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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Chickenless Nuggets with Harissa Mayo

Ok, you can admit it, chicken nuggets are the sort of thing that most food-conscious people are pretty horrified at, even the so called natural versions. Really, do yourself a favor and do not look at the ingredients. Just eat in terrible guilty pleasure and be done with it.

Or, make these chickenless version and eat guilt free!

Freezing tofu, defrosting it and squeezing out the liquid turns it into a sponge and marinating it in faux chicken broth gives it a wonderful flavor and texture. It's light, and crisps beautifully when fried and has a subtle chicken flavor. It seems like a long process, but planning ahead is really the only requirement, and that's not hard!

Make a double batch, because trust me, just like their hideous unnatural counterparts, these are totally addictive and you'll want more. The good news is, you can gorge without shame!

Don't feel tied to the harissa mayonnaise; since there was some homemade harissa in the house (whoot whoot!) we added it to some mayonnaise and dipped to our heart's content. But any dipping sauce of choice - BBQ, Ranch, Bleu Cheese dressing - would probably be just as delicious!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Harissa - DIY Pantry

I don't know why or how I decided to make a Moroccan Feast one fateful night in January 2009, but it was love at first bite ever since.

At that point in time, Harissa was totally new to me and that version was made with hot pepper flakes. While it was perfect for that meal, this updated version blows my mind. It's made with whole dried peppers that are soaked and deseeded and then pureed with the remaining ingredients. The result is less fire and more flavor and we can't get enough of it!

And if you're at all interested in Moroccan, buy Mourad New Moroccan; not only is he the real deal, but he knows how to write about food preparation and in beautiful, image filled detail. Make your own couscous! Really! What you get in the store is like the couscous version of freeze-dried rice they use in rice-a-roni! Who knew! And as he write, even if you never roll your own couscous, just reading about the process is fascinating!

A fun cooking tip from me to you:

In case you did not know, small mouth mason jars will fit your blender blade. In fact blenders used to be sold with a half pint mason jar as part of the standard equipment. My blender carafe broke years ago and I only use mason jars on my blender. It's great for making sauces like harissa. Try it, you'll love it!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sticky Sesame Tofu

Smitten Kitchen is probably my favorite food blog. Deb is funny, fun, irreverent, and always makes food that I want to try. Although I am not easily seduced by food porn, she manages to make her posts look both appealing and doable, a real feat when some of the photos in the blogspere look like they took hours to photograph!

When her Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings made an appearance, I knew tofu was a perfect veggie version of this Asian treat. And my diners heartily agreed!

If you're really looking carefully, you will recognize those noodles as Mei Fun Noodles from this post. Yup, they're so good and fun! that they make a fairly regular appearance at our dinner table!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Green Beans with Chile Bean Sauce

If you love the taste of chiles but don't always want your mouth so on fire that you can't taste whatever is in it, this is the dish for you!

Chinese chile bean paste has heat and flavor. And if you want your mouth on fire, you can always add more of the chile bean paste. But because it has the addition of fermented beans in the paste, the chile flavor comes through but the fire is toned down.

This is a perfect way to spice up those fresh spring veggies popping up at your local farmers market. When steaming or sauteing becomes to everyday, look to the heat! I have made this with asparagus and green beans to equal satisfaction. We ate it with tofu as well as fish, both great accompaniments!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Mushroom Ravioli with Crisp Morels

Yes, you are seeing two mushroom (and pasta) posts in a row. Because it's Morel Mushroom season! And let me tell you, like local dungeness crab season, you have got to get them while the getting is good. Cause when they're gone, that's it for another year!

This is ravioli the easy way - wonton wrappers! They are the cheater's way or the smart weeknight cook's secret. Either way, they work wonderfully. Saute some mushrooms, stir in some chevre (goat cheese) and dollop on a wonton and voila, you have a ravioli!

Morels are pricy, over $20 a pound at our food co-op. But with such a short season, they are a specialty so eat some! This dish uses other mushrooms, using the morels as an accent.

If you read the previous post you will remember the crispy morel garnish. It makes a second appearance here. Yup, it's that good!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Capellini with Morel Mushrooms in Cream Sauce

Capellini - Angel hair pasta - is a favorite at our table. It is dainty and takes well to light sauces, no marinara here. Cream sauces go especially well with it and tossing in some delicious morel mushrooms is the perfect accompaniment.

Let me back up a second, if you haven't had fresh morel mushrooms, find them now. They are truly seasonal, lasting only a few weeks and only in certain places. Mostly farmers markets are the place they will pop up (hee, hee, hee, couldn't resist the pun!). But sometimes a local natural foods store will get lucky and buy some from a local forager, because that's the only way to get them.

In this sauce, I sauted the bulk of the morels and added some cream. Just to gild the lily, I saved a few and fried them quickly to make a crispy garnish. Wow! Spectacular! Don't skip that part!