oriental journey

Korean beef wrapsPhoto: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Cindy Barr

 

Time to fly to the Orient to sample some of the excellent dishes we can easily prepare in our northern Maine kitchens. Takeout never tasted as good as your own, freshly prepared, delectable Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps, Sticky Sweet Chicken, or Thai Peanut Chicken Noodles.

korean beef lettuce wraps

Korean BBQ can be made at home with these light, refreshing lettuce wraps! These are SO good. They can also be made/prepped ahead of time! I used boneless pork one time, and that was good, too.

ingredients

  • ½  cup soy sauce
  • ¼  cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼  cup thinly chopped green onions, both tops and white ends
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil (in the Ethnic aisle)
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger (or 1 teaspoon ginger powder but the flavor will not be as bright)
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1½  pounds sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 head butter or Bibb lettuce
  • ½ teaspoons sesame seeds

directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, green onions, garlic, sesame oil, ginger, and cayenne. Reserve ¼ cup and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine soy sauce mixture and steak; marinate for at least 1 hour to overnight, turning the bag occasionally. Drain steak from marinade.
  3. In a large saucepan of 2 cups water, cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.
  4. Preheat a cast iron pan to medium-high heat. Add steak and cook, flipping once and basting with reserved ¼ cup marinade until cooked through, about 1-2 minutes each side.
  5. Spoon rice into the center of a lettuce leaf; top with steak, garnish with sesame seeds. Roll up, taco-style.

sticky sweet chicken

This is a tasty way to prepare chicken. You can use tenders if they are a better bargain at the store. Serve with a green vegetable and rice or noodles.

ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • ¼  cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger root (You can sub 1 teaspoon ginger powder but the flavor will not be as bright)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons hot sauce, optional (or sub a pinch of cayenne)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves cut into ½-inch strips
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

directions

  1. Mix together brown sugar, honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and hot sauce or cayenne in a small bowl.
  2. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken strips.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and brown quickly about 2 minutes per side till caramelized.
  4. Pour sauce over chicken. Simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, 8-10 minutes.

tip:

Never bought or dealt with fresh ginger root? Here is a handy online tutorial about how to prepare it. http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_peel_and_chop_ginger/

thai peanut chicken noodles

The surprising flavor of peanuts gives this dish an unusually delicious edge.  Add additional veggies like bean sprouts or pea pods if you like.  Whip this up in less than thirty minutes. Flavorful, and can be served as a side or main dish!

ingredients

  • 2 packages dried ramen noodles, seasoning sauce packets discarded
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts or 8 chicken tenders, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (or use prepared slaw mix)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

for the sauce

  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (in Ethnic aisle)
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha or Tabasco, optional

directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, honey, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil and Sriracha or Tabasco, if using; set aside.
  2. In a large pot of boiling water, add noodles and boil until soft, about 1-2 minutes; drain well.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes.
  4. Stir in cabbage, carrots and green onions until heated through, about 1 minute.
  5. Stir in cooked noodles and peanut butter mixture. Serve immediately, garnished with peanuts, if desired.

 

Print this post:  CJ – ASIAN 3-23-17

ditch the trendy meals

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I love to cook, and I love to eat! I spend a lot of time online researching food facts, nutrition, and ingredients to create many of my own recipes. But ever since the elevation of the “celebrity chef” to near god-like status, trendy food styling and ingredients are out of control. Food topics are now “above the fold” and recipes are breaking news.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the attention given to the wonderful variety of foods available in our modern grocery stores. And we’re a long way from the meat and potatoes diet our grandparents lived on. Advances in nutritional science have created changes in that old “food pyramid” from an emphasis on carbohydrates to vegetables and fruit. It’s just those pesky trends that continue to irk me.

I don’t know about you but I‘m pretty much done with the laundry list of fads that continue to assault this foodie’s semi-purist sensibility.

Personally, I’ve had it with Buffalo-style anything, especially chicken wings—possibly the most unhealthy part of the beloved bird. Then there are chipotle peppers, chimichurri, salsa, red pepper flakes, and hot sauce in everything! Let’s dial hot, spicy foods back a bit so we can taste the delicate flavors we love.

When did cilantro become a staple? TV chefs are putting the soapy, nasty herb in dishes that never rubbed elbows with it before! When I saw a cook assaulting some beautiful grilled salmon with cilantro, I wanted to—well, let’s just say I was not happy.

And what’s up with kale? Chefs are putting it in places it’s never been before.  Cooked, it has a strong, bitter, “cabbagey” flavor; raw, it’s tough, like chewing on elephant ears. Yum. Give me more of that. Actually, I still prefer spinach, romaine, and leafy lettuces—so tender, crisp, and sweet.

Then there’s presentation. Stacking food in the middle of the plate has been a popular serving style since the 1980s, but I hated it then, and I hate it now. It’s pointless (you still have to level off everything to get at it), and it’s dangerous (ever try carrying plates loaded with towers of food to a table of hungry teenagers?).

My recipes will never ask for kale, cilantro, food towers, or trendy anything. I can’t guarantee gluten-free either. I try to buy organic vegetables, meat, and eggs, and steer away from foods that aren’t non-GMO. I’m not perfect so I leave it to you to make food choices you are comfortable with. Here’s an easy, quick, and delicious way to start. Happy eating!

easy non-trendy “tex-mex” orzo

serves: 6

Always available, always a bargain, and always easy to prepare, orzo is rice-shaped pasta kids and adults alike enjoy. Combining beans with vegetables makes a nutritious dish you and your family will love.  If you feel the need for a protein, add diced poached chicken or shrimp. No hot sauce required unless you like it!

ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (or ½ tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1½ cups frozen  or drained canned corn
  • 3½ cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth, or whatever you have on hand)
  • 16 oz. orzo pasta

instructions:

  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, add olive oil and heat until shimmering.
  2. Add red bell pepper, green bell pepper, garlic, and onions. Sprinkle with salt and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until just softened and fragrant. Add cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper and stir until combined.
  3. Add the black beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and orzo. Stir to combine.
  4. Slowly add the chicken stock then bring mixture to a boil, turn the heat to medium low, cover and let simmer until orzo has fully cooked through and absorbed most of the liquid, about 13 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Serve hot with warm flour tortillas or in lettuce cups. Pass the shredded jack cheese.

Is there a food fad you love to hate? I’d love to hear from you. You can also send me your favorite recipes. If I use them in my column or blog I will credit you. Let me know at my new blog address, http://www.cooksjournalblog.com, where you can comment, follow me, and receive and print out every post sent directly to your inbox.

PRINT THIS POST: cj-ditch-the-trendy-meals-2-15-17

late summer fare

Due to technical problems, this post, which appeared in the newspaper in August, never made it into the blog. The recipes are still delicious! —CMT

Summer means eating light. When temperatures rise, appetites wane. Heavy meals don’t appeal to most of us this time of year, and because they put a significant burden on our bodies to digest them we tend to seek out lighter fare. Here are a few ideas that might increase enjoyment of summer meals.

ramen noodle salad

Crunchy, tangy, and refreshing! And it won’t heat up the kitchen.

ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) bag coleslaw mix
  • 1 package ramen noodles, crushed
  • 1 oriental flavor seasoning packet from ramen package
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (I use dry roasted)
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar

directions

  1. Placed dry crushed noodles in a shallow bowl and microwave on high at one-minute intervals, stirring between each, till noodles are lightly toasted.
  2. Mix together coleslaw mix, crushed noodles, and sunflower kernels.
  3. In a small bowl, mix ramen noodle seasoning, oil, vinegar, and sugar and pour over coleslaw and noodles. Mix and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Add sunflower seeds just prior to serving.

variations

  1. If you have toasted sesame seed oil on hand, a drizzle or two before serving is wonderful addition.
  2. Double the amount of dressing (except one package of seasoning is enough) and marinate a cup of diced or pulled cooked rotisserie chicken breast for about 4 hours in the refrigerator.  Drain marinated chicken and add to noodles and vegetables.

spiedies (pronounced “SPEE-dees”)

My husband is from Binghamton, New York, and one summer he took me to the Spiedie Festival. Made popular by Italian immigrants—spiedo means “kitchen cooking spit.” In Binghamton’s industrial heyday in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, “spiedie stands” popped up to feed growing throngs of manufacturing workers in Binghamton, Vestal, Endicott, and Broome County in New York state’s southern tier. Many spiedie stands exist today, and spiedies are still a popular dish at local restaurants.

You can buy prepared spiedie sauce at our local grocery store, but it is so easy to whip up your own fresh version, which has a more authentic flavor. Rub the herbs between your finger and thumb before adding in order to release their essential oils. Beef and lamb are traditionally used—even venison, but lean boneless pork is also excellent. If using chicken, reduce marinating time to 3 hours or less. Other meats can be marinated overnight. This recipe makes six sandwiches.

for the marinade

  • 2 pounds meat cut into 1½ -inch cubes
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano=
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

for the sauce

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

have on hand

  • Loaf of crusty Italian or French bread

directions

  1. Make marinade and sauce. Combine marinade ingredients in large bowl. Transfer 2 tablespoons of mixture to separate bowl. Whisk in mayonnaise, vinegar, and lemon juice; refrigerate.
  2. Prick meat with fork, cut into 1½ -inch chunks; mix with remaining oil mixture. Depending on meat, refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes for chicken or up to 24 hours for red meats.
  3. On the day, let meat stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Grill on skewers over hot fire, covered, turning frequently until lightly charred and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. No grill? Meat can be browned and cooked through in about 8 minutes in a cast iron pan. A ¼ tsp. Wright’s Natural Hickory Seasoning® (aka Liquid Smoke) added to the marinade will improve the flavor. Wrap bread around meat and drizzle generously with mayonnaise sauce. Serve immediately.

barbecued chinese chicken wrap

You can’t beat the combination of flavors. Lettuce must be uber fresh for the best crunch. Assemble a few hours in advance, and refrigerate. Terrific appetizers or a light summer supper.

ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 pounds thin-cut chicken breast or tenders
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
  • Coarse salt and coarse black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger root, grated or minced pickled ginger (in Asian foods aisle)
  • 1 navel orange, zested
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 small can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin, Chinese barbecue sauce (in Asian foods aisle)
  • 1/2 large head iceberg lettuce, core removed, washed and spun dry
  • Wedges of navel orange

directions

  1. Discard tough stems from mushrooms and slice tops. Chop chicken into small pieces.
  2. Preheat a large skillet or wok to high.
  3. Add oil to hot pan. Add chicken to the pan and sear by stir frying a minute or two. Add mushrooms and cook another minute or two. Add salt and pepper to season, then garlic and ginger. Cook a minute more.
  4. Grate zest into pan, add bell pepper bits, chopped water chestnuts, and scallions. Cook another minute, continuing to stir. Add hoisin sauce and toss to coat.
  5. Transfer hot barbecued mix to serving platter, and pile the quartered wedges of crisp iceberg lettuce along side. Add wedged oranges to platter to garnish.
  6. Pile spoonfuls into lettuce leaves, wrapping in thirds around fillings. Squeeze an orange wedge over top to enhance.

Want to print out these recipes? Click HERE.

tips & tricks – bits & basics (part 3)

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by Connie Tucker

Saving time in the kitchen conserves a cook’s energy and saves money. Seasoned cooks know many of these tips and basics, but if you’re new to the culinary world, you’ll appreciate learning these bits and basics.

Cooking is a sort of chemistry experiment, after all. Mixing acids and bases and applying heat qualifies as science, so results should be consistent and predictable. So even if you flunked chemistry in high school, you can apply these principles with great success! Check out part-1 and part-2 tips and tricks columns on this blog, too.

Tips & Tricks (totally random)

  1. Onions – Too strong and pungent? Learn how to slice them first: cutting down through the width into rings will give you a lot of exposure to ruptured onion cells thus lots of tears and smelly fumes. Cutting into the side of the onion will give you less cell rupture and more friendly slices.
    TIP: After slicing either way, rinse with hot water for 45 seconds. Trust me—the onions won’t wilt because the  pectin that holds the plant cells together won’t melt till 185°, and tap water is usually around 140-150°. Onion slices will now be sweet and less pungent.
  2. Beans – When cooking dried beans, always salt the soaking and cooking water. Salt helps the skin stay intact and tender, preventing beans from “blowing out.” And always add your fully cooked (softened) beans to chili or baked bean liquid. Cooking them in an acidic stew of molasses or tomatoes before they are soft will toughen them or blow them out.
  3. Crème fraîche is easily made at home by mixing 2 Tbs. of buttermilk with 2 cups of heavy cream. Set aside on the counter covered with a tea towel 6-12 hours till thick. Afterward, store in a closed jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  4. How fresh are your eggs? Most cartons display a sell-by date and a packing date. The packing date is a 3-digit number above the sell-by date with 001 for January 1st to 365 for December 31. Always use this to determine freshness as eggs must be packed no later than 30 days after they are collected. Refrigerated eggs stay wholesome for 70 days.
  5. Fresh farm eggs (not commercially distributed) need no refrigeration because they are laid with a built-in “cuticle,” a natural waxy coating that seals the eggs’ contents keeping bacteria out and moisture in. Commercial eggs are washed and lose that protection so they need refrigeration.
  6. Test your eggs’ freshness by submerging them in water to cover. Older (but safe) eggs will stand up because a little air has gotten into the shell. Really old eggs will float and should be discarded.
  7. Egg shell color has no effect on its quality or flavor. Color varies according to the breed of the chicken.
  8. Skin is easily peeled from many fruits and vegetables (peaches, tomatoes, etc.) by placing them in boiling water for a few minutes then lifting them and plunging in ice water (this is called shocking). Skins will peel right off.
  9. When beating egg whites for meringue or other uses, place egg whites in an immaculately clean metal or glass bowl, and be sure beaters are also completely clean. Any trace of grease or oil (or yolk) will prevent the whites from frothing properly.
  10. When preparing strawberries for shortcake, hull and slice them, then sprinkle generously with sugar, toss, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours. This will bring out the juices in the fruit.
  11. Muffin batter should sit for about 20-30 minutes before it is placed in tins. The extra time allows the baking powder to work its magic for higher, lighter muffins.
  12. Always let meat rest after cooking. Juices excited by extended periods of heat need to settle before any meat is cut. This means steak, roasts, chicken—anything.

PRINT THIS POST CJ-Tips Pt 3

thanks for reading my column

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Hello, loyal food fans!

My latest column, More Tips & Tricks, Part 3 appears in today’s issues of the Star-Herald, Aroostook Republican, and St. John Valley Times!  Check it out, and check back here next Sunday for the online post and a printable version.

It is fun to watch my crowd of followers grow. I appreciate your interest and welcome comments and questions. Don’t hesitate to write!

~Connie