Sweet and sour pork with rhubarb

In the United States and Europe, rhubarb is known as the pie plant and in fact we tend to use it in sweet dishes; however, in Asia, it is more used in savory dishes. Today, I’m presenting a savory dish that was inspired by a blog. The rhubarb gives the sour taste that is balanced out nicely with the sweet and hot Chinese sauce and the bitter bamboo shoots. I chose broccoli as the main vegetable for the dish. If you prefer a vegetarian alternative, please check out my previous recipe that is a similaly made with tofu.

Rhubarb is everywhere here in the Midwest right now. It is almost ready in my garden but it has been available for a few weeks at the farmers’ market for sure. It is actually a healthy plant. Rhubarb has favorable health effects in the spring and the summer as it is cooling and detoxifying to the liver. The stems are good source of antioxidants, vitamin K and fiber. The Chinese also use the roots for its medicinal properties. In fact, it is so important for the Chinese that they consider it to be one of the ten most important herbs for healing.

So what’s up with the ketchup? Is it Chinese? … I think of American cooking when I hear the word ketchup but in fact it originated from China. It is basically a sweet and tangy sauce made with tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and spices. It actually means fish sauce as they traditionally addded fermented fish sauce. For this recipe we just need the basic ketchup, so go ahead and just use store-bought ketchup – unless of course you want to make it yourself.

This is a very tasty dish! I really wanted to make a dinner with rhubarb and I found this recipe. I made a few changes to suit my taste. I cut the pork into long strips instead of squares. I replaced the green peppers with broccoli. Also, I wanted to bring in more of the bitter flavor so I added bamboo shoots to offset the sourness of the rhubarb. And for garnishing, I also added peanuts to get a bit of crunchyness. I think this is a fabulous recipe with an interesting twist to the usual sweet and sour pork dish that is served in restaurants with pineapples.

RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 300g pork fillet, cut into thin long stipes or 1 inch cubes
  • About 3 medium stems of rhubarb (200g) cut into 1 inch batons – please use a scale
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 large onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin slivers
  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 1 thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped (1 Tbsp)
  • sesame oils, for frying
  • 1 small can of bamboo shoots
  • 2 cups of raw rice (or rice noodles)
  • Marinade
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 Tbsp of corn starch

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 4 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup of water
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Garnish

  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 mild red chilli pepper (optional), finely chopped
  • cilantro
  • handfull of chopped peanuts
  • soy sauce

Instructions

Prepare rice according to its instructions. I used rice noodle last time.

Cut the pork pieces into longer (2 inches) thin (half inch) stripes. You can do squares too but the Chinese do long stripes traditionally.

Whisk together the marinade ingredients, add the pork, cover well and set aside for at least a half an hour or up to a couple of hours.

In another bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Cover and put aside.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and add the rhubarb batons in a single layer. Cook for about a minute and a half and keeping them moving. Add a heaped tablespoon of soft light brown sugar, toss and cook for about minute more. You want them to have tenderised but still to have some bite. If they start breaking up, you’ve gone too far. Whip them off the heat immediately. Scoop into a bowl and set aside.

Take the pork out of the refrigerator, pour off the marinade and dry with a towel.

Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil, I used sesame oil in a wok and stir-fry the pork on a medium-high heat for three or four minutes, until golden brown. Remove and keep to one side.

Make sure you’ve prepped all the vegetables before you start cooking the main event, because they will cook fast.

Saute the sliced onion until translucent. Add the ginger and the broccoli and continue sauteing for about 5 minutes or until it is crunchy on medium high heat. Give the sauce (from above) a quick whisk, then pour it into the pan. Add the rhubarb and the bamboo shoots and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for three or four minutes until thick. Add the pork and toss and coat well until the pork is warm.

Add soy sauce and chilli pepper if needed.

Serve over rice, garnished with the sliced spring onion , cilantro, nuts.

enjoy!

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketchup

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/35104325/posts/55143

Photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Eating with the summer season (no recipes)

SUMMER

Here is the season that we had been waiting for since the winter! We have been witnessing the buds emerging on the plants and maturing into full grown plants … oh and the days getting longer and warmer. Now finally we can appreciate what nature can give: warmth, light and food. This is a great time to get outside, socialize, travel, eat the abundant fruits and vegetables or just have fun. We can take an advantage of all the gorgeous flowers blooming outside and bring them inside.

In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with a natural element so summer is associated with Fire. Also, each element has corresponding western organs. The western organs of the Fire element are the Heart and the Small Intestines and in addition, the Pericardium and the Triple Warmer are included. Also, this element contains the Mind, a rather difficult concept for Westerners. (I capitalized the organs because in Chinese Medicine, it is more like an organ is considered to be the organ itself and its energetic functions)

One of the elements in nature is Fire, in fact, it is probably the most important one for our survival. Fire or warmth is essential to keep the body going, our metabolism and our whole body depends on it. According to Karl Jung, Fire is needed to have clear perception. Also, “psychotherapists believe that ‘cooking’ is important for meaningful changes to occur in their patients”. In fact, “throughtout the history of humankind, the symbol of Fire has always been synonymus with life”.

In Chinese Medicine, the heart, the Emperor of our body, is not necessarly treated directly as it depends on other organs for its nourishment. Basically, you are to take care of your body in order to keep the heart healthy. For prevention, we are supposed to attend to all the other organs all year around to help the heart function properly. There are several foods that are beneficial for the Heart but this list is pretty short. So this could be a quick write-up if I just wanted to list these foods but there is so much to this element and it is quite fascinating.

It is believed that if the heart is not happy, nobody is happy. So let’s see what would be ideal for a happy heart. The heart needs to be warm, neither cold or hot. So avoid getting overheated during the summer and getting too cold during the winter. Another factor that can influence our heart is our emotions. Emotions out of balance can negatively effect the heart. Furthermore, the heart’s energy tends to move downward that the bitter flavored foods support.The heart also enjoys nourishing foods.

The heart’s ‘partner’, the Small Intestine is responsible for sorting out the pure from impure, separating the wheat from the chaff. It absorbs the usable food for assimilation and gets rid of the useless material through the colon. This is also true not only at the physical level but at the spiritual level, too. The Small Intestine helps the body sort through important information and toxic information. So the healthy Small Intestine helps us in letting go of unneeded things in our life and by the same token an unhealthy Small Intestine will accumulate toxins leading to the pollution of our body, mind and spirit.

We can certainly nourish the small intestines with food. It is part of the elimination system so food would be important. Fiber rich foods will make the intestines work more efficiently and hence result in a more efficient absorption of nutrients. Foods like nuts and seeds can supply this necessary protein and fiber. Of course, any kind of whole grain is helpful as well in providing fiber. In addition, it is summer, so we can take an advantage of all the fruits and vegetables, they are an excellent source of fiber. Probiotics such lactobacilus and bifidobacterium can be beneficial for the small intestines as well which can be found in yoghurt, kefir, fermented foods etc.

The biggest issue during the summer months is the heat. So all cooling foods especially the brightly colored fruits and vegetables are great. In Chinese Medicine, the red color is associated with the Fire element. It is believed that consuming foods that are red (watermelon, strawberries, red beans, goji berries, red peppers, chili peppers, hibiscous flower) and heart shaped (chickpeas) are beneficial for the heart.

Also, to help calm the mind and deal with the heat of the summer, it is recommended to eat a more simple diet with light foods and avoiding complicated dishes. Oyster shells, whole grains, mushrooms, barley, oats, cucumber, basil, mulberries, lemon, ghee are especially useful. The flavor of the summer is bitter and it is recommended to eat bitter foods because it brings energy from the brain, the mind down to the body. (Summer bitter foods include all whole grains, bamboo shoots, celery, dill, lettuce).

To work with the summer season, mainly its heat, we need to make some changes to our cooking methods. Of course, most people will eat some raw foods; however, cooking some food is still recommended supplementing the raw foods. Cooking should be quick on high heat using little salt and more water. Add hot, pungent natured foods to your meal and eliminate heavy foods to avoid sluggishness. In hot climates, it is customary to add lots of hot peppers to open up the pores and release the excess heat from the body. (Of course, this should be done with some caution as too much hot pepper can injure the stomach).

SOURCES

Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods

Gary Dolowich: Archetypal Acupuncture

Art: Unknown

Written by twincitiesherbs.com.

A quick reference to my summer recipes

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2020/06/26/zucchini-fritatta-with-basil/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2020/07/01/blueberry-lemonade-with-basil/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2020/06/19/summer-soltice-cookies/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2020/06/08/fresh-salsa-recipe/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2020/06/06/sweet-and-sour-pork-with-rhubarb/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2020/05/30/hot-and-sour-tofu-with-rhubarb/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/10/01/moroccan-eggplant-stew-with-garbanzo-beans/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/09/19/vegetarian-moussaka/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/09/11/eggplant-parmesan/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/08/23/hungarian-cucumber-salad/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/08/18/hungarian-sour-cherry-soup-meggyleves/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/07/09/kohlrabi-soup-karalabe-leves/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/06/18/hungarian-pea-soup-borsoleves/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/06/04/black-bean-burger/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/05/21/rhubarb-cobbler/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/08/12/cucumber-pickles-1/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/08/20/pesto/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/08/31/turkish-stuffed-eggplants-with-lamb-karni-yarik/

https://twincitiesherbs.com/2019/08/31/turkish-stuffed-eggplants-vegetarian/

Hot and sour tofu with rhubarb

In the United States and Europe, rhubarb is known as the pie plant and in fact we tend to use it in sweet dishes. However, in Asia, it is more used in savory main dishes. Today, I’m presenting a savory dish that was inspired by the following blogs: ( blog 1 and blog 2). The rhubarb gives the sour taste that is balanced out nicely with the sweet and hot Chinese sauce and the bitter bamboo shoots. I chose broccoli as the main vegetable for the dish. Traditionally, pork is used but is replaced here with the tofu. In the original recipe, the raw rhubarb is blended in the sauce but I made it more traditionally sautéed like the rest of the vegetables.

For the meat version of this dish, please, see this recipe.

Recipe


Serves: 4 people  

Ingredients

  • 500g tofu
  • 2 tsp + 3 Tbsp honey (or replace with agaste sauce for a vegan option)
  • 1/4 tsp five spice
  • chili flakes to taste
  • Sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp sake
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine
  • 3 Tbsp graded ginger
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 large cloves garlic
  • 200g of rhubarb stalks (about 3 smaller or 2 bigger stalks)
  • 2 large heads of broccoli
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (8oz/225g) of bamboo shoots, drained
  • handful of penuts, chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • lime
  • cilantro
  • rice or rice noodles

Ingredients listed as used in groups

Rice or rice noodles

Marinade/tofu: 2 tsp honey, 1/4 tsp five spice powder, 1/4 tsp red chilli pepper flakes (optional), 1 Tbsp seasame oil, 3 Tbsp rice vinegar, 3 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 500 g tofu.

The sauce: 5 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp honey, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp ginger, 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (or to taste).

Vegetables: 200g (3 medium sized) rhubarb stalks, 1 large onion, 2 heads of broccoli, 1 can of bamboo shoots.

Toppings: handful of chopped peanuts, 4 scallions, small handfull coriander, soy sauce and limes.


Directions

  • The rice.  Make the rice of your choice. I used sushi rice.
  • Cut up the tofu so it is about 1 cm / 1/2 inch thick. I made triangular shapes but rectangular or square shapes are fine too.
  • Mix the ingredients of the marinade in a small bowl and pour it all over the tofu. Cover and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  • Make the sauce. Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix to get a nice sauce. Set aside.
  • Take tofu/marinade out of the fridge and strain off marinade. Pat dry tofu with a towel. Sautee tofu slices in small amount of oil for about 5 minutes on each side. Cover and set aside.
  • Cut up the vegetables. Thinly slice the onions, cut up the broccoli flowers. Cut rhubarb diagonally in 2-3 inches length. If stalks are bigger, cut them in half first.
  • In a larger pan or wok, heat seasame oil, add rhubarb batons in a single layer and cook for abot 1-2 minutes while stiring to make sure all sides cook well. Make sure you don’t over cook rhubarb, they should be firm and not mushy. Add 1 Tbsp sugar and cook for 1 minute. Take off heat and set aside.
  • On medium high heat, sauté the sliced onion for about 10 minutes until translucent. Add the brocololi and continue sautéing on medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until it is soft but still crunchy. Add the sauce made earlier. (Quickly whisk, then pour it into the pan). Add the rhubarb (that was set aside from earlier step) and the bamboo shoots and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for three or four minutes. Add the tofu and toss and coat well and cook until the fofu is warm.
  • Serve on rice with chopped cashew nuts, chopped scallions, cilantro, lime wedges and soy sauce.

enjoy!

Sources

http://www.mostlyeating.com/ tofu with hot and sour sauce

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/35104325/posts/55143

Photo, recipe and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Moroccan eggplant stew with garbanzo beans

Enjoy this delicious and easy vegetarian eggplant dish. The eggplants are browned and cooked briskly with some tomatoes, pungent spices, onions and garbanzo beans and then served with rice/couscous and yoghurt sauce. It is not exactly the perfect fall dish but I still had some eggplants and the weather is still more summery this week. I also added sweet mama squash that complemented the dish nicely and made it more suitable for this ‘going from the summer into the fall’ time period. With the warming spices and the baked squash, it will be a great meal for the entire week. Not only that it suits the weather but it is delicious … honestly my family can’t get enough of it. I might have to go back to the farmers’ market tomorrow to get more eggplants.

RECIPE

Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp graded fresh ginger
  • seasoning: 2 tsp paprika, 1 cumin powder, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 cinnamon stick,
  • pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 large tomatoes or 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans or 1 can (14 oz)
  • 1 dried hot pepper or to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • couscous or rice to serve
  • cilantro

Browning the eggplants
Browning the onions.

Directions

  • Garbanzo beans. Soak overnight and cook them for 3 hours. You can use a pressure cooker. They need to be cooked slowly for a long time until they are nice and soft. They can take up liquid after they are cooked so add more water if needed. Add 1 tsp salt when done.
  • Preparing the eggplants. Wash and cut eggplants into cubes. Salt them and put them into a colander for 30 minutes to let the liquid drain. Pat dry.
  • Frying the eggplants. In a wide skillet, on medium low heat, slowly brown the eggplants in some olive oil for about 20- 30 minutes or until soft. They will not cook any more so make sure they are soft and well cooked before you add it to the sauce. Stir frequently. Make sure they don’t burn. Set aside.
  • Caramelize the onions. Brown the sliced onions in a separate dish in oil with care, it takes about 30 minutes. Stir frequently. Set aside.
  • Making the sauce. Crumple the saffron between your thumb and index finger and add hot liquid, stir well (optional). Otherwise you can just put whole saffron strains in the dish. Set aside. On medium high heat warm up 1 Tbsp oil and add the ginger for 5 minutes. Then add the paprika, cumin, garlic and stir for 1 minute to activate the spices. Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir well. You can add a little water here too. Cook the tomatoes for about 5 minutes until they have become ‘saucy’. Add the saffron, cinnamon stick, freshly graded nutmeg and hot pepper. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat. Cook for 10 minutes on low medium heat. Add a little water if needed. Add the browned onions, eggplants and garbanzo beans from eariler. Cook for 5 more minutes covered. Let the dish sit for 15 minutes so the flavors can come together. Take out the cinnamon stick and the hot pepper pieces. Add salt and pepper or anything else that needs to be adjusted.
  • Serve with cilantro, rice or couscous and yoghurt sauce. I also added some baked sweet mama squash slivers and they nicely complemented each other.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Vegetarian moussaka with polenta and lentils

I am excited to present my new recipe the Vegetarian moussaka. It is a vegetarian dish but is not only for vegetarians! I have to admit I was a bit nervous before I started experimenting but it was a fun challenge at the same time. I really like how nicely the soft polenta works with all the other ingredients.

We are going to venture into Europe again on our virtual journey. We think of Greece when we hear the word Moussaka but most likely it originated somewhere in the Middle East. It is a popular dish across all the Balkan countries and can be easily made in the Midwest of the United States. Well, I have to admit I have never been to Greece or the Middle East for that matter but have eaten traditional Moussaka before in Croatia… and it is mouth watering.

When we were in Croatia we happened upon this fabulous dish in Pula at the restaurant Konoba Bocaporta. It sounded really interesting so my husband and I both had to try it, while the kids ate something with seafood from the Mediterranean Sea. We don’t have the recipe but I tried to recreate it here at home. I still feel the flavors in my mouth, I hope you will like it as much as I did.

It is a complete vegetarian dish and all the ingredients seem to work well together. Often when meat is taken out of a dish, the substance and the flavors are removed as well, so when I created the recipe, I tried to make sure that the substance and the flavors were both kept. The meat is replaced with the lentils, mushrooms and the cheese. I replaced the potatoes with the polenta because they work well with the other ingredients. Mushrooms are traditionally used with polenta and they complement each other nicely … and everything is pulled together with the fragrant spices of the region.

This recipe can easily be made gluten free. Instead of the Béchamel sauce use the yoghurt sauce. This is a pretty authentic replacement as Croatians use a yoghurt sauce for the top. Béchamel sauce is not Greek but is in fact French. The Béchamel sauce was added to Moussaka by the Greek chef Akis Petretzikis in the 1920’s when he was trying to Europeanize Greek cuisine. I actually use this yogurt sauce quite regularly to make simple lentil dishes but the Béchamel sauce is a nice treat for sure.

FUN FACT: One thing all the countries in the Balkan region agree on is that Moussaka is a fabulous dish.

I developed this recipe so if you would like to post it you will have to contact the author at twincitiesherbs.com.

RECIPE

Author: twincitiesherbs.com

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

  • high quality olive oil
  • 1 medium size eggplant
  • lots of garlic
  • 1 tomato- canned is fine
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 4-8 oz of mushrooms – Portobello mushrooms or any heavier, earthier tasting mushrooms but regular white button or crimini mushrooms would work nicely too
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups of hard cheeses: I used 1 cup gruyere and 1 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 cup of polenta grits
  • 1.5 cup of stock or you can use water with bullion of your choice. ( The chicken stock will give a nice flavor but if you don’t want to use meat, add some bullion).
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup of uncooked lentils
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/4 cup of butter ( 1 stick)
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 3 fresh springs of thyme
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • yoghurt (important part of the dish)
  • scallions
  • parsley

Quick overview of the ingredients as a group

Lentils: 1/2 cup of uncooked lentils, oil, 1 large tomato, 1 Tbsp of tomato paste, 1.5 cups of chicken stock or water, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp paprika, bay leaves, 2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp all spice, smaller stick of cinnamon (about 1 inch), 1 fresh thyme spring, 1 tsp salt and red pepper flakes (optional).

Polenta: 1/2 cup of polenta (corn grits), 1.5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock or water+bullion, 1 tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 thyme spring, 1 cup of hard cheese ( 1/2 cup of greyere, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese), 1 Tbsp butter and 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Mushrooms: Portobello mushrooms or equivalent, oil, crushed garlic and 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar.

Eggplants: 1 medium sized eggplants, 1/4 cup of tomatoes sauce, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp oregano, salt and black pepper.

Béchamel sauce: 1/4 cup of butter, 1 /2 cup of flour, 2 cups of warm milk, 2 egg yolks, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp salt and ground pepper, 1 thyme spring.

Yoghurt sauce in place of Béchamel sauce: 1.5 cups of yoghurt, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 garlic clove, cucumber slices.

Directions

Wash the polenta removing any foreign particles. Soak in water for a few hours.

Wash 1/2 cup of lentils and soak for a few hours hours.

Cooking the lentils. Remove soaking liquid and add 1.5 cups cold water or stock. Cook for 1 hour or until lentils are soft. Take off heat and let lentils stay in covered pot for about 20-30 minutes so they can soak up more liquid. Add more liquid if needed. Drain before adding to the polenta. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce for the lentils. Chop up 1 large tomato. Warm up some oil, when warm sautee the onion for 5 minutes. Add 2 tsp oregano, fresh thyme springs, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp all spice and the crushed garlic. Stir well and quickly add the 1 chopped tomato and 1 Tbsp tomato paste. Cook until tomatoes become ‘saucy’. Add cinamon stick. Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium heat. Cook for 10 more mintes.

Drain the water off the lentils and add the cooked lentils to the tomato sauce. Take out all the larger spice pieces. Set aside.

Preparing the eggplant. Slice the eggplants and pan fry them. Please, check my previous recipe Eggplant Parmesan for directions. (You can also bake the eggplants in the oven if you prefer). Set aside.

Preparing the polenta. Pour water off the corn grits and strain. Bring 1.5 cups of liquid to a boil. Add the presoaked polenta slowly while stirring constantly. Add 1 thyme spring and cook for about 20 minutes or until the polenta is creamy. Stir frequently because it can burn easily. When done add 1 Tbsp butter, 1tsp salt, cheese, thyme and stir. Set aside.

Preparing the mushrooms. Slice up mushrooms. Warm up some oil and sauté the mushrooms until soft. At the end, add a little crushed garlic, freshly ground pepper and 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Stir and turn off heat. Set aside.

Preparing the béchamel sauce. It is not too hard just follow the steps. I used a whisk. Warm up 1 stick of butter on low heat, when melted increase the heat to medium high and add the flour slowly, stirring continuously. Then start adding the milk very slowly, stirring after each addition and wait for a minute to let the flour mixture soak up the milk. When you start seeing bubbles, it is done. Take off heat. Grade some nutmeg. Add 1/4 cup of Gruyere cheese, thyme, salt and 2 egg yolks. Mix well. Set aside.

Yoghurt sauce in place of the Bechamel sauce. This recipe can easily be made gluten free if you you prefer. Instead of the Béchamel sauce use 3 cups of yogurt, 3 lightly beaten eggs, garlic, salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2-1 cup cheese.

Mix the polenta and the lentils. I believe they will taste better together.

See if you need to add salt, red hot pepper and black pepper to any of the dishes.

From here, everything is easy! Preheat oven to 350 F. I used a 2QT size baking dish (8×11.5×2 in). Coat the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Start layering: polenta with the lentils, mushrooms, eggplants, the béchamel sauce or the gluten free yoghurt sauce and parmesan/Gruyere cheese on the top. Put the dish into the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Wait for a half hour to let the flavors melt into each other if you have time.

Serve hot with yogurt sauce, scallions, parsley.

enjoy!

COOKING TIPS

  • Seasonings, seasoning and seasoning!!!! This dish needs a lot of seasoning and salt added. Don’t be alarmed when you see the amounts.
  • The smaller portobello mushrooms are nicer … they are easier to cook and will be tastier in the meal. The crimini mushrooms are very nice too.
  • Also I find the smaller/medium sized eggplants are easier to cut and are tastier in the dish as well.
  • This is not a quick dish, it takes a long time to make like any casserole dish but it is not difficult. It is usually made for occasions because of the complexity of the dish but you can treat yourself/family/friends to it anytime.

This is my version but please feel free to experiment and let me know what you did. If you post it, please reference this blog.

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

eggplant parmesan

Eggplants are still thriving here in the Midwest! So I’d like to take the opportunity to post more recipes of this amazing plant. Before I post my vegetarian moussaka recipe, I would like to have a little preview of what is coming. Eggplant is the main ingredient in moussaka so I can get a head start with this recipe. Also, this makes an easy side dish if you don’t want to make something more elaborate.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 purple Italian eggplant
  • 2 tsp salt
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp of oregano
  • hint of cinnamon
  • Parmesan cheese for the top
  • yogurt
  • scallions

Directions

  • Wash and slice the eggplant. I use a serrated bread knife to make the slices thin but not paper thin. They should be about 1 cm thick.
  • Soak in cold water with 2 tsp salt for 15 minutes. Putting them in salty water takes away the bitterness and I belive I can work with the eggplants easier.
  • Take the slices out of the water. Place them into a colander and wait until the water drips down. You can also dry them with a towel but honestly I never do and they come out fine.
  • Heat up a large frying pan on low medium heat. Add olive oil and a pinch of salt. Be careful, olive oil burns easily as it has a low boiling point. Add the slices. You will most likely have to add more olive oil as eggplant loves to soak it up. Cook for about 10-20 minutes on each side or until they are slightly brown and soft. I keep turning them to make sure they don’t burn. Add the garlic in a little oil on the side, mix for 10 seconds and add the tomato sauces and mix in spices. Sprinkle parmesan cheese, oregano and ground cinnamon on the top.
  • Serve warm with yogurt and scallions.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Turkish stuffed eggplants (vegetarian)

This is the vegetarian version of my previous recipe, the Turkish stuffed eggplants (karni yarik). I tried to keep the recipe’s Turkish authenticity but otherwise it is my creation. I replaced the meat with lentils, eggs and cheese and used oregano in the place of mint. I also used more tomatoes to keep the mixture moist. All these ingredients are used in Turkey and hope you will like it as much as I did.

I can’t help but notice the abundance of goods at the farmers’ market. The tables are filled with all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In fact, it is the time of the year when they have the most varieties available. For today’s post I picked eggplant.  

We associate eggplants with the Middle East but it actually originated from India and has also been popular in other Asian countries for a long time. Today, it is used all over the world.  In Europe, it was a staple until potatoes arrived from the New World. The Turkish have certainly created many recipes with it and believe that they have the best eggplant dishes. The Spanards had brought it over to the Americas in the 1600′. Eggplants have been used in the United States; however, earlier, people didn’t really know what to do with them. Many just used them for decorations only.

Eggplants come in all kinds of shapes and colors. Shapes can be round or more elongated and the colors can vary from white, green to purple.  In the United States, the rounder, purple, more oblong eggplant is usually available in stores. For this recipe, try to buy these medium sized, fat, purple eggplants that I have pictures of. Also, make sure they are about the same size because different sizes will vary their cooking times. Also they should be nice and firm.

Eggplants belong to the night shade family along with tomatoes and potatoes. It is a cooling bitter plant that is highly nutritious with vitamins A, B, C, K1, E and minerals manganese, magnesium, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. An interesting fact is that we often believe that it is a vegetable but in fact it is a fruit. Also, it is thought to be aphrodisiac.

In addition to its nutritional values, people have been using eggplants for other health benefits too. Asians like to use them for their cooling property. It is good for digestion, particularly for stagnation and heat. It is beneficial in clearing heat that accumulates during the warmer months but it is still a valuable plant now, during the Indian summer as it can take out heat that may have been trapped in during the summer. In addition, its antioxidants can protect the liver from toxins.

It is also associated with fertility from its ability to unblock stagnation in the liver and the womb. In China, brides were supposed to posses 12 eggplant recipes before they got married. By the same token, pregnant women are advised to limit the consumption of eggplants because of the possibility of miscarriage. 

List of my other eggplant dishes

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of cooked rice (about half a cup raw)
  • about 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 medium, equal sized purple eggplants. Try not to get different sizes because they need different cooking times.
  • 1 cup of cooked lentils (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
  • 4 oz mushrooms, I used crimini
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 finally chopped yellow onion
  • 1 finally chopped peppers (green, red, yellow-your choice)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika powder
  • 1/4 tsp of hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp of salt or to taste
  • 6 fresh plum tomatoes or other tomatoes (canned is fine too)
  • 1 cup of hard cheese + more for the top
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of flat leafed parsley

Direction

  • Soak the lentils for a few hours if you have time.
  • Cook lentils.
  • Prepare rice with bay leaves. Use 1/2 cup of rice with 1 cup of water.
  • Bake eggplants. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Wash eggplants and put them on an oiled baking sheet. Prick them with a fork in 6-8 places, half inch deep to prevent them from exploding in your oven. Coat them with some olive oil with a brush. Bake them for 45-60 minutes or until they are nice and soft, so you can put the blade of a knife through easily. You don’t want them to be hard but they shouldn’t collapse either. Once they start becoming soft, keep an eye on them. If you’re using larger eggplants, you will have to cut them in half lengthwise. Oil the top and proceed like you do with the smaller ones.
  • When ready take them out and let them cool..
  • Prepare the stuffing. Sauté the onion in the oil. When onions are soft but not brown, add the green pepper pieces and continue sautéing the for about 10-15 minutes. Add spices (oregano, cumin, paprika), crushed garlic and stir. Then add tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes are well cooked and there is a nice sauce. Take off the heat.
  • Put mixture into a bowl. Add rice, lentils, eggs, salt, ground black pepper, hot pepper flakes and graded cheese (I used 1 cup). Mix.
  • Sautee mushrooms and add to the prvious mixture. Mix.
  • Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Gently cut a slit in the middle down from the top of a whole eggplant making sure you don’t cut through the skin on the bottom. Take out the seeds. You can use the seeds to make babaganoush or just simply discard them.
  • Just like its Turkish name, karni yarik, splitting belly suggests, stuff the inside of the eggplants, their bellies with the stuffing. You can put a little graded cheese and a thin slice of tomato on the top. Put eggplants in a baking dish. Pour boiling water into dish about 1 inch deep. Place dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Take them out when top is brown. Let them cool.
  • Cut off the ends before serving them.
  • Serve warm with cucumber yoghurt sauce.

Yoghurt Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of yoghurt
  • 1 longer English, slicing cucumber
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp of vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp of dried mint
  • fresh mint

Preparations

  • Peel and slice the cucmber. Place the slices in a bowl, salt and let it sit for 15 minutes. Salting is optional. Strain, squeeze out and discard the liquid.
  • In a separate bowl mix together all the other ingredients, stir well. Put in the cucumbers and gently stir mix them in.
  • Garnish with fresh mint. Serve with the eggplants.

enjoy!

Sources

  • Paul pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
  • Sally Fallon: Nourished Traditions
  • Nancy Harmon Jenkin’s Mediterranean Diet cook book.  

Text, recipe and photo by twincitiesherbs.com.

Turkish stuffed eggplants with lamb (Karni Yarik)

I can’t help but notice the abundance of goods at the farmers’ market. The tables are filled with all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In fact, it is the time of the year when they have the most varieties available. For today’s post I picked eggplant.  

We associate eggplants with the Middle East but it actually originated from India and has also been popular in other Asian countries for a long time. Today, it is used all over the world.  In Europe, it was a staple until potatoes arrived from the New World. The Turkish have certainly created many recipes with it and believe that they have the best eggplant dishes.  The Spanards had brought it over to the Americas in the 1600′. Eggplants have been used in the United States; however, earlier, people didn’t really know what to do with them. Many just used them for decorations only.

Eggplants come in all kinds of shapes and colors. Shapes can be round or more elongated. The colors can vary from white, green to purple.  In the United States, the rounder, purple eggplant is usually available in stores. For this recipe, try to buy these smaller, medium sized, fat, purple eggplants that I have pictures of. Also, make sure they are about the same size because different sizes will vary their cooking times. Also they should be nice and firm.

Eggplants belong to the night shade family along with tomatoes and potatoes. Eggplant is a cooling bitter plant that is highly nutritious with vitamins A, B, C, K1, E and minerals manganese, magnesium, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. An interesting fact is that we often believe that it is a vegetable but in fact it is a fruit. Also, it is thought to be aphrodisiac.

In addition to its nutritional values, people have been using eggplants for other health benefits too. Asians like to use them for their cooling property. It is good for digestion, particularly for stagnation and heat. It is beneficial in clearing heat that accumulates during the warmer months but it is still a valuable plant now, during the Indian summer as it can take out heat that may have been trapped in during the summer. In addition, its antioxidants can protect the liver from toxins.

Eggplants are also associated with fertility from their ability to unblock stagnation in the liver and the womb. In China, brides were supposed to have 12 eggplant recipes before they got married. By the same token, pregnant women are advised to limit the consumption of eggplants because of the possibility of miscarriage. 

My recipe is the Turkish Karni Yarik that means ‘splitting belly’. If you look at the picture, this will make more sense. You basically stuff the inside, the belly of the eggplant. The warming lamb meat pairs nicely with the cooling eggplant with a hint of mint.  When I was in Turkey, I remember this dish was always on the menu and I really liked it. Please see my next post for its vegetarian version if it interests you.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of rice (about half a cup raw)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 medium, equal sized purple eggplants. Please see description above.
  • 1 lb of ground lamb
  • 1 finally chopped yellow onion
  • 1 finally chopped peppers (green, red, yellow-your choice)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried peppermint (You might not have mint in your pantry. People usually use mint in teas and don’t cook with it. It can be found at the spice section of a grocery store or at herb stores).
  • 1/2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika powder
  • 1/4 tsp of hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp of salt or to taste
  • 3 fresh ripe plum tomatoes or canned
  • hand-full of hard cheese (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • fresh mint to garnish
  • 1/2 cup of flat leafed parsley

Preparation

  • Cook 1/2 cup of rice in 1 cup of water. You can add bay leaves if you wish.
  • Bake eggplants. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Wash eggplants and put them on an oiled baking sheet. Prick them with a fork in about 6-8 places, half inch deep to prevent them from exploding in your oven. Coat them with some olive oil with a brush. Bake them for 45-60 minutes or until they are nice and soft, so you can put the blade of a knife through easily. You don’t want them to be hard but they shouldn’t collapse either. Once they start becoming soft, keep an eye on them. If you’re using larger eggplants, you will have to cut them in half lengthwise. Oil the top and proceed like you do with the smaller ones.
  • When ready take them out and let them cool. Set aside.
  • Prepare the stuffing. Sauté the onion in the oil. When onions are soft but not brown, add peppers and continue sautéing for about 10-15 minutes. Add spices (mint, cumin, paprika), crushed garlic and then the tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes are well cooked and there is a nice sauce.
  • In a separate pot, warm up some oil and sauté the lamb quickly for about 7-10 minutes. If lamb is not fatty enough, you might have to add more olive oil.
  • Take off heat. Put the stuffing mixture into a bowl. Add rice, lamb, meat, salt, pepper, parsley and hot pepper flakes. It is optional but I also added graded cheese (I used 1/2 cup). Mix. (The stuffing can be made a day ahead).
  • Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Gently cut a slit in the middle down from the top of a whole eggplant making sure you don’t cut through the skin. Take out the seeds. You can use the seeds to make babaganoush or just simply discard them. Just like its name suggests, stuff the inside of the eggplants, their bellies with the stuffing. You can put a little graded cheese and a thin slice of tomato on the top. Put eggplants in a baking dish. Pour boiling water into dish about 1 inch deep. Place dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Take them out of the oven when top is brown. Let them cool.
  • Cut off the ends before serving them.
  • Serve warm with cucumber yoghurt sauce.

Yoghurt sauce (cacik)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of yoghurt
  • 1 longer English, slicing cucumber
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp of vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp of dried mint
  • fresh mint

Preparation

  • Peel and slice the cucmber. Place the slices in a bowl, salt and let it sit for 15 minutes. Strain, squeeze out and discard the liquid.
  • In a separate bowl mix together all the other ingredients, stir well. Put in the cucumbers and gently stir mix them in.
  • Garnish with fresh mint. Serve with the eggplants.

enjoy!

Sources

  • Paul pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
  • Sally Fallon: Nourished Traditions
  • Nancy Harmon Jenkin’s Mediterranean Diet cook book.  

Text, recipe and photo by twincitiesherbs.com.

Hungarian cucumber salad (uborkasaláta)

This is a simple salad with an interesting taste to serve with meat or vegetarian dishes.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 medium or 1 large slicing cucumber
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 cup of vinegar + 3/4 cup of water
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • a handful of dill, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of sweet Hungarian paprika powder
  • pinch of sugar

Directions

  • Peel cucumbers. Traditionally cucumbers are peeled completely but I sometimes leave a little peel on.
  • Slice cucumbers very thin, you can use a slicer.
  • Place cucumbers in a medium sized bowl.
  • Put salt on and mix well. Let the salt sit for 15 minutes on the cucumbers.
  • Squeeze out all the liquid with your hands. Discard this liquid. Salting helps remove water so the salad won’t taste watery.
  • Put the cucumber slices in a medium sized bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Adjust water, vinegar, salt, garlic to taste.
  • Put the salad in the refrigerator and leave it in there for the night.
  • Serve it cold or at room temperature with meat or vegetarian dishes.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo by twincitiesherbs.com.

Pesto

Pesto is a unique and delicious sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy, around the 16th century. It is nice to serve on pasta on a hot summer day. We just spent some time in the Mediterranean region where it was very hot. We joined the locals and did not eat our main meal until 8 pm. Pesto was great to eat during the day just to satisfy our quick hunger. I really like how the fragrant basil can transform this meal with all its other ingredients olive oil, cheese, garlic, and pine nuts into a something so unique.

Originally, pesto was made in mortars and according to Genoese cooks pesto can only be made in mortars. In fact its name or its verb version ‘pestare’ means to pound and grind. Today, we have food processors that would be a fine replacement, just keep in mind that pesto is meant to be pounded and not so much chopped so in other words don’t over process it in the food processor and mix the cheese in at the end by hand.

Receipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1 cup of fresh, cold pressed olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped up pine nuts (walnuts are fine too)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • 1 cup of freshly graded parmi-giano-reggiano cheese
  • 4 Tbsp of graded romano cheese (optional)
  • 1 pound of pasta (spaghetti or any pasta with a large surface area)

Directions

  • Take the leaves off of the stems and wash them well in cold water. Clip off the flowering tips and any brownish leaves if there are any. Put them in a colander and let the water drain off. By the time you have everything else ready the basil should be ready too.
  • Start boiling water for the pasta. Continue according to the package. Save a little cooking water for the pesto.
  • Measure out all the ingredients.
  • Chop up the garlic with the blade of a sharp knife.
  • I do not have a mortar but I have a small food processor. The following directions are for a food processor. Put the basil in the food processor and process until fully chopped. (You are chopping at this stage). Add olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, salt and chop quickly, gently just until they are nicely blended.
  • Transfer this mixture into a clean bowl. You will continue mixing in the cheese with a spoon by hand. (Please see explanation above).
  • When adding the pesto to the pasta, add 2-4 Tbsp of the reserved pasta water.
  • Serve at room temperature with vegetables.

enjoy!

Sources

Marcella Hazan: Essentials of Classical Italian Cooking