Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fried Chili-Garlic Tempeh

When I went to La Cocina Que Canta in Tecate, Mexico, they fed us something I have heard of, but didn't particularly crave it: tempeh. Yeah, I was like "what the deuce does tempeh taste like?" then they explained it was a version of a veggie burger, but vegan, meaning no eggs, not dairy, no meat. So, of course, the first thing I thought was that I would hate it, but Oh My Gawd, it was delish. They make their homemade tempeh there, so it was fresh and delicious.

I went online looking for a tempeh recipe but after reading many recipes I realized that the entire process was a bit too intricate for me (mainly because I had to find soy beans to ferment). Instead, I found the best quality ready-made tempeh at my co-op and used that instead. Yes, it did not taste anything like the fresh, homemade tempeh I had in Mexico, but it was still good, and healthy and nutritious. I made my infamous pear, pecan and Gorgonzola salad to accompany it (yes, I know it's not completely vegan, but there's only so much a carnivore can do!).

INGREDIENTS (serves 1)
  • 3 oz. tempeh, cut in half, lengthwise, then in thirds in width
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

In a skillet, heat oil or butter on medium heat. Add sliced garlic and cook for one minute. Add sliced tempeh and soy sauce. Cover skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes, until bottom it's browned--keep shaking the pan. Turn tempeh over and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.

Place heated tempeh over your favorite salad and enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Veggie Sliders

I am trying to cut down my meat intake and start eating a bit more vegetarian foods in between and the only thing I could come up with was a veggie burger. I'm sure there are ton of other healthy, veggie options out there, but this was the first thing that came to mind. So, I searched for an easy veggie burger that didn't require me to cook all sorts of grains and beans, and I came up with this recipe. The garbanzo bean base for the veggie pattie comes from 101 Cookbooks, but the addition of rye berries and nuts was totally my tweak. Also, the sprouts are optional, and I think I'll omit them the next time I make these. The patties were flavorful and, oh boy so filling!

INGREDIENTS (makes 12 mini patties or 6 regular patties)

  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup cooked whole rye berries (to cook add 1/3 cup whole rye berries to 1 cup boiling water, cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until all water is absorbed)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons grated onion
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (I grate mine over a microplane)
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup micro sprouts, chopped (try brocolli, onion, or alfalfa sprouts - optional)
  • 1/4 cup very finely chopped walnuts or almonds
  • 1 cup toasted bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (or clarified butter)
  • 12 mini hamburger buns for sliders or 6 regular hamburger buns for larger patties (I used Crumpets because they were on sale...LOL)

Combine the garbanzo beans, cooked rye berries, eggs, and salt in a food processor or blender. Puree until the mixture is the consistency of a very thick, slightly chunky hummus. Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in the parsley, onion, grated garlic, lemon zest, chopped nuts, and sprouts. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a couple of minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. At this point, you should have a moist mixture that you can easily form into twelve 1 1/2-inch-thick patties or 6 regular sized hamburger patties. Place patties on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium low, add 4 mini patties or 2 regular sized patties, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes. Flip the patties and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cook the remaining patties.

Make your sliders like you would a regular hamburger, however I would omit mayo and ketchup as the patties are quite flavorful by themselves. I'd suggest you put a little bit of mustard and one or two pickes and thinly sliced tomatoes, and perhaps a slice of American cheese.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Braised Fish with Fennel and Tomato

I first discovered the Martha Stewart Living magazine when I was a wee girl. My step-mom used to subscribe to the magazine and remember I loved visiting her house because I couldn't wait to check out what Martha was up to. But as I got older and started discovering other cooking magazines, I began to find Living a bit boring in that most of the recipes didn't have enough chutzpah.

This past week I flew to Virginia and I decided to buy a Living magazine to read on the plane and wow, has the magazine changed! This was the Thanksgiving issue so there were a lot of classic recipes with new twists, and easy recipes that sounded too good to be true. One of those recipes was this braised fish. Now, her recipe only had fresh tomatoes (I sneaked in a can of whole peeled tomatoes) and I used Orange Roughy instead of halibut or grouper. I also used preserved lemom instead of fresh lemon. I made the preserved lemon a few months ago, but you can use fresh lemon if you don't have access to preserved lemon. Lastly, I used a Viognier wine from Martin Vinyards in Knott Island, North Carolina. The fish came out tender and full of flavor and the sauce was terribly good.


  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (I used a Viognier)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large fennel bulb, halved, cored, and thinly sliced lenghwise
  • 1 medium tomato, cored and corsely chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) of whole, peeled tomatoes and its juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 thin preserved lemon slices (use fresh lemon if preserved lemons are unavailable)
  • 1/2 Tsp. Herbs de Provence
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. roughly chopped parsely
  • 4 skinless fillets of firm-fleshed fish (each about same thickness size), such as grouper, halibut, seabass or snapper (I used Orange Roughy)

In a large 13-inch skillet, pour the oil, wine, water, fennel, fresh and canned tomatoes and its juice (crush the canned whole tomatoes with your hand or a spatula), garlic, Herbs de Provence, and preserved lemon slices. Add 1-1/4 tsp. kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer over moderate heat until the fennel softens, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Sprinkle both sides of fish with salt and pepper and arrange fillets in the pan, partially submerging them in the sauce. Sprinkle chopped parsely all over fish and suce and cover and simmer until fish is opaque throughout, about 6 to 8 minutes. Gently turn fish over and cook one more minute.

Spoon some of the braising sauce onto plates and top with fish. Drizzle with more olive oil (optional) and serve with a side of nutty, steamed rice.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lemon and Sage Roasted Chicken

Sometimes when I go to sleep, I start thinking up of food to cook, how to cook it and how to season it. I wanted to make a sage roasted chicken that was juicy. I usually don't have good luck roasting chicken because it tends to dry out on me, especially the breast part. So, instead, I brined my chicken overnight (this was the first time I've ever done this) and left the skin on to make my chicken even more flavorful. The recipe below is just for one chicken breast half, enough for one person.



  • 1 Chicken breast half, bone-in and with skin left on (but trim any excess fat)
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Montreal seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Cold Water

You will need a plastic container with an air-tight lid that is large enough for chicken. Place 1 cup water and all the ingredients, except chicken. With your fingers or spoon, stir for a few seconds. Add the chicken and then add more water until chicken is completely submerged in the brine. Cover with an air-tight lid and place in the refrigerator over night.

Lemon and Sage Roasted Chicken

  • 2 large fresh Sage leaves
  • 2 thin lemon slices
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • Fresh, ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Discard brine.

Run your fingers gently under the chicken skin and separate, but don't separate all the way. Place 2 slices of lemon and 2 leaves of sage and one tablespoon of butter under the skin. Rub the remaining butter all over the chicken and grind some fresh black pepper over it. Place the chicken in a baking sheet and bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until juices run clear (I have a convection oven, so it took me half an hour).

Remove chicken and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. A nice side of collard greens with bacon would be phenomenal with this dish.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sofrito Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Sofrito Marinated Pork Tenderloin
I was in the supermarket yesterday and I did something I've never done before: I checked prices on everything and I even used coupons! Now, it's not that I've never had to worry about money before, but as long as good meat and good vegetables and fruits were available, I didn't particulary checked prices because I figured I was buying good, healthy products for my family. But now that we have a mortgage and our stocks are ever so sadly losing their value, we've become slightly frugal, and painfully aware of how much money we were needlessly spending. However, I now find this to be an exciting challange for me because I've found things in the supermarket that I never knew existed. San Diego Albertson's Store

I was craving pork for some reason: Pork cutlets, pork chops, pork tenderloin...but when I got the market all pork chops and cheaper cuts of pork were sold out. All that was left were tenderloins and, my friend (as McCain would say), they were expensive. Then the butcher told me that over by the bacon area they had tenderloin strips, which I've never seen before. Basically, they are pork tenderloins, but each is no more than 5 to 6 inches long, and skinnier than a regular tenderloin. They are the left over strips from the good cuts of pork tenderloins. Whowould'vethunkit? So, instead of paying 8 bucks a pound for regular, trimmed pork tenderloin, I paid just under 4 dollars a pound for the strips, even though it was basically the same thing...just not as pretty.

The dilemma with pork tenderloin, and pork in general, is that it tends to dry out if you don't cook it properly because it's very lean meat. The sofrito recipe below is the perfect marinade for pork because it gives it tons of flavor and makes it jucier after you cook it. When you make the sofrito, it may seem to have a strong and pungent odor and flavor to you, but the beauty of it is that you only need a little bit to marinate or to cook with. You can use the sofrito as a base for soups, fry it with ground beef or add to your chili, or use it to flavor light flavored fish like cod or sole. The beauty of sofrito is that you can totally create your own special sofrito by changing or adding different ingredients. This one totally works for me, but I'm already thinking up of new sofritos I'll probably experiment with.

Diva's Sofrito (makes about 1.5 cups)

  • 2 large green bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped white onions (about half of a large white onion)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed and roughly choppped
  • A good handful of cilantro (about half a bunch)
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 grinds of fresh, black pepper

In your blender or food processor, add all ingredients and blend or process until you get a paste with a runny consistency with no large chunks. Add more olive oil and/or vinegar, if necessary, and taste and season more, also if necessary. You want a good concentrated, herbaceous flavor that is well seasoned. At this point you can freeze the sofrito in ice trays or in small baggies. You will need 1/4 cup of the sofrito for the marinade below.

Marinated Tenderloin Strips

  • 1/4 cup of sofrito
  • 1.5 to 2 pounds tenderloin strips

Place ingredients in a large zip-lock baggie and massage sofrito all over the tenderloin. Place in fridge and marinate overnight.

To cook: Remove tenderloin strips from marinade and discard marinade. Sprinkle some kosher salt and more pepper over strips and you can either grill them, pan fry them or bake them. I chose to bake mine in a 375 degree oven, covered with foil for 20 minutes (we have a convection oven, so it cooks really fast). You want the internal temperature to reach 145.

Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Slice into medallions and serve over nutty, buttered rice and fried plantains or with cheesy grits or grilled veggies or even with roasted potatoes. Your choices are endless!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chicken & Couscous a la Luisa

I have the most beautiful niece in the world! Luisa just turned one month old and she's just precious. As you can imagine, her mom and dad are excited yet somewhat exhausted from all the new things they have to do now like: get up every 3 to 4 hours to feed her, change her diapers, do more laundry than usual, burp and tend to her, and do all their other household chores, run their errands, and walk the dogs. Pheww, I got exhausted just writing this down.

So, you can imagine that they are exhausted and cooking may not be one of their favorite things to do right now. But below is the most easiest and delicious couscous (I created this by collaborating Ina Garten's couscous recipe and the recipe we learned at Rancho La Puerta) and chicken recipe that any new parent wouldn't mind doing. The grilled chicken is a tried and true recipe from Epicurious and it's easy and simple and fast. Combine both dishes and you have Chicken & Couscous a la Luisa! Phrewwww...

INGREDIENTS (makes 4 servings)

  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 cups chicken broth, low sodium
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt, depending on how salty the chicken broth is
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 10-ounce box plain couscous
  • ½ cup pignoli nuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a large saute pan, add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper, raise the heat to high and bring the stock to a boil. Stir in couscous and remove from heat. Cover the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, add the pignoli nuts, parsley and dried cranberries to the couscous, stir and serve with chicken.


  • 2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 large skinless boneless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/3-inch thickness
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

Place 2½ tablespoons oil, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken and seal bag, releasing any excess air; turn several times to coat. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Alternatively, chill 1 to 3 hours and bring to room temperature before continuing.

Prepare barbecue (high heat). Brush grill rack with oil. Transfer chicken from bag to barbecue with some marinade still clinging. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper over chicken and grill until slightly charred and just cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to platter, cover with foil and let rest 5 minutes. When ready to serve, drizzle chicken with a little olive oil, sprinkle a little chopped cilantro over chicken, and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with couscous. **Alternatively, you can cook the chicken in a skillet if you don't want to grill.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Filet of Beef au Poivre

Oh, Ina Garten! She's such a diva when it comes to really expensive (yet fabulous) food recipes, but you know once in a while we have to spoil ourselves. Now, these are difficult financial times and in no way did I buy 6 filet mignons, but I made this recipe for only 2 persons. I cut the au poivre sauce recipe in half and it was more than enough for the two filets. So, if your 401k is not completely depleted yet, rejoice and eat meat!

INGREDIENTS (serves 6)

  • 6 filet mignon, cut 1 1/4 inches thick
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped shallots (3 to 4 shallots)
  • 1 cup canned beef broth
  • 1/2 cup good Cognac or brandy

Place the filets on a board and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the filets with salt and then press the black pepper evenly on both sides. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the butter almost smokes. Place the steaks in the pan and lower the heat to medium. Saute the steaks for 4 minutes on 1 side and then for 3 minutes on the other side, for medium rare (I sauted mine for 5 minutes on each side since steaks were 2" thick). Remove the steaks to a serving platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, pour all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the saute pan. Add the shallots and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the beef broth and cook over high heat for 4 to 6 minutes, until reduced by half, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the Cognac and cook for 2 more minutes. Off the heat, swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Strain sauce and serve the steaks hot with the sauce poured on top and around the steak.