Monday, April 23, 2007

Spicy Tomato Seitan Stew, Spicy Tom Yum Soup, and Savory Confetti Rice

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I am still cooking and trying recipes from Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry. 2 recipes caught my interests: Spicy Tomato Seitan Stew(pg. 173) and
Confetti Jasmine Rice with Coconut(pg. 147). They turned out very very good!

The Spicy Tomato Seitan Stew uses kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, onion, garlic, serrano chili, and ginger. These are definitely Asian spices. But then she throws in 28 oz. can whole tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. That's Italian! It is interesting so I decided to try it. I wondered how it was going to taste. East meet West? Unfortunately, I didn't have fresh basil leaves but I did have some Italian Parsley. I also didn't have serrano chilies but had jalapeno chilies. I changed the recipe a little bit based on ingredients I had at home.

I have fresh lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves since I have been growing them in the last few years. I don't do anything to these 2 plants but once a while feed the kaffir lime tree. It is wonderful to have the 2 plants thrive and available all year long to cook Thai dishes. This is the benefit of living in Southern California. Anything grows here as long as you water it. Here are the pictures of my plants:

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Kaffir Lime Tree

Spicy Tomato Seitan Stew
Adapted from Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry (my changes are in Italics)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass (see note)
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 fresh jalapeno chili
1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 14.5 oz. organic diced tomatoes
1/4 cup Thai Thin soy sauce, Healthy Boy Brand
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 pkgs. Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Steak Strips(see note)
1/2 cup chopped Italian Parsley, lightly packed

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. add the onion, garlic, lemon grass, ginger, and jalapeno chilies, and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the bell pepper and saute 3 minutes longer, or until crisp-tender.
  3. Add the 2 cans tomatoes, soy sauce, vinegar, agave nectar, and kaffir lime leaves.
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the tomates are very tender.
  5. Stir in the Steak Strips. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the seitan is heated through, then stir in the parsley.
  6. Transfer the stew to a bowl and serve with rice.
  • Lemon Grass stalks are really hard to mince with a regular knife. I recommend using a small blender or spice or coffee grinder to mince it to tiny tiny bits.
  • The original recipe calls for 1 pound Basic Seitan (page 189) cut into thick strips. I thought using Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Steak Strips was easier, quicker and still tastes great. For people who wants to quit eating beef, this is a great substitute and healthy. It is available in any major US market.

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Confetti Jasmine Rice with Coconut
Adapted from Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry (my changes are in italics)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown jasmine rice
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 cup yellow corn kernels (about 1 ear of corn)
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

  1. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the curry powder, ginger, and turmeric, and then the rice.
  2. Add the water and salt and bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer gently without stirring for 45 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn, bell pepper, and carrot, and saute for 5 minutes.
  4. Saute coconut in a dry heavy frying pan until a bit brown and well toasted.
  5. Transfer the rice to a cookie sheet(see note). Use a fork to fluff the vegetables into the rice. Spread it to let it cool. Sprinkle the toasted coconut and almonds on top of the rice. Mix and transfer to a bowl and serve.
Note: I decided to spread the rice on a cookie sheet to cool so the rice will separate instead of sticking together when it's cool.

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I served the above dishes with my Vegetarian Thai Tom Yum soup as a starter(with tofu, oyster mushrooms, and bok choy) using more lemon grass, fresh lime juice, jalapeno chili, and kaffir lime leaves in it. Spicy and refreshing!

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Since Julie requested the Tom Yum soup recipe(click on Comments below), I posted my recipe of Tom Yum soup below. There are so many varieties of ingredients you can use in this soup. Sometimes I use vegan shrimps and make the soup a 'seafoody' taste. The most important is combining the Tom Yum stock, the crushed garlic and chilies combination, vegetarian fish sauce, and lime juice together, then, you can add just about anything to it. I didn't post the recipe in the beginning because I know some of the ingredients will be hard to find in some parts of this country. Actually, this time I didn't use any galangal, kelp powder, and kombu, but the soup still tastes great. This is one of my favorite soup that I can have everyday.

A Thai spicy soup that is so popular in Thai restaurants in my area. It has shrimps, lemon grass, kaffir lime leave, galanga, lime juice, mushrooms, roasted chili peppers, and vegetables in it. The herbs and spices in this soup are good for a cold remedy because it really clears a stuffy nose (won't kill germs though! Ha ha). When my co-worker has a stuffy nose she always calls me and said 'Let's go for a Thai lunch and have that soup!' I re-invented this soup recipe with vegan ingredients without loosing the herbs and spices taste nor the 'seafoody' taste. This soup is SPICY, SOUR, SALTY, and REFRESHING!

Tom Yum Stock:
1 large (6 by 8) dashi kombu ( A Japanese seaweed ) , optional
10 cups water or your favorite vegetable broth
6 stalk lemon grass, use the lower thick portion, pounded, and sliced thick
10 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 cup thinly sliced galangal or 1 - 2 tsp galangal powder, optional

  1. Roll lime leaves and crush them with your hand to release the leaves aroma.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the seaweed, if using, lemon grass, and the leaves. Set aside .
Soup Ingredients:
14 oz. firm tofu packed in water, drained, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 oz. oyster mushrooms or other kind of mushrooms (shiitake, white, etc.), cut into slivers
1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetables such as cabbage or bok choy or napa cabbage or young mini corns in a can or a combination
6 to 8 dry red chilies (chili japones)
Note: These are hot chilies. To reduce the spicyness, cut the portion into half
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
6 Tbs Vegetarian Fish Sauce or soy sauce, Healthy Boy Brand
6 Tbs Fresh squeezed lime juice or a juice from 3 fresh limes
4 to 6 Kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk large lemon grass, sliced thick diagonally
1/2 to 1 tsp kelp powder or granules , optional, if you want to make it 'fishy'
salt to taste
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
1 Tbs vegetable oil
  1. In a non-stick frying pan, heat ½ tablespoon oil. Stir fry red chilies and crushed garlic in oil until the chilies became dark and garlic is brown but not burnt. Set aside.
  2. Heat a heavy pot, put 1/2 tablespoon oil, then, pan fry the tofu in a medium-high heat and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir fry 2 more minutes. Add tom yum stock, vegetarian fish sauce, lime juice, lemon grass, kelp powder, if using, and lime leaves. Simmer in a low heat while working on the chilies below.
  3. Set aside about 3 whole roasted chilies for the garnish in soup. Put the rest of the red chilies and crushed garlic mixture in a small blender like a spice or coffee blender including the oil. Add about 3 to 4 tablespoon of broth from the soup. Grind for 30 seconds.

    Note: Whole chilies won't make the soup spicy (unless you eat it) but looks good in it. So to make it less spicy grind less chilies with the garlic and set aside more chilies for the garnish.
  4. Scrape the chilies and garlic mixture into the simmering soup. Throw the whole roasted chilies into the soup. Taste for saltiness and add salt if necessary.
  5. Add the rest of the vegetables into the soup and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Add cilantro sprigs on top and serve immediately.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Spicy Tortilla Soup!

I bought a new cookbook, The Real Food Daily by Ann Gentry. There are also 2 Real Food Daily restaurants in Santa Monica and West Hollywood, CA. They are great restaurants and have been around for more than 12 years. We visited them but they are way too far for us to visit often. So I am glad to be able to get this cookbook.

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I tried the tortilla soup recipe from this cookbook and it's so goood and spicy! You know me, I like it SPICY! I also tried other recipes from this cookbook such as Mexicali Chop Salad with Crispy tortilla strips and Lime-cilantro vinaigrette and Seitan Enchiladas with Salsa Verde (pg. 104 and 152). If you have this cookbook, try them, they are wonderful for this upcoming Cinco De Mayo (that is if you are celebrating it). These Mexican dishes really satisfied our tummy.

BTW, the Crispy Tortilla Strips on top are so crunchy, salty, spicy, and a bit sweet. DH loves it and said that these are good just to snack on. Whooosh, they are gone in a flash! The crispy strips are perfect for both on the salad and the soup.

A week ago we rented a movie called 'Tortilla Soup' (a funny and interesting movie), so that's how I came up with the idea of making this soup. Surprisingly enough, my new cookbook has a recipe for this soup. This must be a 'coinkidink', oh, I mean a 'coincidence', OR a God's Divine Intervention!

Now, about the tortilla soup, I have never made it before. I have seen it in restaurants' menu (usually has chicken broth in it, don't know why people can't just use vegetable broth?) and have heard of it but never know how to make it until I opened this cookbook. What's interesting about this soup is that corn tortillas are cooked in the soup with other ingredients until they are soft and disintegrate. Then, using a handheld immersion blender(I just love my hand blender), the soup ingredients are blended till smooth in the pot.

Who had this idea of cooking tortillas in a soup, anyway? Was it an accident in the first place? Oops, I dropped tortillas in my soup so let's see what happens if I cook them in it? Oh well, whatever it was, this soup is yummy and filling. Another thing about it, it is EASY to make. Any bachelor can do it, guarantee!

The soup is good with toppings like the Crispy Tortilla Chips, Avocado slices ('Avocado in a soup?' DH asked), and sour cream ( I made Vegan Sour Cream with silken tofu). It was suggested to top the soup with Pico De Gallo (fresh salsa) too but I didn't make it.

Here is the recipe with my changes:

Tortilla Soup
(Adapted from The Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry)

1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno chili, finely chopped
2 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
9 cups vegetable broth
1 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
8 organic corn tortillas, coarsly chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup Crispy Tortilla Strips
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
Tofu Sour Cream

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the jalapeno chile, tamari or soy sauce, cumin, salt, oregano, and pepper, and saute 1 minute longer.
  2. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender. Add the tortillas and simmer 10 minutes longer, or until the tortillas are falling apart.
  3. Using a handheld immersion blender, blend the soup in the pot until smooth. Alternatively, working in batches, puree in a regular blender. Stir in the cilantro.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with the tortilla strips, avocado, and tofu sour cream, and serve.
Crispy Tortilla Strips
(Adapted from The Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry)
1/2 tablespoon canola oil or oil spray
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon maple sugar or regular sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Brush the oil over both sides of the tortillas (if use oil spray, spray on both sides). Cut the tortillas in half, then cut the halves crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick strips.
  2. Spread he tortilla strips on a heavy, rimmed bakingsheet. Stir in the chili powder, maple sugar or sugar, and salt in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the chili powder mixture over the tortilla strips, toss the strips to coat, then arrange them evenly over the baking sheet.
  3. Bake, tossing occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-line plate and cool.
Here are the pictures of our Mexican meal, all recipes came from this cookbook(highly recommend to buy):

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Mexicali Chop Salad with Crispy tortilla strips and Lime-cilantro vinaigrette (lettuce, tomatoes, mangoes, zucchini, and avocado). The lime-cilantro vinaigrette dressing is very refreshing. A wonderful starter before we plunged into the spicy soup and enchilada.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Seitan Enchiladas with Salsa Verde, topped with Tofu Sour Cream.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Seitan Enchilada just came out from the oven. It is easy to make your own Salsa Verde (tomatillos, onions, garlic, and green chilies). This enchilada doesn't look pretty but it sure tastes very good. Don't judge food by its look only!