ginger slaw

Last September, my boyfriend RT and I were in Washington, DC to attend a wedding.  After a long Sunday morning of touring the Mall, museums, and the lovely botanical garden with friends, we had worked up an appetite.  I had my heart set on Indian lunch buffet and dragged the group north across the city from one locked door to another as we discovered that most Indian restaurants in DC are closed for Sunday lunch.  Finally, hot, hungry, and racing the clock to catch our flights home, we abandoned our search and parked ourselves at the nearest open restaurant with shaded outdoor seating.

The place was Nooshi (for noodles + sushi).  The sushi was decent, nothing to write home about.  But the ginger salad lingered on my palate 11 months later, mostly because RT is still talking about it.  I don’t remember who ordered the salad, but I do remember expecting to see a standard sushi joint green salad with bright orange dressing.  We were all surprised (pleasantly so, because we were starving at this point) when a large metal bowl of slaw – served family style – appeared at our table.  The bowl contained bitter shredded cabbage, salty savory roasted peanuts, acid sweet rice vinegar dressing and spicy pickled ginger, the kind generally served alongside sushi.  Biting into the ginger had the same cooling effect as sucking on an Altoid or chewing a pice of cinnamon gum.  The salad was more than refreshing; it was rejuvenating.

A lot has changed since last September.  A few weeks ago, RT moved to DC.  I am frolicking around the nation’s capital this week before I head back to Florida for my second year of law school.  I planned on surprising him after work one day with Nooshi take-out.  But when we stumbled across pickled ginger at the Korean owned market near his apartment, I had a better idea.

I recreated the salad/slaw, mimicking its flavors almost to a T.  We paired it with grilled chicken sausage, and relished the spicy sweet cool crunch on a muggy DC summer evening.  RT’s only complaint was that there were no leftovers to take for lunch.

ginger salad

inspired by Nooshi, Washington, DC

1/4 cup Japanese rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp sesame oil

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp sugar

1 head green cabbage, shredded

1 large carrot, shredded

1/4 cup pickled ginger

3/4 cup salted roasted peanuts

red pepper flakes

salt

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, oils, lime juice, and sugar.  Add cabbage and carrot and toss to coat.  Add ginger and peanuts, toss to coat.  Add red pepper and salt to taste.

Chill for at least 1/2 hour and serve cold.

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giving brussels sprouts a little lovin’

Oh, hello! Over the past few months, I have been camera-less and quite busy, and I have dearly missed sharing my cooking adventures with you. But now armed with a new camera and some much-appreciated time on my hands, I decided it was time to show mumble pie some love by cooking up a veggie that is often sadly relegated to people’s hate list: the Brussels sprout.

I love cooking with fresh ingredients, but as a college student with an unpredictable schedule and conservative budget, I often rely on bags of frozen veggies to ensure that I minimize waste and maximize my ability to cook healthy food fast. However, I have recently been challenging myself to use more fresh ingredients by buying one or two fresh vegetables per week and making a couple of dishes that will keep me well-fed for a few days. Knowing that I need to use the vegetables before they spoil motivates me to get in the kitchen and come up with inventive recipes.

This afternoon at the grocery store I had my eyes on the Brussels sprouts. Over winter break in Miami, I ate the most delicious ginger glazed Brussels sprouts from a food truck. They were caramelized and juicy and spicy and sweet and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about those heavenly little morsels! So, with a bag of Brussels in hand, I set out to use those flavors to make a delicious stir fry of Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, tofu, onions, brown rice, and lots of ginger.

I first sauteed the onions and ginger together, and then added the Brussels sprouts to get them caramelized. I then added in the mushrooms and tofu and let everything cook a little longer. Once everything had a nice golden color to it, I splashed in some soy sauce and sriracha, and added two generous spoonfuls of brown sugar. I popped a lid on the pan and let everything steam and soften a bit.

When the Brussels sprouts were fork tender and the tofu and mushrooms had soaked in all the sweet and spicy flavors, I added in some cooked brown rice, and voila! A heaping helping of gingery Brussels sprouts fried rice was served! Better yet, I have loads of leftovers in the fridge to last until at least the middle of the week, when I’ll tackle vegetable #2…

I hope to be better about updating my cooking adventures in the coming weeks. Until then, go take a stroll through the farmer’s market or produce department and see what inspires you!

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black beans & memories

Black beans are not only a favorite food of mine, but one that carries a slew of  fond memories.  Cuban black beans are my Abuela’s signature dish, and they steal the show away from the lechon (entire roasted pig) every Nochebuena.  My vegetarian roommate’s signature black beans are the dish I most request that she cooks for dinner.  And black bean dip was my Tio Armando’s famous appetizer, which was featured at every big family gathering and demolished the moment it hit the table.  It is with these three wonderful influences in my heart and in my palette that I created a black bean creation of my own.

This black bean dip has a spicy kick a squirt of sriracha and a sweet hint from a generous pour of sherry.  It is versatile, addictive, healthy, and as it becomes a staple in my kitchen, I foresee it becoming a component of many future memorable moments.

Click more for recipe.

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corn chowder

Corn is cheap, fresh, and sweet now, so I’ve been using it a lot.  Raw in salads, featured in salsa, or tossed in lime juice, salt, and chili powder, it’s a quick and simple way to evoke summer.  Because it’s a million degrees in Miami, and so humid that the air dampens your skin on contact, I tend to use summer corn in chilled dishes.  Chilled raw corn is slightly sweet, very grassy, and pleasantly neutral.  But to experience the deepest, most concentrated, essential corny flavor the summer’s crop has to offer, I turn to chowder.  Yes, thick hot soup on a thick hot evening.  But, somehow, it works.

The ingredients and amounts represent what I had on hand.  The flavors worked, but the recipe is flexible.  Because I had whole milk about to expire, I used it for most of my liquid base.  The soup would be equally creamy, and much less caloric, if one were to replace the milk with chicken stock, use a full cup of potatoes (the starch helps thicken the broth), and add a touch of cream or half and half after blending.

Corn Chowder

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer

3 strips of bacon, cut into lardons

1 medium onion, diced

1 sprig of thyme

½-1 cup potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes

4 ears of corn

½ tsp jalapeno, diced small

1 bay leaf

3 cups milk

2 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut bacon, onion, and potatoes as directed.  To remove kernels from corn, cut bottom off ear and place the flat end in a wide bowl.  Cut kernels off cob from top to bottom, making sure to cut as close to the cob as possible to extract all the corn “milk.”  Reserve cobs.

In a large pot or dutch oven, cook bacon over medium high heat until dark brown and crispy.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and reserve.

Turn heat to medium low and sauté onions in bacon grease.  When onions become translucent (after 5-8 minutes), add thyme, sauté 1 minute, then add potatoes, sauté 1 minute, and finally, add the corn kernels (and any liquid from the bowl), jalapeño, and bay leaf.

Turn heat to high.  Add milk, chicken stock, and corn cobs.  When soup comes to a boil, cover and turn heat to low (so soup is barely simmering).  Cook for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are done, stirring every 10 minutes. 

Remove from heat.  Remove corn cobs to a large bowl.  Position flat side of cob in bowl as you did when cutting kernels; hold the top end (which will be very hot) with tongs or a kitchen towel and run the flat side of a knife or large metal spoon over the side of each cob to extract any liquid.  Return liquid to soup and discard cobs.  Discard bay leaf.

Ladle soup into a blender, filling halfway (as the rising steam creates upward pressure on lid).  Hold lid down with a folded kitchen towel, and puree on low setting until smooth, but still with texture.  Return blended soup to pot, and repeat process with blender until desired consistency is achieved.  [The soup pictured was blended twice, and still very chunky.  There were lots of fresh corn kernels and potato cubes, but I prefer a more even consistency, so I pureed the leftovers completely before saving.  Both taste great; my boyfriend prefered the chunky and I the smooth].

If soup isn’t sufficiently warm, return to heat.  Add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Serve with reserved crispy bacon.  (Other good add-ons would be grated cheddar, green onion, basil, diced tomatoes, or even ½ cup of cooked chicken or shrimp to make a complete meal).

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summer solstice eve

On the eve of the summer solstice, I bring you a quintessential summer dessert:

Blueberry pie.

This dessert has been in my summer repertoire since middle school, when my best friend, Robyn, and I, spent a carefree afternoon experimenting in the kitchen with a couple pints of fresh berries and a roll of pie dough.  The result was better than we or any of our family members could have ever imagined, and it quickly became a summer staple. We’ve made pie in my kitchen, her kitchen, and hotel kitchens while on vacation.  Although today I was baking solo, I was still reminded of our years of pie baking, lattice crust decorating, and not-so-slick taste-testing before we served the warm pie to our families (is an entire chunk of crust missing really that noticeable?)

Today’s pie was made for Father’s Day. After a summery dinner, blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream was the perfect finish.  I’ll never cease being amazed by how hard indigo berries transform into plump, bubbly, amethyst gems while in the oven. I’ll never stop loving each contrasting bite of sweet, tart, crunchy, and creamy that the union of crust, fruit, and ice cream creates.  And I’ll never stop thinking how this oh-so-simple dessert equals summer perfection.

Make blueberry pie your new summer tradition. I promise you won’t regret it.

Happy Summer from mumblepie!

Blueberry pie recipe found here. Our one modification is to add the zest and juice of one lemon.

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wheatberries

I’ve scooped them up at salad bars. I’ve seen them in cooking magazines and blogs. And now, I can proudly say I’ve made them myself.

Wheatberries. All you really need to know is that these are delicious, nutty, half-chewy, half-crunchy kernels that pair just as beautifully with a dollop of yogurt and berries as they do with roasted veggies.  But if the origin of this tiny but mighty grain piques your curiosity, as it did mine, here’s the dish.

Wheatberries are the entire wheat kernel, except for the hull. If you were to grind them completely, you would make whole wheat flour. They are chock-full of iron, fiber, and protein, and surprisingly inexpensive (2 cups of wheatberries from the Whole Foods bulk bin were just $1 and made almost 5 cups of cooked grain).

For my inaugural wheatberry concoction, I made a roasted carrot salad with dried cherries, walnuts, pistachios, and goat cheese (cause goat makes everything better!) I was cooking on the fly, inspired by Moroccan spices but aiming to lighten up the flavor for the summer.  The result was an addictive salad with a diversity of textures and flavors that married quite happily. Best part was that this light yet hearty salad was enjoyed at one of mumblepie’s favorite destinations, Stiltsville.

It was the perfect midday snack on the water and continues to be the perfect lunch for the week. I can’t wait to continue experimenting with these great grains.

Click more for recipe…

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paneer

I shouldn’t have waited so long to make this.

But turning milk into cheese sounds intimidating.  How could I tell when my curds were curdy enough given that all I knew about curds and whey I learned from Miss Muffet?  But this afternoon my craving for palak paneer – that Indian restaurant staple of creamy spicy spinach and pillows of fresh cheese – got the best of me, and soon I was walking from work to the market on a cheese-making mission.  Fortunately for my pocketbook, paneer consists of two ingredients: milk and lemon juice.  That’s right – no salt, no rennet, even the lemon gets washed away after it performs its job as an acidic catalyst.  Paneer is a perfect blank slate.  And, as I learned tonight, homemade paneer is airy, silky smooth, and fries up golden crisp outside and marshmallow soft inside.  Witch each bite I swooned, then regretted every bag of frozen paneer or paneer substitute (firm tofu, queso para frier) I had ever used in an Indian dish.

To make the paneer I followed the technique described by Julie Sahni in Classic Indian Cooking.  It so happens that making curds and whey is as easy as finding a heavy-bottomed pot, bringing milk to a boil, and stirring in some lemon juice.

I poured it all through a cheesecloth-lined colander, rinsed away the lemon taste with cold water, and was left with the curdly good stuff.

I then tied the cheesecloth tight around the curds, squeezed out as much liquid as I could, and hung it from the faucet using the hair-tie that’s perpetually around my wrist (and now smells like cheese).

After an hour and a half of drip-drying, I moved the whole bundle to a cutting board, and pressed it flat with a heavy dutch oven, turning the cheese ball into more of a cheese puck.  Half an hour later I removed the weight and unwrapped the cloth to reveal a perfectly cube-able disk of paneer.

I cut the paneer into cubes, froze the majority for future meals, and used the rest to make palak paneer, a recipe I improvised with help from here and here.  This is my go-to dish at every Indian restaurant, but I might have ruined that for myself, because mine was better.  Sublime really.  Unlike most restaurant versions, the cheese had no hint of ruberiness or greasiness.  Its crisp outside guarded a velvet interior; and it was light, much more so than I had ever tasted.  That milk and lemon alone can make this (in the time between work and dinner) seems like pure alchemy.  Delicious alchemy.  Alchemy I shall be performing again and again.

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