THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB: CASHEW CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS

Drum roll please…..     This is my first anniversary as a member of The Secret Recipe Club!   One year!  Obviously, I was counting the days for this Reveal Day, and jumped on my assigned blog the very minute I got the email notification.  This month I am cooking from Loving Life, a fun blog hosted by Kirstin, the super busy Mom of two teenage daughters, who also home schools them.  I get tired just thinking about it.  The mystery is how does she find the time to cook and blog?   Superpowers?  Probably. I chose a recipe from her blog quite quickly, because it is one of the favorite dishes we used to order at a place called BJ’s in Oklahoma.  Light, refreshing, flavorful,  Phil and I would share that as an appetizer almost every single time, but I had never made it at home.  Great opportunity, which I grabbed right away!  😉

CASHEW CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS
(adapted from Loving Life)

for teriyaki sauce:
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. Sesame oil

for chicken:
3/4 lb. chicken breast or tenders, diced in small pieces
6 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup diced baby-bella mushrooms
3/4 cup chopped cashews
1 tsp. soy sauce
canola oil
6-8 butter lettuce leaves

for topping:
2 carrots, peeled & julienned
1/2 Tbs. Sesame Seeds

Mix all sauce ingredients, making sure the brown sugar dissolves.

Place some canola oil in a non-stick pan and cook chicken till cooked through and lightly browned. Add green onions, mushrooms, cashews and 1 tsp. soy sauce. Cook until mushrooms soften. Add teriyaki sauce. Cook stirring often on medim-high heat until sauce began to caramelize a bit on the chicken. Lower heat to “low” and continue to cook a bit longer or until your desired consistency is reached.
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Serve on lettuce cups, adding julienned carrots and sesame seeds on top.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

We absolutely loved this recipe!  Next time I might just up the amount of sauce a little bit, but other than that, no changes…    This post gives me the opportunity to share with you a very special gift we received from our friend Cindy.  She probably got tired of me complaining about the electric stove in our new home, and one day I got this box delivered with an induction-type single burner cooktop!  Not only it works great, but it is a life-saver for me, due to another small problem in our kitchen: no ventilation. I had pretty much given up on frying or sauteing fish or meat.   With this cooktop, I was able to install a cooking area on our patio, and voila’: no more offensive odors!  Plus, it’s is such a nice setting, don’t you agree?

Cindy, thanks so much for such a thoughtful gift!

For the full round-up on the Secret Recipe Club, click on the cute blue frog. To see which recipe was chosen from my blog this month click here to visit Lindsay’s blog…

Kirstin, nice to “meet” your blog!  Have fun with today’s reveal day!

ONE YEAR AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

TWO YEARS AGO: Panmarino

THREE YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken



ON MY DESK

(texto em portugues na proxima pagina)

On my desk I have only one picture, that of my Dad right around the time he retired.  He had the most beautiful handwritting, that kind we don’t see anymore. Perfect, almost like a drawing.  He did not live to the point of getting a computer with internet connections, but I know he would have a blast with all the possibilities. He was curious about many things and loved to learn. I like to think he would enjoy my blog.

He would be 92 today.   There would be a phone call, and the excitement in his voice when talking to me would warm my soul.  No phone calls anymore, only memories and the realization, stronger as each year goes by, that we have a lot in common.   I hope he was aware of it.

One of my favorite photos of him, dancing with my beautiful niece Fernanda…

One of my favorite photos the three of us, taken by Phil years ago…

For an extra trip down memory lane…. Memories of Pasteis

ONE YEAR AGO: A must-make veggie puree

TWO YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

THREE YEARS AGO: Brazilian Pao de Queijo: Love at First Bite!

Na escrivaninha do meu escritorio eu tenho apenas uma foto.  Ela mostra meu pai na epoca em que se aposentou.  Ele tinha uma caligrafia incrivel, dessas que nao se ve mais, quase como um desenho.  Ele nao chegou a comprar um computador e conecta-lo a internet, o que de certa forma e’ uma pena, sei que ele teria curtido demais. Ele tinha uma mente curiosa e adorava aprender coisas novas.  Gosto de imaginar que ele seria fa do meu blog.

Hoje ele completaria 92 anos. Certamente nos falariamos pelo telefone e a  empolgacao dele ao ouvir minha voz vindo de tao longe no planeta como sempre me daria uma calorzinho por dentro.   Telefonemas nao acontecem mais, no lugar deles apenas lembrancas e a constatacao, mais forte a cada ano que passa, que temos muito em comum.  Espero que ele tenha sentido o mesmo.

AN ORANGE FRAME OF MIND

Orange food seems to be on everybody’s mind these days, perhaps to match the color of the leaves, with their beautiful shades of red and gold.  Most maple trees in town are already completely red, but from my office’s window on campus, I see a very special tree, one that gets a few more red leaves each day. I like to think it is putting up a special show for me, a newcomer to the Little Apple…  😉   Let me share with you a few recipes to celebrate the season, the first is a new one, and the others come from the Bewitching archives.  An array of golden dishes to hopefully inspire you…

RICE PILAF WITH CARROTS AND PARLSEY
(adapted from  Martha Rose Shulman)

2 tablespoons  olive oil
1 fennel bulb, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup basmati rice
a pinch of saffron
1  cup water
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Rinse the rice well to remove excess starch. Drain well, and reserve.  Heat the water and stock together in a microwave until very hot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide, heavy skillet or saucepan over medium heat and add the carrots, fennel, and salt. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes, and add the rice and the saffron.  Cook, stirring, until the grains of rice are well coated with oil and beginning to crackle. Add the hot water and stock and bring to a boil. Taste the cooking liquid and adjust salt if necessary. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Uncover the rice and place a clean towel over the top of the pan, but don’t let it touch the rice.  Put the lid back, and let the rice sit for 10 minutes.  Add the parsley, fluffy the rice with a fork, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This pilaf is extremely delicious and good for you, a combination that is always welcome at our table. Fennel and saffron were not in the original recipe, but I think they worked better with the other flavors than onions would.  Feel free to include onions and garlic,  Phil and I are part of the minority who uses those ingredients quite sparingly.

For some more orange glow on your table….
(click on the title for the original post)

CARROT AND SWEET POTATO PUREE

CARAMELIZED CARROT SOUP

KURI SQUASH SOUP

CHICKPEA SALAD

CARROT NIB ORZO

SWEET ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND GREENS OVER PASTA

PEACH PIE

ONE YEAR AGO:  San Francisco Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: A Real Oscar Winner (two years with the sweetest dog in the world!)

THREE YEARS AGO: Pane Siciliano

OCTOBER 16: WORLD BREAD DAY!

Six years ago, Zorra started an event called “World Bread Day“. Bakers from all over the world would bake a loaf of bread and blog about it.  This year I am thrilled to participate and chose my favorite type of bread to join the party.  The recipe comes from a very nice book, Artisan Baking, written by Maggie Glezer.  A country French-style loaf called Essential’s Columbia.   The formula comes from George DePasquale, from Seattle’s Essential Baking Company.

The perfect Sunday starts with a batch of sourdough starter all puffed up from getting fed 12 hours earlier.  Before I even have my morning capuccino, the kitchen still dark, I look at my ingredients waiting, and get all excited anticipating the thrill of getting a nice loaf of bread from our oven.   It does help a lot to weigh it all the night before, all you have to do is heat the water in the microwave for 30 seconds or so,  and you are ready to go…

In Glezer’s book, this bread is listed as “advanced”, but it’s actually quite simple to prepare.  It calls for all purpose flour, bread flour, whole wheat, and a little rye.  Also in the formula a small amount of toasted wheat germ, and barley malt syrup.   It uses a very firm starter, probably the firmest I’ve ever seen in a recipe, it is actually more like a dough that ferments for 12 hours and then is incorporated in the mixture of flours, salt, and water.    A very slow and long fermentation, with the help of my bread proofing box.  Amazing how the two banettons fit just right inside!

After shaping, the oblong loaf proofed for 3 hours, and the round one for almost 4 hours, as I could not bake them at the same time.  Not much difference in the crumb, which was a bit surprising to me. I expected the round loaf to have a slightly more airy inner structure.  But bread is bread,  its temperamental nature one of the things I love the most about it.

I could not find a way to contact Maggie Glezer to get her official ok to publish the full recipe, but it is available online in a couple of blogs, so you can find it.  But the book is a must-have for anyone with a passion for wild yeast, so consider providing that little boost on the economy.

My batard shaping was a little better than usual, but still needs improvement… gotta keep going at it!

The perfect Sunday ends with a couple of loaves resting on the counter….

and the perfect Monday starts with a small gift to the Department!   😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting…    and I invite you to visit the roudup of breads at Zorra’s site!

ONE YEAR AGO: The US Listeria Outbreak 2011

TWO YEARS AGO: 36 Hour Sourdough Baguettes

THREE YEARS AGO: October 16 is World Bread Day

MARCELA’S SALPICON

This is another recipe from Mexican Made Easy, a current favorite show on FoodTV.  Marcela used it as part of hearty “Beef Tostadas“.  Salpicon brought childhood memories because my Mom used to make a similar dish called  “roupa velha”,  (ropa vieja in Spanish, old clothes or rags in English). The name describes the nature of the beef, shredded into pieces that are melt-in-your-mouth tender from a long, slow cooking.   My Mom used to make “roupa velha” with leftovers from pot roast, and served it as a braised dish piping hot over mashed potatoes or rice.  Confession from my young days:  I loved to have  “roupa velha”  as a sandwich.  All that tasty, saucy meat, served between slices of crusty baguette.  Maybe not appropriate to serve for company, but totally awesome!  Napkins were mandatory, though… 😉

SALPICON
(adapted from Marcela Valladolid)

One 2-pound boneless beef brisket
1 large white onion, quartered
Kosher salt
3/4 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons dried crumbled Mexican oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup seeded chopped cucumber
1 cup seeded chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup capers, drained (or to taste)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put the brisket in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover the meat by an inch. Add the onion quarters and 1/4 cup of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer partially covered until the brisket is very tender, 2 and a half hours. Add more water if needed to keep the meat covered. Turn off the heat and let the brisket cool in the cooking liquid to room temperature. Drain the brisket, discard the water and cool completely.

Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking the olive oil and vinegar in a medium bowl until well combined. Add the lime juice, red onion and oregano and whisk again. Season with salt and pepper.

Shred the brisket into a large bowl. Add the cucumbers, tomatoes, capers, and cilantro and toss to combine. Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I was not sure if Phil would like this recipe, as beef salad is not something he would normally go for. To my delight, he absolutely loved it, and kept telling me to include salpicon in our regular rotation.  I suppose that every food blogger’s partner lives in fear of never tasting a dish again once it is published in the blog… 😉   No risk with this one,  because I already made it twice!  The second time I used top round, a cut that is not that popular for its fibrous nature, but  perfect for this dish.  I used my pressure cooker, and advise you to do the same if you have one and would like speeding up the process.  The recipe makes a pretty big batch, so leftovers were my lunch for several days. But, as  Marcela mentioned in the show, it’s great to have a batch of salpicon in the fridge for little snacks throughout the day.

I served salpicon with rice, refried beans, and slices of avocado, but I suggest you to stop by the FoodTV site and take a look at Marcela’s Tostadas.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pork Kebabs

TWO YEARS AGO: Fondant au Chocolat

THREE YEARS AGO: Got Spinach? Have a salad!

FAST, FRESH, AND GREEN

As you may remember, 2012 was another year that began with the regrettable, futile  decision to avoid buying any more cookbooks.  But, one of the curious things about New Year’s resolutions is that  you must overcome a certain barrier to break them. This situation is analogous to a biochemical paradigm, the   so-called  “energy of activation,”  to make a reaction go forward.  It’s that little kick an enzyme provides, by binding its substrate,  that causes a normally slow reaction to happen right away.   Two things boosted me  to buy  Fast, Fresh, and Green.  First,  Susie Middleton wrote it.  Having known her  for a long time as the editor of Fine Cooking, I expected a great book.   Then, I read reviews on amazon.com and THAT was the catalyst,  the activation energy, the end of my inner debate.   Reaction CATALYZED,  iTunes contacted, book delivered to My Preciousss  within 2 milliseconds!!  Below I share with you a recipe, a teaser, and my thoughts on the book.

THE RECIPE

VANILLA AND CARDAMON GLAZED ACORN SQUASH RINGS
(reprinted from Fast, Fresh, and Green, with permission from Susie Middleton)

1 small acorn squash (1 + 1/4 pounds maximum)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamon
kosher salt

Heat your oven to 475 F (or 245 C).  Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.  Cut the acorn squase in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and fibery stuff with a spoon. Place each half, with the cut side down on a cutting board, and slice a little less than an inch of both ends. Discard the ends. Slice the squash crosswise into 1/2 inch slices, and place them over the prepared baking sheet.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and add the maple syrup, vanilla, and cardamon. Stir well to combine. Use a brush to lightly brush the slices of squash with the a little less than half the amount of butter. Season lightly with salt and turn the slices over.  Brush the second side with the remaining melted butter, reserving some to brush at the end (optional). Season the second side with salt.

Roast the squash for 12 minutes. Carefully flip the pieces over, and roast until  nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes more. If you want, brush with a little more butter before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I think I am becoming cardamon-obsessed. Cannot have enough of it. Love everything about it, particularly that intense smell that hits me when I first open the spice grinder… heaven!  In this recipe, the combination of maple, vanilla, and cardamon is outstanding and perfect with the acorn squash.  A keeper, and ready so quickly, you can make it for Thanksgiving dinner (as  Susie advised in the book) while the turkey rests after roasting.  Keep that in mind, Thanksgiving is already peeking at us.  😉

THE TEASER

MAHOGANY MUSHROOMS

Baby-bella mushrooms are sauteed in a simple sauce full of flavor and with a few unexpected twists…   They turn out with just the right amount of heat and a sweet and sour hint.  Perfect alongside many main dishes.  We had it with a T-bone steak.

THE REVIEW

Contrary to many cookbooks in which chapters ate divided either by season of the year, or ingredient, Susie Middleton went through a different route, sorting recipes by method of preparation.  I really like that.

The first and second chapters deal with general stuff: what you should have in your pantry as well as cooking equipment (half sheet pans are a must, according to her, and I could not agree more).   All other chapters are centered on cooking methods, as follows:

Quick Roasting: My favorite chapter of the book, as I love roasting veggies but usually my impatient nature prevents me from enjoying them too often.  The acorn squash rings featured in this post is an example found in this chapter.  Some other tempting dishes from the same group:  Quick-Roasted Cauliflower with Zesty Orange-Olive Dressing, Quick-Roasted Beet Slices, Sweet Potato “Mini-Fries” with Limey Dipping Sauce and Spiced Salt,  Caramelized Plum Tomatoes in an Olive Oil Bath, Roasted Turnips and Pears with Rosemary-Honey Drizzle.

Quick Braising:  I think quick braising and stir-frying are two of the most common techniques used in the home-kitchen, and in these categories Susie really shines.  All recipes come with some creative twist, an expected flavoring, or combination of ingredients that makes the most humble veggie take center stage. Some examples:   Quick-Braised Green Beans with Pomegranate-Balsamic Pan Sauce, Cider-Braised Baby Bok Choy and Golden Apples, Braised Carrots with Blood Orange-Fresh Tarragon Pan Sauce, Silky Braised Fennel in Pink Sauce (this will be my next recipe to try from the book).
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Hands-On Sauteing: These are recipes that require you to stay around the stovetop doing some baby-sitting, but they come together in lightning speed.  The teaser recipe, Mahogany Mushrooms, comes from this group. Other recipes on my list to try:   Corn Saute with Chile and Lime, Sauteed Carrots with Warm Olive and Mint Dressing, Sauteed Savoy Cabbage with Apple Cider Butter (oh, my…),   Brown Butter Summer Squash “Linguine”.

Walk-Away Sauteeing: As the name indicates, once you start cooking, there’s plenty of opportunity to do something else, work on a main dish, play fetch with your dog, or stare at the window admiring the arrival of the Fall.  Some tasty examples include:  Gingery Sweet Potato and Apple Saute with Toasted Almonds, Carmelized Green Beans and Sweet Onions, Sauteed Turnips with Ham and Molasses, Southwestern Butternut Squash Saute, Smoky Spanish Carrots and Fennel with Toasted Hazelnuts.

Two-Stepping:  includes recipes that call for boiling the vegetables and then continuing with another type of preparation, like sauteeing, or inclusion in a salad.   I absolutely MUST make the “Brown Butter Asparagus with Pine Nuts”  from this chapter.  But there’a a lot there to chose from.

No Cooking:  This whole chapter calls my name very loud.  😉  The Double-Lemon Ginger Carrot Salad will be showing up at our table very soon.  But wouldn’t you be happy with a serving or two of Heirloom Tomato, Summer Peach, and Fresh Herb Gazpacho Salad?   I thought so…  😉

Stir-Frying:  A collection of very tasty options for stir-fries, with additions such as black bean sauce and balsamic butter to make them special.

Grilling. Reading this chapter it occurred to me that I only grill two veggies: eggplant and zucchini.  If you are like me, Susie will definitely open your horizons to include mushrooms, asparagus, even potatoes.
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Baking Gratins:  This is the slow-cooking chapter that closes the book.  I don’t think any book on veggies would be complete without some gratins, the comfort food by default.  Some examples:  Mini-Potato Gratin,  Slow-Roasted Heirloom Tomato Gratin, Christmas Kale Gratin with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Harvest Gratin of Butternut Squash, Corn, and Leeks.

My verdict: this is a wonderful cookbook, one that will change the way you view your side dishes, especially if you have a busy schedule.  I tend to have more problems figuring out what to cook as a side dish than anything else,  because we usually rotate a few main dishes during the week. There’s the roast chicken, the grilled salmon, the pork tenderloin, the chicken cutlets, the steaks.   But what to serve with them is the million dollar question.  This book helps answer that, big time!  😉

Susie, thanks for allowing me to share a recipe from your book!

ONE YEAR AGO: Speculaas

TWO YEARS AGO: Capital Sauce Pork Ribbons over Pot-Browned Noodles

THREE YEARS AGO: Pain a l’ancienne