Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

I’ve received a bunch of recipe inquiries about the salad we gobbled up during our last Family Dinner.

And I can’t blame ya because it was DEE-LISH!

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

My niece and seester prepared the dish using Ina Garten’s recipe for a Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad and it was a WINNER! It packed a huge punch of flavor from the abundance of herbs, feta cheese and citrus. It was extremely bright and would be a fab dish to enjoy on a warm day with a glass of pinot grigio and chunk of freshly baked bread. MMMMM!

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

We didn’t have fresh basil on hand and ended up omitting it. Truth be told, I didn’t really miss it—but I’m sure it would be wonderful with it.

Oh that Ina…..she knocks it out of the park—AGAIN! Think she needs a new bestie in the form of a quirky Vietnamese gal?

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Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients:

10 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded, cored, and 1/2-inch-diced
1 hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and 1/2-inch-diced
1 can or jar (12 to 16 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil
8 ounces good feta cheese
Place the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, parsley, mint, and basil in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion.
Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing gently to coat all the vegetables. Add the feta, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss gently.
Recipe from Ina Garten

Grilled Cheese with Avocado & Tomatoes + Cuisinart GIVEAWAY!

Grilled Cheese with Avocado & Tomatoes

I love experimenting with new recipes. It’s challenging, fun and when the dish is successfully completed, it’s totally gratifying.

But after a long day, week, or heck–even an afternoon, all I want to eat is something quick and comforting. Fried SPAM with rice, instant spicy ramen or a trusted ol’ sandwich. And for me, the latter usually means a BLT or a grilled cheese of some type.

Grilled Cheese with Avocado & Tomatoes

One of my fav grilled cheeses is so simple but deliciously satisfying. It’s made with Kings Hawaiian sliced bread that has been lightly buttered and then grilled with pepper jack cheese, thin slices of Roma tomatoes, sliced avocados, and a thin spread of grainy mustard. So.Freaking.Good.

In honor of the humble sandwich, one of our rad readers will have the chance to win a Cuisinart Griddler® Grill & Panini Press!

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Isn’t she a beauty?! Not only will you be able to whip up the most delectable sammies but you can also remove the plates to grill burgers, steaks, and anything else that your heart may desire. Now that is multi-functional!

How to enter: This GIVEAWAY is now closed. Thanks for entering!

Leave a comment and tell us what is your favorite sandwich.

For extra chances to win, leave a separate comment for each indicating which of the below you did:

  1. Subscribe to The Culinary Chronicles & get automatic emails when new posts are published (If you already Subscribe, leave a comment indicating so);
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The deadline to enter is Friday, March 8th at 5pm (PST) and the winner will be notified the next day.

Best of luck, Friends!!!!

Đậu Hũ Sốt Cà Chua (Vietnamese Style Tofu with Tomato Sauce)

Tofu with Tomato Sauce

What is your Comfort Food?

Mac ‘n Cheese? Chicken Noodle Soup? PB and J sammies?

No matter what it is—one thing holds true for everyone. Comfort Food does exactly what it’s named for….it brings us comfort—and perhaps transports us back to a time of happiness, safety and love.

And for me, that is what Vietnamese food is.

Tofu with Tomato Sauce

It’s about the “everyday” dishes my family would sit down to at dinner time. A plethora of dishes to be eaten with jasmine rice….fried fish, stuffed squid, various stir-fry veggies, soups, and stinky stuff that just tastes so damn good. And wouldn’t you know it? When I was young, I would complain all the time about it to Mom and say “cơm (rice) again?!” Because at that time, I wanted to eat what all my friends were eating…spaghetti, pizza, burgers, etc. But Mom would always say, “Just wait—one day, you’ll miss this”. And darnit! She was right! Moms…..how do they just know?!

This simple tofu dish is something we would eat quite often. It’s quick and tasty—balancing salty and sweet together. I cheat and buy already fried tofu squares at my local Asian markets which makes this dish SUPER quick and easy. But if you don’t have that available, cube up firm tofu and use paper towels to dry them off. Fry them in oil until golden brown and then throw them into the sauce. Easy Peasy!

So tell me, Friends….what’s your go-to Comfort Foods?

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Đậu Hũ Sốt Cà Chua (Vietnamese Style Tofu with Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients:

4 Cups Fried Tofu
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, minced
1/4 Cup Shallots, diced
4 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and roughly diced
1 Red Jalapeno, thinly sliced
2 Scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
Black Pepper
Garnish with additional scallions and cilantro

In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat and cook garlic and shallots for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, scallions, jalapeno and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until softened. Stir in ketchup and fish sauce. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Toss in fried tofu and coat evenly. Season with black pepper and garnish with additional scallions and fresh cilantro. Serve with steamed rice and Enjoy!

Vegetarian Chap Chae for Mom

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A short time ago, we held the 5 year anniversary of our mom’s passing. And for a long time, the siblings and our dad tossed around a lot of different ideas on how we would commemorate Mom. But at the end of the day, it all came down to focusing on what was important to her—-Family and of course, Good Food.

So, on a beautiful and sunny Southern California day, the clan gathered. Aunties, Uncles, Cousins, Children, Grandkids (including Canine Grandkids) all converged upon my sister’s home to honor Mom. We spent time with each other, retold stories of her, cooked, and ate. And boy, did we eat!

It was all quite fitting actually. Mom was the head Foodie of our family and irrefutably the best cook. If we didn’t have a delicious spread for the party held in her honor, she would not have been a happy camper!

Vegetarian Chap Chae

One of the things that made Mom such a Foodie was her wide range of taste and her fearlessness to experiment in the kitchen. In the latter years she went through a big Korean phase—and I’m not only talking about Korean cuisine. I would often come for a visit and find my parents watching Korean soap operas—without subtitles! They claimed they could still figure out the storyline despite the fact that they didn’t understand the dialogue. Go figure.

It seemed fitting that one of my contributions for Mom’s international menu would be Chap Chae–a dish she would often make for Dad and their friends.  I went the vegetarian route but it’s just as easy to add beef, pork, chicken or seafood.

All in all, I think we did Mom proud. I’m sure she would have preferred for us to bicker less during the preparation but hey—we’re her kids! We love, we laugh, we bicker, we eat. :)

We love and miss you Mama!!

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Vegetarian Chap Chae (Jap Chae)

Ingredients:

1 Pound Sweet Potato Noodles
½ Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sugar
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Medium sized Carrot, julienned
2 Small Shallots, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 Small Red Bell Pepper, julienned
2 Scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 Cup Shitake Mushrooms, sliced
1 Cup Inoke Mushrooms, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 Cups Fried Tofu, cut into long strips
2 Cups Fresh Spinach Leaves, washed well and drained
¼ Cup Mirin
Black Pepper
½ Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Seeds

In a large pot, boil the noodles until firm–about 5-6 minutes. Strain the noodles and rinse with cold water. Using kitchen shears, cut the noodles about 4-6 inches in length.

In a small bowl, stir the sugar into the soy sauce until dissolved. Set aside.

Heat a large wok, with the vegetable oil. Add in shallots, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms and stir fry until tender. Add in tofu, garlic, scallions, spinach and cook for an additional minute. Use the mirin to deglaze the pan and then season with black pepper. Quickly toss in the noodles and half of the soy sauce mixture. Stir fry for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle in the sesame oil. Taste and add in more of the soy sauce mixture as needed.  Plate the Chap Chae and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top.

Mushroom Calzones–Portable Goodness.

Mushroom Calzone

Know what one of the perks of having extra pizza dough in your freezer is?

Calzones.

Also known as “homemade hot pockets” in my book…..not just delicious but portable, too!

Just like pizza toppings, anything goes when it comes to filling calzones. Veggies, meat, cheeses—they can even be made into desserts. This time I opted for a mushroom medley which was perfect when dunked into marinara sauce.

Enjoy!

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Mushroom Calzone
Serves 2

Ingredients:

8 ounces Pizza Dough
1½ cups sliced assorted mushrooms
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 pinches red chili flakes
¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated
cornmeal, optional
1 cup marinara sauce
kosher salt
black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil with the butter. Add in garlic and sauté for one minute. Toss in mushrooms, chili flakes and thyme leaves and sauté until the mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat and season with kosher salt and black pepper. Allow the mixture to cool.

On a floured surface, roll out the pizza dough to a circular shape and until it reaches ½ inch thickness. Fill one-half side of the dough with the mushrooms mixture and cheeses, leaving an inch or so border around the edge. Carefully fold the dough over itself. Roll the edges up and press to seal. Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and slide the calzone on top. Brush the calzone with olive oil and lightly sprinkle kosher salt on top. Bake the calzone for 18-20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with marinara sauce to dip.

Korokke (Japanese Potato Croquette)

Korokke (Japanese Potato Croquette)

 

 

Okay….my first confession with this is that I had no intention of writing a post about this.  These Korokke were a result of me rummaging around the fridge one day, extremely hungry and wanting to find something quick to make. And then I stumbled upon a tupperware of leftover mashed potatoes—-something I RARELY have leftovers of. I am, after all, a Potato Monster .

I quickly decided upon fixing up some Korokke to eat along side some eggs……a Japanese “hashbrown” if you will. Super quick to make (especially if using mashed potatoes) and delish when lightly flavored with some curry powder. I often order it as a side dish when I’m having ramen for that added bit of texture and crunch.

Then I thought…..there must be tons of potato monsters out there, right? It was decided—I HAD to share my Korokke with you.

 

 

Korokke (Japanese Potato Croquette)

My second confession is that I got a little OCD when forming the potato patties. Usually I just free form them in my hands but I suddenly got it into my head that I was going to use my cookie cutters to get more uniformed shapes. Yeah…I have issues.

If you’re a normal person—just go with forming oval patties out of the potato mixture. But if you’re a crazy food blogger like me, gently press the mixture into an even layer on a lightly floured surface.  Then, use a cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to make your shapes.  Trust me….either way results in a crispy and delish potato croquette. :)

Potato Monster signing off!

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Korokke (Japanese Potato Croquette)
Makes approximately 4 croquettes

Ingredients:

2 Cups Mashed Potatoes (or boil and mash 2 large potatoes)
1/2 Teaspoon Curry Powder
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1/2 Cup Flour
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
Salt and Pepper
Oil for frying

Heat oil in a skillet to 350 degrees F.

Thoroughly combine the potatoes and curry powder. Season with salt and pepper. Plate the beaten egg, flour, and panko in 3 separate, shallow dishes.

Using the potato mixture, form patties. This can be done by free forming them in your hands or by the cookie cutter method described above. Carefully coat each patty in the flour and gently shake off excess. Dip patty into the egg and then cover in the panko bread crumbs. Use the tips of your fingers to gently press the crumbs into the patty.

When the oil reaches temperature, fry the patties on each side until golden brown—about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with tonkatsu sauce or sauce of your choice.

Refreshing Greek Salad…..Opa!

Greek Salad

It’s been unusually warm these past few weeks — not your typical fall weather at all. Not that I’m really complaining but it does make me turn to lighter dishes instead of slaving away in a hot kitchen.

The other day I picked up a bunch of produce at my weekly farmer’s market and decided to make a refreshing Greek Salad for lunch.

Greek Salad

The salad is full of bright flavors from the fresh veggies, feta and the olives. Delish! And the leftovers were the perfect accompaniment to the Spanakopita I made the next day.

Up next, flaky and buttery Spanakopita!

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Greek Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Cups Cucumbers, diced
2 Cups Grape Tomatoes, diced
2/3 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped
½ Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Cup Feta Cheese, cubed or crumbled
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
½ Cup Quality Olive Oil
¼ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced
¼ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, garlic, and oregano. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad, and toss to coat.

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

For a good chunk of my life, I didn’t like tomatoes.

I thought they were mealy and rather “bleh” in flavor. I’d pick them out of salads, burgers, well….pretty much out of everything.

And you know what the problem was? For the first 20+ years of my life, I was eating BAD tomatoes!

Because when you take a bite out of a gorgeous tomato at its peak in the season, it’s absolutely delicious! They’re sweet and juicy with the right balance of acidity. And last summer, I even found myself growing the most beautiful Early Girl Tomatoes via our Topsy Turvy. (For the record, the Topsy Turvy is awesome!)

Needless to say, I was missing out for so many years!

 

 

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes are in Bruschetta. The simplicity of ingredients paired with the herbaceous basil  really highlights the true flavor of the tomato. On its own, it’s quite fabulous but I decided to add a spin by throwing in some smoked mozzarella cheese I stumbled on at my local specialty market. It was perfect!

And on warm summer nights like we’ve been having, I could eat Bruschetta every day! Mom would be proud that I’m eating my veggies :)

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Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
Serves 4 as an Appetizer or 2 for a Light Meal

Ingredients:

1½ Cups Tomatoes, diced
½ Cup Smoked Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
¼ Cup Fresh Basil, leaves torn
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced or grated
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a bowl, mix together the tomatoes, cheese, basil, garlic, vinegar, and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Serve with your choice of flat bread or toasted baguettes.

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

I love Condiments.

Hot sauces, dips, salsas, flavored ketchup, sauces…… I’m completely obsessed. No salsa bar is safe from me and I am without a doubt the reason why many food spots charge extra for sauces these days.

But when condiments can also be considered a “dip” or even a side dish—-well then it’s brilliant! And my Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo does just that!

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Traditional Pico de Gallo is known for its bright flavors from the citrus and cilantro. These components play so well with the slight heat from the chilies and coolness of tomatoes. To add a different flair, I threw in fresh corn for a bit of sweetness and crunch. The whole combination married so well together and for me, depicted summer at its best.

This Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo is extremely versatile as well. Serve it as a dip with chips or veggies. Layer it in tacos or over freshly grilled meat or fish. You can even serve it as a side dish!

But one thing is for sure, be sure you make A LOT of it because you will definitely gobble it all up!

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Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Ingredients:

2 Cups Fresh Tomatoes, diced and seeded
1 Cup Whole Corn Kernels
½ Cup White Onion, finely diced
¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
½ Tablespoon Serrano Chili, finely diced and seeded
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lime Zest
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
1-2 Pinches Ground Cumin
Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Muggles’ Fish and Chips

Muggles' Fish and Chips

11+ years…..

11+ years I’ve been engrossed in the world of Patronus charms, invisibility cloaks, house elves, and Quidditch.

11+ years I’ve arrived in costume at stores for their early book release parties, stood in line for midnight movie premiere showings, and took online quizzes to find out which House I would be “sorted” in (Gryffindor, of course).

Muggles' Fish and Chips

So as the final movie installment of the Harry Potter saga comes to a close this Friday in the States, I find myself mixed with feelings of utter glee and sadness. Kind of like at your college graduation…..excited for closure yet somehow saddened to see it end. Bittersweet.

As a tribute (damn, that J.K. Rowlings is brilliant), I wanted to make something “British” to send off some of my favorite characters. And of course, the first thing that came to my mind was Fish and Chips. Cliche? Maybe, but I love Fish and Chips :)


Muggles' Fish and Chips

 

These Fish and Chips from America’s Test Kitchen are easily some of the best I’ve ever had. The cod remained moist and flavorful through the frying process and the batter was utterly crispy—-even after 20+ minutes out of the fryer. I decided to serve this classic with a kicked up version of tartar sauce that was amped up with prepared horseradish. But if you’re not a fan, feel free to omit as you see fit.

And why did I call it “Muggles’ Fish and Chips“? Simple really….because THIS muggle made them!

But trust me on this, these Fish and Chips are so delish that even “He Who Must Not Be Named” would change his ways after taking a bite. Well….at least he would stop and think twice. :)

Here’s to an incredible adventure that has inspired millions of children (and adults!) across the world to become excited about reading and believing in MAGIC…..

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Muggles’ Fish and Chips
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Fish (From Americas Test Kitchen):
1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Cornstarch
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Table Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 1/2 Pounds 1-inch-thick Cod Fillet or Haddock, cut into eight 3-ounce pieces
1 1/2 Cups Beer (12 ounces), cold

Chips (From Americas Test Kitchen):
3 Pounds Russet Potatoes, peeled, ends and sides squared off, and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch by 1/2-inch fries
3 Quarts Peanut Oil (or canola oil), plus 1/4 additional cup

Tartar Sauce:
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Caper Berries, roughly chopped
1/2 Tablespoon Prepared Horseradish
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare tartar sauce by whisking all the ingredients in a a bowl until fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Place cut fries in large microwaveable bowl, toss with 1/4 cup oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until potatoes are partially translucent and pliable but still offer some resistance when pierced with tip of paring knife, 6 to 8 minutes, tossing them with rubber spatula halfway through cooking time. Carefully pull back plastic wrap from side farthest from you and drain potatoes into large mesh strainer set over sink. Rinse well under cold running water. Spread potatoes onto kitchen towels and pat dry. Let rest until room temperature, at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour.

While fries cool, whisk flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt in large mixing bowl; transfer 3/4 cup of
mixture to rimmed baking sheet. Add baking powder to bowl and whisk to combine.

In heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat 2 quarts oil over medium heat to 350 degrees. Add fries to hot oil and increase heat to high. Fry, stirring with mesh spider or slotted metal spoon, until potatoes turn light golden and just begin to brown at corners, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer fries to thick paper bag or paper towels to drain.

Reduce heat to medium-high, add remaining quart of oil, and heat oil to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, thoroughly dry fish with paper towels and dredge each piece in flour mixture on baking sheet; transfer pieces to wire rack, shaking off excess flour. Add 1 1/4 cups beer to flour mixture in mixing bowl and stir until mixture is just combined (batter will be lumpy). Add remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until batter falls from whisk in thin, steady stream and leaves faint trail across surface of batter. Using tongs, dip 1 piece fish in batter and let excess run off, shaking gently. Place battered fish back onto baking sheet with flour mixture and turn to coat both sides. Repeat with remaining fish, keeping pieces in single layer on baking sheet.

When oil reaches 375 degrees, increase heat to high and add battered fish to oil with tongs, gently shaking off excess flour. Fry,
stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer fish to thick paper bag or paper towels to drain. Allow oil to return to 375 degrees.

Add all fries back to oil and fry until golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to fresh paper bag or paper towels to drain.
Season fries with salt to taste and serve immediately with fish, fresh lemon, and tartar sauce.