May 31st, 2012

Spicy Peanut Butter Napa

Spicy Peanut Butter Napa

Another unphotogenic dish...

I am not really a cabbage kind of girl.  I do like the [very] occasional coleslaw as a necessary topping for pulled pork sandwiches and recently I have gotten into brussels sprouts or baby bok choy sautéed with various sauces, especially Spicy Peanut Butter Sauce.

But napa cabbage is one cabbage I really enjoy, and have for a couple years.  I like to put napa in my udon noodles, yakisoba, stir fries, and miso soup.  I have even used it to make Colcannon, which I preferred to Colcannon made with regular cabbage (as opposed to kale).

The Grump is an anti-cabbage kind of guy.  Whenever I make brussels sprouts or baby bok choy he refuses to touch them.  Even though he likes spicy peanut sauce, he wouldn’t go near this Spicy Peanut Butter Napa.  As much as he teases me about the foods I don’t like, he’s very truculent about cabbage! But then, he does have the nickname for a reason…

Grumpy husband aside, I really liked this side dish.  It has a nice combination of flavors, which makes it interesting, and it can be as spicy or mild as you want it to be.  I had it along side Soba Noodles in Toasted Sesame Sauce, but I think it would be good with any Asian-inspired meal.

It was so good, in fact, I just might have some Spicy Peanut Butter Napa with lunch tomorrow! :grin:

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December 20th, 2011

Lasagna Roll Ups, or Lazy Man’s Manicotti

Whole wheat lasagna roll-ups with mushroom-three-cheese filling and marinara sauce

All rolled up and nowhere to go...except the oven.

Let’s talk filled pasta.  Ravioli, tortellini, manicotti, stuffed shells…come to my mouth.  Let’s make hot, gooey, saucy memories.  Filled pasta is the best.  Especially cheese-filled pasta.  And the more cheese, the better.  The only problem with manicotti and stuffed shells is that they’re kind of a pain to make, and the pre-made frozen ones are mediocre at best.

Enter lazy man’s manicotti.  Which is actually nothing like manicotti other than that it’s some sort of pasta with some sort of filling, topped with some sort of sauce.  Moving on….

Last week I told you about boring, versatile, marinara sauce.  I even gave you a few ideas of how to spice it up and make it something really delicious.  Today, I’m going to show you something to actually do with that sauce.  I chose the boring style since this is a “lazy” dish, but you can dress it up however you want.  Although, I say it’s lazy but I made the sauce and the ricotta from scratch.  But that’s just because I prefer homemade ricotta to store-bought and I’m kind of a cheapskate.

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December 12th, 2011

The Only Marinara You’ll Ever Need

Basic marinara sauce, prepped for freezing

Prepped for freezing

Last week I mentioned how our household prefers a lot of flavor to bland food.  Today, I’m going to share with you one of the most plain recipes in my repertoire: plain, boring marinara sauce.  But its simplicity is exactly why it’s so perfect.  This basic marinara is the perfect base for all kinds of tomato sauces.  You can leave it plain if you’re serving it with something else that’s flavor-intensive, or if you’re feeding it to picky palates (like small children and people who complain their throats burn from mild salsa).  And if you’re really pressed for time, the sauce is still good on its own.  It just won’t kick your taste buds in the butt.

This is a Magazine Mondays post since the recipe is adapted from the January 2005 issue of Gourmet Magazine, and is meant for making ahead.  It was used in the magazine article, “Easy Week” for mussels and pasta.  I usually just freeze most of it in 2-cup portions and then thaw them as needed, mix in meat or other seasonings, and toss it with a perfect two-person pasta dish.  I’ll give you some ideas to get you started after the jump.

Basic Marinara

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, January 2005. Makes about 5 cups.

  • 2 med onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Sugar to taste
  1. Cook onions and garlic in oil in a 4-5 quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, including juice, and salt, then simmer gently, uncovered, stirring and mashing tomatoes with a potato masher occasionally until sauce is thickened and reduced to about 5 cups, 1 to 1 ¼ hours.
  3. If sauce tastes too acidic, add sugar and cook 5 minutes more.

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December 6th, 2011

Stir-Fried Tofu and Shiitake in Spicy Black Bean Sauce

Tofu and Shiitake in Spicy Black Bean Sauce

Absolutely delicious over "sushi" rice!

I love bold flavors.  Something I just have not gotten used to in the three years I’ve lived in New England is how bland New Englanders’ tastes are.  I still have not found a restaurant out here that serves food with enough flavor to justify eating out.  We are pretty happy because a 5 Guys just opened up near us.  I ate there once before, in Ohio, and really liked it.  So I was a bit disappointed but unsurprised when I tasted it here and found that they had reduced the seasonings in their recipes for the market out here.  It’s still tastier than any other fast food in the area by far, but…still.

So at home we make up for this by eating a LOT of very flavorful, often spicy food.  Both of us have a high tolerance to “heat” so we tend to use peppers with wild abandon.  So this dish, listed as being “spicy,” to us really isn’t at all.  But to you, it might be.  What I can guarantee though is that it has a lot of flavors: slightly sweet, deep and rich, garlicky, and a little sour.  The sauce is thick and yet still soaks into the rice wonderfully.  Even though this is a vegetarian dish, it’s still pretty hearty.

The recipe comes from the Bon Appetit Cookbook, a huge and wonderful source of food that around here would be considered gourmet.  Even though its “Meatless Main Course” section is small, I love every recipe in it.  This is my favorite.

Note: If you are unable to find fermented black beans in your area, you can replace the garlic and them with Garlic-Black Bean sauce.  It’s not a perfect substitute, but it works well enough.

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September 5th, 2011

Magazine Mondays: Smothered Squash

Smothered Squash with Garlic and Basil

The reappearance of the beautiful Plum Blossom dish set!

I have a subscription to Bon Appétit Magazine, purchased to support The Grump’s kids’ school fundraiser.  Usually I don’t buy magazine subscriptions because I can usually find what I want from them online and it’s just more stuff laying around our tiny apartment, but this was for a good cause.  And I’m glad I did because I really get excited to find my monthly magazine in the mail!

But July did not hold that excitement for me.  My August issue did not come the third week of July like it usually does.  So halfway through August, when it still had not arrived, I called customer service and they told me that they would send a new one but I wouldn’t get it until…pretty much right before my September issue was due.

Travesty! What is a gal with a penchant for cooking relatively seasonal food to do? Dig up the August 2004 issue of Gourmet that I had buried with all my old magazines.  I keep them until I’ve tried every recipe that looks good, which I can’t seem to do in one month, and when the next issue comes, I just put the old one away for later.  This is why my Magazine Monday posts are usually from old (or very old) magazines.

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