Thursday, April 18, 2013

Shrimp Tacos with Fried Plantain, Cilantro Rice, and Dressings Galore

I can't stop making tacos. Tacos, tacos, tacos!
This week, shrimp!

1 cup peanut oil
2 ripe plantains
1 cup fresh cilantro
1.5 cups long grain white rice
pound big shrimps
1 ripe avocado
dry slaw mix
package of small corn tortillas
cayenne pepper to taste
coriander to taste
cumin to taste
garlic salt to taste
5 cloves garlic
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons skim milk (or water in a pinch. It's what Mexican restaurants use, anyway)
chipotle salsa
green salsa
Mexican beer for drinking

Prep cream sauce by adding 3 garlic cloves minced, pinch of cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, and garlic salt to sour cream. I also add some Melinda's Habanero sauce to really spice it up, but keep in mind that adding another liquid will affect the consistency of the sauce, so make sure to add liquids before adding the milk or water, so you don't end up with something too runny. The right consistency should be that of any cream-based sauce you've been served in a Mexican restaurant. You can also make this into a cilantro-infused sauce by putting it in the food processor with a couple teaspoons of cilantro. The possibilities are endless when it comes to sauce. And this keeps very well in the fridge for leftovers.

Prep shrimp by thawing and peeling if necessary. Set aside. Start rice. I use a rice cooker and add in some garlic salt and cilantro to taste. For a cup of rice, I add a couple tablespoons of chopped cilantro. No one will mind if you add some butter, too. 

Slice avocado into bite size pieces, dice remaining cilantro for serving, place slaw in serving bowl. 

Slice plantain into small, even rounds, then cut in half. Heat peanut oil to medium-high heat. Toss raw plantain in pinch of cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic salt, and coriander to taste. Once oil is heated, add plantain, cover and fry for 3 mins, keeping an eye on them.You want the oil to almost crest the top of the plantains. Flip. Fry for 2 more minutes. I pulled mine out when they were browning but still fairly bright yellow. Peanut oil makes anything pretty crunchy, so you don't want to over-fry them because they'll actually be too hard to eat. But the peanut oil adds great flavor to this dish. If you're making this for friends, make sure to ask about nut allergies, though, as they won't even be able to enter your kitchen otherwise. Place fried plantain on a plate covered in paper towels to remove residual oil. 

Hang desired number of tortillas on oven rack rungs, making sure to hang each tortilla over TWO rungs. Turn oven on broil. Wait 3 mins and check tortillas. They should brown slightly when they're ready. 

Pour peanut oil from pan. Toss prepped shrimp in 2 cloves garlic diced, and cayenne, coriander, cumin, and garlic salt to taste. Place in plantain pan on medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Flip. Don't saute shrimp so long they start to curl into little rounds. That means you're over-cooking them. Barely wait for them to turn bright pink, and then pull them off heat. Most people over-cook shrimp. You don't have to. :) They have a wonderful texture when they aren't over-cooked.

Build you some tacos! I usually go in this order:
Dollop cream sauce
dry slaw
shrimp and plantain
lil' more cream sauce

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Japanese curry

This curry is one of my favorite meals, but it might not be like any curry you've ever had before. It's a Japanese curry and more equivalent to something like a hearty beef stew than an Indian or Thai curry. It's also sweeter than other curries. 
The first time I ever had a Japanese curry while I was living in Taiwan, I thought it was just a badly made curry, an evil plan hatched by the same people who put corn on pizza and sprinkles on salad. I had an Indian curry in mind, and what I got was totally disappointing in comparison. Thankfully, I had much worldlier friend who told me it was just a different style. Once I stopped comparing it to a dish it wasn't even trying to be, I learned to enjoy it.
And then I started teaching at a school where they served it once a month, on Thursdays. The other English teachers and I became ravenous on curry days. I refused to give the students seconds to make sure that my co-teacher and I would have more to eat. One of my peers brought Tupperware so he could take some home for dinner. We were absolutely mad for the stuff.
Finally, I prostrated myself at the feet of my adorable co-teacher and begged her to teach me the magical curry spell. I couldn't believe it when she told me it was made from a kind of paste that was easily found at any grocery store (in Taiwan) and that she made it all the time for her two boys. I expected to spend long hours with a mortar and pestle, slaving over a hot stove, but in reality, it's no harder than macaroni and cheese and just as awesome. 
You can get the curry stuff at any Asian store. I've even seen it in conventional groceries stores in big cities. I don't really have a favorite brand; I just buy whatever is available. It's usually about $5.00 a box, and you can make at least two big batches (or one giant batch) per box. Here are some boxes to look for: 

Noob Cook has an awesome version of this recipe with lots of beautiful pictures, as always. She does it just a little bit differently than I learned how to do it, but I basically did it her way tonight and it turned out as delicious as ever. I froze it in quart-sized Ziploc freezer bags and I'll thaw them out over the next couple of weeks for dinner or lunch as needed. It's even more awesome with a squirt of Sriracha!


  • Some oil. I used peanut oil I got from the Asian grocery.
  • Some butter. This is a pro-tip from my co-teacher; not everyone adds butter. 
  • Chopped onions; a large one or two smaller ones
  • Four small carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces. I left the peel on.
  • Two large potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces. I used Russet potatoes and I left the peel on.
  • A pound of meat, chopped into bite-sized pieces. I've used beef and chicken before, and today I used pork. But beef is my favorite in this dish. You can use tofu if you like, but I've made this before without meat and just didn't enjoy it as much. 
  • Curry paste? cubes? stuff? from the Asian store. It comes in a plastic tray inside a box. It looks like big pieces of chocolate, actually. You'll understand what I mean once you get it.
  • Water
  • Cooked brown rice
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium/medium-low heat.
  2. Add the butter, and once it's melted, add the onions. Cook until softened. 
  3. Add the meat and brown it. 
  4. Add the curry cubes. One box usually has two trays; each tray should have 4-6 cubes. Break up the cubes and add them to the pot. Stir them as they melt, making sure that the meat gets all covered with curry paste.
  5. Add 700-1000 ml of water. I added 1000 ml because I knew I would be freezing it, and whatever you freeze tends to lose some liquid after it's been frozen and reheated.
  6. Add the carrots and potatoes. Turn up the heat until the whole pot starts boiling, then turn it down to medium-low and cover. Cook until the potatoes and carrots are softened. 
  7. Serve over rice. 
I'm not sure what wine I would drink with this because it still makes me think of those kindergarten lunches. In general, a nice off-dry/semi-sweet Riesling or Gewurtraminer goes well with Indian or Chinese food. Otherwise, try a cider or a sour ale. 

Extension recipe: I sometimes use the leftovers to make a fried rice. Just fry up the rice however you like (here's my recipe) and then at the end, add a couple spoonfuls of the curry sauce/soup. I often use the meat and vegetables from the curry as well, but I cut them up into smaller pieces before I put them in the rice. Anyway, then you have curry fried rice. Add a little Sriracha and you'll be in heaven. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rice and beans (and chorizo and tomatoes and all)

This is a pretty unhealthy, meaty version of what could be a very healthy vegan meal. Do it up however you like. I made a giant pot and froze large portions in quart-sized Ziploc freezer bags.

Beans and rice are a complete and very inexpensive protein, as well as being a great source of fiber. Pro-tip: whether you cook your own beans or used the canned ones, rinse off as much as the liquid as possible because the liquid will only give you gas. Like farts. I cook my own beans, rinse and drain them, and then freeze them. This way I have them on hand when I need them and I know that no salt has been added. Canned beans are obviously even easier, but I find they take up too much room in my cupboard and they are significantly more expensive and saltier than dried beans.

At the very least, you'll need oil, garlic, onions. rice, black beans, and salt. Add a can of tomatoes and chilis (like Rotel) or salsa to take it to the next level. Chorizo or tofu make it a heartier meal with even more protein.  Use Adobo powder (you can find large jars of it at your local Latin grocer or in the "ethnic" food section of your grocery store) if you want to add a little more flavor--just remember that Adobo powder is flavored salt, so you don't need to use it if you've already added salt and you should be careful not to add too much.

As long as the beans and rice are already cooked, putting this together only takes about 20 minutes, including the time it takes to cook the chorizo and soften up the onions.


  • Some oil, like peanut oil or vegetable oil or whatever. Use olive oil if you want to. 
  • A spoonful of minced garlic (I use minced garlic from a jar because ain't nobody got time to mince that much garlic)
  • 1 large onion, chopped. I used a sweet onion. 
  • Optional: Chorizo. I used two thick sausages.
  • Optional: Two cans of Rotel or generic tomatoes and chilis. Use more or less as you like.
  • 2 cans black beans or the equivalent of your own cooked beans
  • A ton of brown rice. Like 4-6 cups. I made a giant pot and froze 
  • Optional: Adobo powder 
  • Optional: corn, frozen or in a can (drain it if it's in a can)
  • Optional: fresh cilantro to taste
  • Optional: a green onion, sliced
  • Optional: sliced hot peppers to taste, fresh or pickled (fresh is spicier) 
  • Optional: fried plantains (recipe to come)
  • Optional: a fried egg
  • Optional: a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt


  1. Pour yourself a glass of Tempranillo.  
  2. Remove the casing from the chorizo with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Saute it on medium heat, breaking it up until it's cooked through.
  3. Add the garlic to the pan and saute in the sausage grease until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
  4. Add the chopped onion and saute until soft.
  5. Add the tomatoes and beans to pan. Mix the ingredients together. 
  6. Add the rice. I just spoon it in and mix it around until I feel like I have a good ratio of rice and beans. In the picture above, I think there's too much rice, but it's not really something you can go back and fix. 
  7. My beans weren't salted, so I felt like the final product was a little bland. I added some Adobo for a little kick. 
  8. Finish the bottle of Tempranillo. 
P.S.: Like I said, I froze what I made, and I plan on taking it to work for lunch in the coming week. I'll add frozen corn before I heat it up--my husband doesn't like corn in his beans and rice, or I would have added it while I was cooking. I'll also top it with fresh cilantro and sliced green onions, because I'm fancy. And, if it were up to me, I would have added hot peppers, but again, the husband cramps my style. 
P.P.S.: I would also eat this for breakfast with a sunny-side up egg on top. Break the yolk and let it mix it with the rice. It's so tasty. 
P.P.P.S.: This is basically a burrito filling. Make a bunch of burritos, wrap them in aluminum foil, and freeze them for handy, inexpensive, all-natural, healthy frozen burritos. 
P.P.P.P.S.: Mix this with cheese, put it in a tortilla, put the tortilla in a casserole dish, and pour enchilada sauce over the top to enchilada. Do this multiple times to make multiple enchiladas. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Crab-Stuffed Salmon on Dressed Spinach with Sweet Potato Fries

I'm so proud of myself for this one. :D I came home from day 3 of bikram classes wanting something crispy with cheese on it.
The crab stuffing for this salmon makes the dish. I use a dill and garlic white cheddar and some bread crumbs to rich-up the salmon. It works.

This recipe serves two with leftovers.

For salmon:
1/2 pound salmon
1 container crab meat
1/3 cup shredded dill and garlic white chedder
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 egg
dash olive oil
shake or two of: old bay, garlic salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper

Mix crab meat, cheese, bread crumbs, egg, olive oil, and seasonings in a bowl and then use hands to build mixture on top of salmon. Bake for 30 minutes at 375. Keep an eye on it. Depending on the thickness of the salmon, it may take more or less time to bake through. Also, check the middle because it will take longer than you're expecting to bake.

Dressed Spinach:
2 cups raw baby spinach
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
small handful pecans

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown mustard
dash garlic salt

Toss spinach in dressing and then sprinkle cranberries and pecans on top. Simple. So good.

For sweet potato fries:
1 big sweet potato sliced into THIN rounds
dash of: cumin, coriander, curry, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, pepper
2 garlic cloves minced (diced up real small)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Toss raw sweet potato rounds in olive oil, then sprinkle with all seasonings and garlic. Bake on 375 for 10 mins, then flip and bake for 5 more, keeping an eye on them.

Aioli dip for sweet potatos:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon mayo
1 tablespoon sour cream
Good dash of yellow curry powder (to your taste)
dash of: cumin, garlic salt, cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together, making alterations to seasonings to your taste. I like this dip to be pretty spicy, so I go crazy with the cayenne pepper, but do keep in the mind the fries will already be a little spicy.

Put it all on a plate, get some white wine, and eat it. :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tofu & Slaw Tacos with Spicy Mexican Dressing

I saw these on Marcus Samuelsson's blog last week and thought ... yup, that's gonna happen. Soon. I altered the recipe a good bit, mainly because I like things REALLY spicy.

Prep: 15 mins
Bake time: 40-60 mins

The list of ingredients are in the link above.
Here's where I went down my own road:

For sauce:

1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons skim milk (or water in a pinch)
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch cayenne pepper
garlic salt to taste
fresh minced garlic to taste
1 teaspoon Melinda's Habanero sauce (real spicy)

I make this sauce whenever I make Mexican food. It's basically a thin, spicy topping for most any Mexican dish. I suggest combining all ingredients except the milk and then adding that last by tablespoon until it's at your desired thin or thickness. I prefer a pretty thin sauce that resembles a salad dressing. Basically, it's more cream for your buck (think calories). Note: I will also make this sauce when I only have sour cream, water, and Melinda's sauce in the house. It still tastes better than just dolloping sour cream onto a taco salad.

Friday night fried rice

Don't bother searching any further for an authentic* Chinese fried rice recipe because I have one right here for you.

    This is not the fried rice I made, but it looks about right. This is from xcode on Flickr.


  • some vegetable oil (or peanut oil or whatever oil you have in your cupboard)
  • some chopped onion
  • some minced garlic
  • some minced ginger
  • optional: some small cubes of firm tofu or even some small pieces of animal protein, if that's how you roll (pork, beef, tofu, shrimp, hot dogs, discount sausages, etc)
  • some frozen veggies, like peas, corn, carrots, green beans, or small bits of broccoli 
  • some leftover rice 
    • This rice absolutely has to be at least a few hours old and cold if you want this to turn out right. I use leftover short grain brown rice because I use short grain brown rice for everything.
  • some soy sauce
  • some sugar
  • an egg
  • a little bit of sesame oil
  • some green onion
  • some hot sauce, if you like
    • Back in the day, I would have had some salty chili sauce from the Chinese grocery store. Last year, it would have been Sriracha. This year, it's Gochujang, which is actually a Korean hot sauce. The flavors are more complex than Sriracha and I can't go back. Right now, I am using KimKim Korean Hot Sauce from Richmond, Virginia. Go get you some strange.
  • a bottle of Moscato
    • I paired this meal with Lucky Duck Moscato from Chile. It was perfect because it was super cheap and this meal isn't fancy enough to warrant breaking out the good stuff. But because this meal is salty and spicy, it's pretty hard to pair with wine. A sweet Moscato is really forgiving in general, but it was perfect with this meal: the sugar melded with the spice and there wasn't enough acid to be intrusive. It was an awesome combination of cheap eats and cheap wine. An off-dry/semi-sweet Riesling, a sweet Gewurztraminer, or a sweet Traminette would work as well. Just don't spent more than $10 on whatever you're drinking with this. 


  1. Read all these directions before you start cooking. This is super easy, I just broke it down into tiny steps in case you're scared. 
  2. Pour yourself a glass of Moscato cause it's been a long day and you still have about 15 minutes before you get to sit on the couch and eat fried rice and catch up on New Girl. 
  3. Heat the oil in a pan or a wok on medium heat.
  4. When the oil is hot, add the onion and stir them around for a minute until they soften.
  5. Add the garlic and ginger. Cook for a minute until very fragrant, but don't let it burn. If it starts to burn at this point, you'd best start over or it'll taste rank.
  6. If you're adding tofu or meat, add it now, and cook it through. Any meat should be sliced thinly enough that this doesn't take much time. 
  7. If you're not adding meat, just add your frozen vegetables now. Just add as much as you like. This keeps really well in the fridge for a few days, so there's no way you can have too much. 
  8. When the veggies are cooked through, add the rice. Stir it around and get it all covered with the oil. Break up any clumps with your chosen cooking utensil.
  9. Pour some soy sauce on it. Maybe don't be too liberal with the soy sauce. You can always add more after you've finished cooking it, but if it's too salty, it might be ruined beyond redemption. 
  10. I also add some sugar at this point. Again, not too much. The sugar balances the saltiness and the spiciness (coming soon). It shouldn't actually taste sweet.
  11. Mix everything around a bit so that the rice is heated through. Then form a little hole in the middle of the pile of rice, and break an egg or two into it. Or not. It's your dinner.
  12. When the egg has cooked a bit, mix it around with the rice. Give it a minute to cook all the way through.
  13. Now add your hot sauce of choice to taste.
  14. Add some sesame oil. Again, don't be crazy. This is to add a little bit of complexity, not make it nasty.
  15. Get yourself a bowl of this stuff, then toss some green onions on top. Fill up your glass again and get yourself to your Netflix. You deserve this.
*The only thing that would make this more authentic is actually adding a spoonful of MSG. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Thai Green Curry Sauce with Tofu, Shrimp, and Vegetables

I've made this so many times. It speaks to me. The first five or so times I made green curry it was terrible. Flavorless. Thin. But I held on. Don't waste the fresh veggies on winging it. Use this recipe.

Makes at least 8 large servings.
Prep: 20 mins
Cook Time: 25 minutes

1. 1 20oz can coconut cream (Don't substitute milk. Get cream)
2. 1/3 of container of Maesri green curry paste (roughly 5 tablespoons of paste) (Note: the dish gets spicier the longer it’s in your frig, so you may want to prepare it a little mild if you're not going to finish it within a day or so.)
3. 1/2-1/3 cup fish sauce (salty—use to taste)
4. 1 large zucchini
5. 1 large sweet potato
6. 1 large bundle of whole bok choy
7. 1 onion
8. 3 blocks of tofu
9.      1/2 pound shrimp
10. 1/3 cup canola  or peanut oil (optional ... but it really makes a difference)
11. 2 cans worth of water (use the empty coconut cream can)
12. 20+ fresh basil leaves (I go crazy with my basil. I think it’s nearly impossible to use too many.)
13. 2 or 3 fresh bay leaves (optional)
14.   1 cup basmati, jasmine, or sushi rice (I prefer sushi)


  • Prep: chop all vegetables into small pieces. I use almost all of the stem of the bok choy because it cooks down well and helps flavor the dish. 
  • Peel and de-vein shrimp.
  • Pour coconut cream into a large deep sauce pan. A soup pot is a good alternative if you don’t have a deep sauce pan. Pour two cans worth of water into pan. Add curry paste, oil, bay leaves, basil, fish sauce, bok choy and chopped sweet potato. The potato takes the longest to cook. Bring sauce to boil, then turn down to medium and let cook for at least 15 minutes. You can overcook the potatoes; they will break down. And it is possible to cook the sauce at too high of a heat, and the coconut cream will break down, and you don’t want that either. (Those are two mistakes I’ve made.)
  • start rice
  • While the sauce and rice are cooking, dry fry the tofu. Dry fry just means sitting slices or chunks in a pan on medium to high heat and trying to dry it out. It helps harden the tofu. You don’t need to use any oil. I sometimes baste the pieces with another wetter curry paste if I have it lying around. And you can skip this step and just put the tofu into the mixture toward the end.
  • After the curry has cooked for fifteen minutes, try a potato. If it tastes almost done, then put in the zucchini, onion, and tofu. Continue cooking on medium for 5 minutes. 
  • Turn heat to low or warm. Mix in shrimp. The heat from the sauce will cook them. 
  • Remove bay leaves before serving. They’re easy to find. 
  • Serve over rice.