce the significance for each dish. You can find more information from these websites that I used as resources. The SpruceChinese New Year 2018, and China Highlights. Here is a link for information about the Lunar Year of the Dog.

The idea of preparing a traditional Chinese New Year feast is daunting, especially because I have no experience at it. In preparation for Chinese New Year the making and eating of specific foods is a huge part of the celebration. Also, having family around to celebrate with is central to the New Year celebration. This list is just a small selection of some foods served during Chinese New Year. Because preparing a Chinese New Year feast takes a lot of work, I plan to build up my menu a little at a time. Every year I hope to get closer to making a full feast of my own. Until then, baby steps. It is my hope that this sample whets your appetite for more and inspires you to cook Chinese food at home.

Gǒunián dàjí, “Lots of luck for this Dog year”

Xīnnián hǎo, “Happy New Year”

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, recipe.

The first time I saw my husband drowning his rice with soy sauce, I knew I needed to find a way to change this habit. No matter what we were eating if there was white or brown rice, the soy sauce came out of the refrigerator and set at the table. The irony is, he did not pour soy sauce on his rice when we ate Chinese food. For some reason, rice bathed in soy sauce really bothered me, especially when our sons followed his example. To me it was like adding a tablespoon of table salt to the already seasoned rice. All you would taste is the soy sauce and not the rice. Basmati or jasmine rice have such a clean flavor and is a lovely compliment for the main entrée at its side. It is a shame to disguise the clean flavor of this comforting grain.

From that moment, I changed the way I cook rice. Unless I am serving rice with a stew or a saucy entrée, I usually cook rice in vegetable or chicken stock and add some sautéed mushrooms and green peas. The mushrooms add subtle flavor and usually compliments the other parts of the meal. Even those perks can get mundane if it is a regular item with dinner. It is time to switch things up.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, a recipe

Crunchy Jasmine Rice, recipe.

Recently, I discovered Patricia Wells’ recipe, Crunchy Jasmine Rice from Master Recipes, and I had to try it. Often, I garnish rice with pistachios or almonds and fresh herbs, but it never occurred to me to cook rice with nuts or seeds because I thought they would get soggy. Surprisingly, the peanuts kept their crunch after cooking with the rice. This recipe is brilliant in its’ simplicity and has an addictive nutty flavor. Besides the great taste, one of the best features of this jasmine rice is once the water boils, the rice cooks in 10 minutes. At first, I did not believe it, but it is true the rice cooks in 10 minutes. The rice wasn’t hard, mushy or chalky, just sweet grains of jasmine rice with the peanuts and seeds cooked to perfection.

The only change I made was to add fresh minced herbs like parsley and celery leaves. The fresh herb flavor gives an extra punch of sunshine to the nutty rice. The next time I make it I want to add some golden raisins soaked in red wine vinegar. The sweetness from the raisins and a touch of acid will really liven up this side dish.

Crunchy jasmine rice is a wonderful side dish with just about anything like grilled meats, roasts, chicken and fish. If you are allergic to peanuts substitute them with cashews, walnuts or hulled pumpkin seeds. Serve crunchy rice immediately or turn it into a rice salad with raisins, chopped vegetables and a light vinaigrette. Dress the rice salad right before you want to serve it.

Serve Crunchy Jasmine Rice With:

Oven Poached Sole Wrapped in Fresh Herbs

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, a recipe.

How to Make a Vegan Entrée with Crunchy Jasmine Rice

Most plant foods do not have all twelve of the essential amino acids, commonly known as the proteins. Vegetarian and vegan diets benefit from food combining. Honestly, all diets benefit from food combining. When eaten separately, legumes and grains come up short providing all 12 of the essential amino acids. When combined in one meal they compliment each other nutritiously and as well as flavor. What grains lack in essential proteins, legumes have. Jasmine rice mixed with peanuts and seeds become a foundation for a complete vegetarian meal.

I like to mix additional legumes like lentils with crunchy jasmine rice for a vegetarian or vegan main entrée. I add about 1 – 2 cups (250 – 500 ml) of cooked Du Puy, or Pardina lentils, to the bowl of crunchy jasmine rice. Then, I make a rice bowl with the rice and lentil mix and add some fresh and roasted vegetables.  Top it off with some tahini dressing. Tahini dressing happens to be one of my favorite dressing and accentuates the nutty flavor of the rice.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, a recipe.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 13 minutes

Category: Side Dish or Vegetarian Meal

6 servings

Serving Size: 3/4 cup for a side dish

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice

For those moments when plain rice just isn't enough. This is a great rice side dish with a nutty flavor. If you can't eat peanuts, walnuts or cashews would taste great. Or, make it nut free and substitute the peanuts with hulled pumpkin seeds.

Serve this as a side dish with just about anything like chicken, fish, beef or lamb. Or as the foundation for a delicious vegan or vegetarian entree with lentils, roasted vegetables and tahini dressing.

This recipe is from Patricia Wells, Master Recipes .

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (125 ml / 60 g) roasted and salted peanuts
  • 1 ½ cups (375 ml / 250 g) jasmine rice
  • ½ cup (125 ml / 70 g) mixed sesame seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 cups ( 500 ml) water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • ½ cup chopped parsley and celery leaves

Instructions

  1. Coarsely chop the peanuts and place them in a 3-quart sauce pan.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and turn the heat on the stove to high. Bring the rice mixture to a boil, then cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Simmer until the rice is cooked al dente, about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the bay leaf and add the cooked rice to a large mixing bowl. Fluff the rice with a fork and add the parsley and celery leaves.
  4. Serve warm.
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Crunchy Jasmine Rice, recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Sriracha Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

Sriracha chicken with sweet potatoes and broccoli, recipe.

We eat a lot of chicken so to break up a pattern of eating the same thing every time chicken is on the menu, I look for recipes with lots of flavor and ease of preparation. Several years ago I came across David Lebovitz recipe for Chicken Lady Chicken in his cookbook, My Paris Kitchen. After reading his description, I knew it was going to be one of the first recipes to try out for myself. In the recipe, David marinates a spatchcock chicken in harissa, wine, mustard, garlic, soy sauce and honey overnight then browns the chicken in a skillet before baking it in the oven. It is delicious and one of my favorite recipes from his book.

Sriracha Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli, recipe.

Sometimes, I forget to plan ahead for an overnight marinate and often need to adjust the recipe and marinate for an hour or less. Marinating a whole chicken for less than an hour is not worth the effort, so I found it best to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  As a result of my inability to plan ahead, sriracha chicken was born. I use the same marinade from Chicken Lady Chicken, or a slight variation thereof, with boneless chicken thighs and bake them in the oven. What I get is golden chicken thighs with the bright sriracha flavor and lots of pan juices. For today’s purpose, I made a whole meal out of Sriracha chicken by adding sweet potatoes, broccoli, shallots and garlic cloves for an easy weeknight chicken dinner.

Sriracha Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli, recipe.

Sriracha chicken with sweet potatoes and broccoli, recipe.

I am particularly fond of making meals that cook together in the oven. With just some initial prep work, I am free to relax while the oven does all the work. My favorite combination is marinated chicken with potatoes and shallots. The marinade and juices from the chicken infuses with the potatoes and shallots making them silky and full of flavor. Any type of wax potato will work, but sweet potatoes add a whole other flavor component which compliments the layer of heat from the sriracha chicken.

Sriracha chicken with sweet potatoes and broccoli, recipe.

For more roast chicken dinner recipes check out: Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken and Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken.

This winter I have grown especially fond of oven roasted broccoli. The broccoli spears get nice and browned adding a slightly charred and caramelized flavor. This winter is just too cold, and the toasted notes of roasted vegetables warms me up. I especially like roasting whole garlic cloves protected in its peel with the broccoli. Roasted garlic softens and becomes wonderfully sweet. It does not burn and taste bitter like it would if you roasted the broccoli with minced garlic. The key to perfectly roasted garlic with vegetables or meats is use medium-sized garlic cloves. If they are too big, the garlic cloves won’t finish roasting at the same time as the broccoli, sweet potatoes or chicken.

Sriracha chicken with sweet potatoes and broccoli, recipe.

Helpful Tips for making Sriracha Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

Combining all the ingredients in one pan just made sense to me. All that goodness roasting together in the oven is hard to resist. Unfortunately, they do not all fit on one sheet pan like I planned. Spreading them out between 2 pans is the best option.

  • Roast the sriracha chicken, sweet potatoes and shallots on the larger pan, while the broccoli and the garlic roast on a smaller one. You could divide the ingredients strewn together between two medium same size pans. Yet, I like keeping the chicken thighs all on one pan to produce the most amount of pan juices as possible.
  • For silky potatoes, roast the potatoes with the marinated chicken and remaining marinade along with the shallots. On another pan, roast the broccoli and garlic cloves.
  • If you prefer crispy potatoes, roast them separately and add the garlic, shallots and broccoli to the pan with the chicken. You may need more olive oil for the sweet potatoes if you do.
  • It is important to make sure you have the right size pan. If the pan is too large, the pan juices will dry up. Too small and the chicken will steam and get a mushy texture.
  • For boneless and skinless chicken, thighs work better than breasts. Use this marinade for boneless chicken breasts, pounded about a half-inch thick and marinate the chicken for less than an hour. Grill the chicken breasts over medium high heat.

Sriracha Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

Prep Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Category: Entree Meal

4-6 servings

Sriracha Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

This recipe is easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner and fancy enough to serve for a dinner party. Chicken thighs marinate in a sriracha marinade for at least an hour then roast in the oven with sweet potatoes and broccoli. You can easily adjust the level of heat from the sriracha by using more or less sriracha depending on how you like it. Feel free to substitute the sriracha with harissa.

Roasted garlic tastes so good with the broccoli. Make sure each garlic clove is not too big, otherwise it will not finish roasting when the broccoli and chicken are done. Each person can squeeze out the garlic from the peel on their own plate.

The sriracha marinade is slightly adapted from David Lebovitz My Paris Kitchen, "Chicken Lady Chicken recipe

This recipe is best eaten immediately and hot. Any leftovers are easily warmed in a microwave oven for a couple of minutes.

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs- about 2.5 lbs (1 kg 154 g)
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 TB extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TB dry white wine
  • 1 ½ tsp sriracha or harissa (more, or less depending on how spicy you like your food)
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 1-2 TBS minced fresh tarragon, more for garnish
  • About 1 lb (476 g) sweet potatoes, about 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • About two heads of broccoli, 1 lb 5 oz (673 g)
  • 4 - 6 medium size garlic cloves, peel on
  • 6 (5 ½ oz / 161 g) small shallots, peeled and separated
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste

Instructions

    Prepare the marinade
  1. Trim off extra fat from the chicken thighs and place in a large non-reactive mixing bowl. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and toss the chicken around with your clean hands to spread the salt evenly over the chicken thighs. Clean your hands and set the bowl of chicken aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, white wine, sriracha, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and minced tarragon. Whisk until the honey is completely dissolved and the marinade is evenly combined.
  3. Pour the marinade over the chicken and use your clean hands to mix the chicken to get an even coating over each thigh. Clean your hands and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. If you are cooking the chicken right away, let the chicken marinate on the counter for no more than an hour. Otherwise, refrigerate the chicken. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you want to roast it.
    Prepare the Vegetables
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Place two oven racks in the two middle slots in the oven, making sure there is enough space between each rack for two sheet pans with all the ingredients to fit between.
  2. Trim each head of broccoli by cutting off part of each stem. Use a vegetable peeler to gently peel off the outer layer of the broccoli stem and remove any leaves, (see note). Cut up the broccoli into spears, making sure they are even in size. Add to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters, lengthwise. Cut each potato wedge into pieces about 1 ½ inches (3.5 cm) in size. Add to bowl with the broccoli spears.
  4. If any of the shallots look too fat, slice them in half lengthwise. Add the shallots and garlic cloves to the bowl. Add the remaining extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt with several rounds of black pepper and toss to evenly coat the vegetables. I mixed everything together in one bowl to save on cleaning up two mixing bowls. If you prefer, keep the broccoli and garlic separate from the sweet potatoes and shallots. They will eventually go on different sheet pans.
    Putting it all together
  1. When you are ready to roast your dinner, spread out the chicken thighs over one large rimmed sheet pan large enough to accommodate the chicken thighs, the marinade, sweet potatoes and shallots. Spread out the sweet potatoes and shallots between and around the chicken thighs. You want enough space for air to circulate around the chicken and potatoes, but not too big to dry up all the juices. The area of my sheet pan for the chicken was approximately 11.5 x 16 inches (29 x 40 cm).
  2. Spread the broccoli and garlic cloves over a small sheet pan approximately 8.5 x 11.5 inches (21.5 x 29 cm).
  3. Place each sheet pan on its' own rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. After 20 minutes switch the two sheet pans, from top to bottom and front to back for even roasting. Continue to bake for 20 more minutes.
  5. Check the chicken thighs for doneness. Pierce the biggest thigh with a fork, if you feel some resistance the chicken it is not done. Also, the juices from the chicken will run clear when the chicken is done. If the juices are cloudy or pink, the chicken needs more time to cook. The internal temperature of properly cooked chicken is 165°F/ 74°C. The potatoes and broccoli are done when they feel soft through the middle when pierced with a fork. If the broccoli is finished cooking before the chicken, remove it from the oven and keep warm.
  6. When the chicken is done, turn on the broiler and remove the broccoli if you have not done so already. Baste the chicken with any pan juices and broil the chicken for a couple of minutes to brown the edges of the chicken to your likeness.
  7. When the meal is done roasting, arrange the chicken, sweet potatoes, broccoli, garlic, and shallots on one serving platter then pour any pan juices over the chicken. Place on the dining table. Or arrange the food on a plate for individual servings. Make sure to include any accumulated juices from the chicken, a garlic clove and shallot on each plate. Each person can squeeze the garlic out of its peel and spread it on the broccoli or potatoes. Garnish with fresh tarragon.
  8. Serve immediately.

Notes

Use most of the plant: Broccoli stems are very sweet. You can cut the removed stems into wedges and add to the broccoli spears. Cut the stem in quarters lengthwise to make a wedge. The very end of each stem is woody, so cut off that section and discard.

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Sriracha chicken with sweet potatoes and broccoli. A chicken dinner recipe.

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