Good dinner.

That’s what everybody at our house calls this dish. It’s a mix of vegetables sauteed in olive oil over couscous, served over salad greens and topped with feta cheese – easy, fast,  fairly cheap and not too bad for the Growing Boy.

couscous 004

First, make couscous. Typically you add 1 C couscous to 1 C boiling water and a little salt. Cover the pot and turn off the heat, allow to stand 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork, cover and let stand until ready to use. This amount feeds the three of us (in this recipe) without leftovers.

For the vegetable mixture:

2 zucchinis, matchsticked: cut each squash into 1/4″ discs and then pile the discs and slice into little sticks. You’ll also need 1 red bell pepper and 1/2 an onion, diced, other cooked vegetables as you wish: asparagus, cauliflower (yellow or purple is nice), green beans, snow peas; and 1 serving for each person of salad greens.

couscous 001You’ll also need the nicest Herbes de Provence you can get your hands on. I have a friend who went to a French cooking school and brought me back a little jar of herbs that has been a whole education for me just in itself – I don’t know what I’ll do when they’re gone.

Saute the onion and pepper in a good quantity of olive oil (3 Tbs) until softened but not browned. Add the zucchini and cook until soft, adding more olive oil if it is absorbed. Add the cooked vegetables and stir until blended and heated through. Sprinkle generously with the herb mixture and a little sea salt.

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Add the couscous and stir gently. Serve by mounding the mixture on a layer of salad greens, top with feta cheese. Strips of heated nan are a nice accompaniment. If the mixture is dry, I add a small amount of salad dressing just before serving.

Good dinner!

Happy New Year Buns

new years buns

This is a weird picture, but it’s the only one I have – we ate them too quickly. My family traditionally celebrates New Year’s Eve by staying in and eating dumplings. Tonight we made potstickers (fried and then steamed, made with unleavened dough) and baozi (steamed, leavened filled rolls).  We also made a batch of shrimp, ginger, garlic, spinach and water chestnut filling and used it for both batches. Here’s the recipe for the baozi – you’ll need a bamboo or metal tiered steamer and a food processor.

1 Tbs active dry yeast
1  cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 egg
3 1/2 cups all-purpose wheat flour or bread flour, plus more as needed. You can also use rice flour, barley, whole wheat or corn meal as part of the dry ingredients.

Add flour, sugar and yeast to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix.  Add water, oil and egg; process until well blended and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This is a soft dough.

Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 3 hours depending on the room temperature.

Stretch the dough out into a log with a diameter of about 2.5 inches. I generally let it lie coiled on a large cookie sheet lined with a Silplat. Using kitchen shears, cut the dough into 2 inch pieces (it should make around 25), and let rise again for at least 30 minutes. You can steam these plain for 20-25 minutes,  or you can fill them, like we did tonight. Flatten a piece of dough in your hand (oiling your fingers first makes this easier). Holding the dough cupped in your palm, put about 2 tsp of filling in the middle and fold the edges up in a pleat, squeeze shut. I like to roll the opening underneath the bun so that it doesn”t show, but it’s also traditional to keep them upright, showing off their little topknots.

Any filling you can imagine works well with this dough. I’ve had spicy pork, red bean paste, homemade jam, cream cheese and strawberries, butter-sugar-cinnamon, bean curd and pineapple boazi – they’re all good.

Happy New Year!

Quick dinner

Last night I came home late (work has been crazy) and needed supper in a hurry. It yakatori 003was 6 pm, it had been dark for 3 hours, the wind chill was minus 17 and we have at least three more months of this – we needed comfort.  The recipe below will make you feel great in less than half an hour. I apologize for the picture being mostly about salad. It was great salad, too. Note the Chinese ladle at the top of the frame loaded with marinated chicken, and the bowl of tofu strips and mushroom slices? That’s dinner.

Yakitori Donburo

3 boneless chicken breasts, sliced width-wize into well, stir fry pieces. That’s the only way I can describe it. Too bad the picture is all about the salads, eh? You can add 3 – 4 oz tofu in 1/2″ cubes and 1 C sliced mushrooms if you like.
1/2 cup  soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin or Chinese cooking rice wine
1  teaspoon ginger minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 tsp sugar
2 green onions, cut into 1/4 inch pieces, green and white parts)
• 3 cups cooked white rice

Mix soy sauce, mirin, ginger and garlic in medium glass or plastic bowl. Place chicken in soy mixture and marinate for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, set the rice to cook. Do you have a rice cooker? Good, it’s the only way to go.

Drain chicken, reserving soy mixture. Heat oil in a wok or 12-inch skillet until hot. Cook chicken until brown on both sides and almost done, and then add the bean curd and mushrooms, if using. Cook another few minutes until everything is done and coated with the now reduced sauce.  Heat reserved soy mixture to boiling and add sugar and green onions. Boil about a minute.  This is from a Japanese recipe, however bastardized through the folk process after years in my possession. Keep in mind that this marinating liquid has been in contact with raw poultry. If you’re squeamish about your chicken or are fixing this dish for children, by all means start over with fresh mirin and soy sauce. If not, just boil the heck out of it for about a minute.

Serve with the rice, and in our house we like our rice plain and the sauce spooned over the chicken/tofu/mushrooms. This dish goes well with salads (as in the picture) or you can go one-dish crazy and add three big handfuls of spinach or beet greens  in the last 30 seconds of cooking in the wok. Delicious either way. And ready in about 25 minutes.