Tag Archives: asparagus

10-Minute Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies

Singapore style curried noodles with veggies

When I think about my past business trips to Singapore, three things are always in my memory’s highlight reel:

1. Walking through a stunning sun-dappled tunnel of hanging orchids that were so beautiful that they inspired people to burst out in song. (Okay, maybe I was the only one who had a Julie Andrews moment, and maybe people stared at me like I was a serious weirdo nut job, but I like to think that they were singing along with me in their heads).
2. Gleefully wrapping myself in a pile of silk dresses in Chinatown (I am a degenerate silkaholic).
3. The spectacularly delicious array of international foods!

Like the diverse population of the city-nation, Singapore’s food is a glorious pan-Asian blend of exotic flavors and textures. One of my favorite dishes is the meal I’ve recreated for you here: Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies. The Indian turmeric in the luscious Thai yellow curry paste (which you can find in most Asian food stores or on Amazon) gives this mild curry its distinct golden glow and alluring taste. The creamy coconut milk and fragrant lemongrass remind me of the flavorful Malay influence on Singaporean cuisine. The soba noodles hail from Japan and do a great job soaking up the savory curry sauce. And the vibrant veggies bring it all together to create a multi-cultural harmony of flavor.

And did you see the part about this being a 10-minute meal? Seriously, could it get any better?! Why yes, it can! This simple, delicious and healthy noodle dish is as filling as it is tasty, so carnivores and veg-heads alike will join together to sing the praises of this lovely dish…and not just in their heads!

Look at that orchid! Gum almost fell out of my mouth when I saw it.

Cimeron’s 10-Minute Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies
Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 10 minutes

3 shallots, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, sliced in half
1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and finely minced (use only the white part)
1 tbsp yellow curry paste*
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1″ sections
5 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 package (12 oz) fresh soba noodles, or 8 oz dried noodles
2 tbsp tamari sauce (find it beside the soy sauce in your grocery store)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

yellow curry paste is available in tins at most Asian food stores. You can also purchase jars of it on Amazon.com. 

Prepare a pot of boiling water for the soba noodles, but don’t cook them until the last second.

In a wok, heat 1 tbsp of a high temperature oil (like grape seed oil) over medium-high. Saute the shallots, lemongrass and jalepeno until the shallots are just starting to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and saute for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, and shitake mushrooms, and stir for 2 minutes. Push the veggies aside to make room in the middle/bottom of the wok, then add the curry paste and heat until it softens, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk and tamari sauce to the curry paste and stir together until blended, then mix well with the veggies until they fully coated. Turn off heat and discard the two halves of the jalepeno pepper.

Cook the soba noodles according to the package (for fresh noodles, boil for 1 minute). Drain, then immediately rinse the noodles under cold water, then drain again. Add to the curry/veggie mixture, sprinkle with cilantro and toss well. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Curried Singapore noodles and veggies

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Smoky Grilled Veggies With Romesco Sauce

My friend Julia, who has been getting over the vegan hump for a couple of weeks, asked what she should do about a recent dinner invitation to a French restaurant. She’s worried that there may not be any food choices sans animal products. She’s smart to be thinking ahead. Let’s face it: if it were legal for a French chef to marry a wheel of brie, a brick of butter or a slab of fillet mignon, they’d be racing to the Hall of Justice and beating each other with baguettes to be the first to wed their beloved foods.

Generally, I find that most restaurants are very accommodating about requests for vegan meals, but for restaurants with multi-course meals and price-fixed menus,  it helps to call a day in advance to notify them of your dietary needs. This gives the chef time to come up with an interesting dish for you. On rare occasions, I’ve had chefs get ornery and try to convert me into being a carnivore – yeah, like the arguments of an guy who has goose fat oozing out of his sweaty pours and is seconds away from having a heart attack could convince me to eat meat!  I’ve also seen some chefs totally cop out and basically serve me an entree-sized portion of a lame side dish, which recently happened to me – but with surprising results – at a super cool farmhouse dinner with Outstanding in the Field.

We had really high expectations at the dinner since we’d had a great Outstanding in the Field experience last year, and when we saw the table for this event set up along the banks of a peaceful stream running through the organic farm, and we heard that the chef of Michelin-starred Chez TJ was cooking for us at the farm, my mouth watered while thinking of the cool concoctions he’d surely come up with.

That’s me and my converting carnivore, John, at the Outstanding in the Field dinner

And yes, I gave ample notice that I wanted a vegan meal. Much to my dismay, my entree consisted of a large plate of grilled veggies with romesco sauce, which was the side dish to the carnivore’s entree. Seriously, that’s just phoning it in! Or so I thought… until I took my first bite. Oh my goodness, I could have eaten three plates of these divinely smoky farm-fresh vegetables and that savory, smoky, deeply flavored sauce of joy! (He also served it with a carrot-top pesto that didn’t do anything for me, so let’s just focus on the romesco, shall we?) The chef was kind enough to share some of his ingenious secrets with me, which I’ll now share with you below. This makes a surprisingly tasty and filling entree, but it’s also a great side-dish, and you could also make it into a yummy sandwich, so I hope you like it!

By the way, the funniest part about that Outstanding in the Field meal is that all the carnivores were totally jealous of my meal. The chef served them an epic fail of a main course: a super fatty cut of pork belly that was utterly devoid of flavor, that jiggled ominously when the plate moved, and that no one could eat. That helped convert several carnivores at our table into vegans! 🙂

Seriously, who could eat meat after seeing this horrifying mess of pork fat?!

Smoky Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce

Serves: 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main dish

From fridge to table: 15 minutes

– A large handful of redwood tips (that is, the new growth at the end of redwood tree branches. If redwoods don’t grow near you, try using hickory or alderwood chips, which you can find in any store that sells grills)
– 3 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slabs
– 2 red peppers, seeded and cut into large flat slabs
– 3 spring onions, cut into 1/2 inch slabs
– A large handful of flavorful mushrooms (like shitake or crimini), stemmed
– Three large carrots, chopped diagonally to create long, 1/2 inch thick coins
– Two large tomatoes, halved
– A handful of asparagus tips
– Any other vegetables that you like to grill (cauliflower, fingerling potatoes, you name it!)

For the Romesco Sauce:

– 1/3 cup skinned almond slivers
– 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
– 1 slice of sourdough sandwich bread, crust removed (any firm white bread will work, but c’mon, we all know that sourdough is tastiest!)
– 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, skinned and finely chopped (you can save time by using roasted red peppers from a jar)
– 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
– 1/4 tsp smoked sea salt
– 1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra virgin)

Heat up your grill and spray (or brush) your veggies with olive oil. When the grill gets really hot, place your veggies on the grate and just before you close the lid, toss the redwood tips on the hot coals. Close the lid and allow the smoke to infuse the vegetables with insanely awesome flavor. Check your veggies after about 4 minutes and flip when they’ve got nice char marks. Note: some will cook faster than others. Continue cooking until the vegetables are cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare your romesco sauce. In a food processor, blend together the almonds, red pepper flakes, chunks of torn bread and garlic. When it’s done, it should resemble a fine meal, like thick breadcrumbs. Then add the balsamic vinegar, roasted red peppers and salt then puree. Add the olive oil slowly while the processor is running. It will create a luscious, thick sauce.

Serve the veggies with romesco sauce spread on top, and be sure to pass around the extra sauce since you and your guests will want to use your veggies like a zamboni to get every bit of that delicious romesco. Enjoy!

Quicky Thai-Style Noodles in Yummy Peanut Sauce

Every time John and I eat Thai food, we say the same thing: “Oh man, I could eat this every day!” The sauces are simply divine! One of the most versatile is peanut sauce. Thai peanut sauces are so good that they can be used for just about everything: as a dip for summer rolls, drizzled on steamed veggies, as the sauce for a thai-style pizza. It’s also a great projectile when you want to fling a spoonful of something at your spouse when he really deserves it, like when he polishes off the bottle of wine while you’re in the hot tub staring forlornly at your empty glass.

This is a very tasty Thai-inspired noodle dish that’s super quick to make. I’ve included a really delicious peanut sauce recipe at the end of this post, but if you are pressed for time or you’re just feelin’ lazy (no shame in that!), you can also use peanut satay sauce from a jar. For dinner, I serve this hot and for lunch I serve it cold – try it both ways and see what you prefer!

Quicky Thai-Style Noodles in Yummy Peanut Sauce

From fridge to table: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup asparagus tips
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, sliced
8 mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (shitake or baby portabella work great since they’re so flavorful)
1/2 cube extra firm tofu, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes (if you want extra flavor, marinate the tofu in teriyaki sauce overnight)
1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/4-1/2 cup peanut satay sauce from a jar, or homemade peanut sauce (recipe below) *
6 oz dry udon noodles, such as Japanese yokogiri

Cook noodles by following the directions on the package. Rinse with cold water and set aside. If using yokogiri udon noodles, bring a pot of water to boil, stir in noodles. When the pot begins to boil again, add 1 cup cold water. When it comes back to a boil, drain the noodles and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Over high heat, warm a couple tablespoons of oil in a wok or large fry pan with high sides. To avoid oil splatter, I recommend sliding the ingredients down the sides of the pan. When the oil is good and hot, slide in the tofu and let it brown before stirring. Allow to brown on a couple of sides (I like mine nearly blackened – it adds character!), and then slide in the red bell pepper. Once it starts to turn orange, kind of like the color of a tragic spray-tan victim, slide in the sugar snap peas, mushrooms, asparagus and garlic. Saute until the asparagus is crisp-tender. Turn down heat to medium and add the peanut sauce, green onions, cilantro, peanuts and noodles – toss very well to fully coat the noodles. Add more peanut sauce to taste. (But be sure to save some just in case you need to fling it at your spouse if he drinks all the wine!)

* If you want to make homemade peanut sauce, here’s my recipe, which tastes way better than the store-bought stuff in a jar (if I do say so myself…):

Homemade peanut sauce

1/4 cup organic chunky peanut butter
3 tsp chili garlic sauce (you can find this in the Asian section of the market)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp hoisin sauce (also found in the Asian section of the market)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup water

Whirl all ingredients together in a food processor and voila, you’ve got peanut sauce!

Celebrating Spring with Asparagus

Happy Norooz! The first day of spring is Persian New Year, or Norzooz, which is a great excuse to celebrate the profusion of beautiful flowers and tasty spring produce arriving at the market. Seeing all the fresh strawberries and asparagus making their first appearance of the season at the farmer’s market, I get all hyper and usually buy so much that I could easily feed a family of 12. Today’s recipe is for a super quick and easy, wonderfully tasty asparagus side-dish, which I will be making every night for the next week since I went a little nuts at the asparagus stand. It’s such an energizing season of renewal – I can’t help myself!

Speaking of renewal, my friend Joanne Marquez recently told me about an interesting “sustainability challenge” at the bank where she works: New Resource Bank in San Francisco. For the year-long challenge, Joanne chose to convert to vegetarianism. Some people looked at her a little funny, probably because most people don’t realize that going meat-free helps the environment. A 2005 University of Chicago study concluded: “Plant-based diets are healthier for people as well as for the planet.” Researchers compared the impact that vegetarian and meat-based American diets have on the environment and found that “…the average American diet – including all food processing steps – results in the annual production of an extra 1.5 tons of CO2-equivalent [in the form of all greenhouse gases] compared to a no-meat diet.” Adopting a vegetarian diet can make as much of a difference on the environment as switching from a standard sedan to a hybrid vehicle. That’s pretty substantial! So go Joanne!

But the benefits don’t stop there. Joanne admits that her new vegetarian diet is getting her to eat things that she would have never before tried! Same holds true for my converting carnivore husband who is being such a great sport about trying new dishes.

When I first met John, he’d never tried asparagus. It took him a while to get used to it, and for me to figure out how to make it most appetizing for him, but now he looks forward to the first tender shoots of spring asparagus as I do. Well, maybe I’m a little crazier for it than he is, seeing as how I just bought 5 pounds of it for the two of us.

I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Roasted Asparagus

From fridge to table: 15 minutes

Serves: 4-6

1 pound fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed off
1-2 tbsp olive oil (just enough to fully coat each asparagus spear)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Smoked sea salt to taste
A dash of ground coriander
A dash of ground sage

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together smoked sea salt, pepper, coriander and sage. Add the asparagus and oil and toss together to fully coat the asparagus. Arrange asparagus in a single layer in a baking dish and bake for 10 minutes (or 8 for the pencil-thin asparagus) until tender but still a little bit crisp. Serve hot.

 

Veggie Shock and Awe Stuns the Carnisaur

Full disclosure: in desperate times when John’s been on anti-vegetable benders and scurvy was imminent, I’ve resorted to subversive tactics such as hiding greens in his meals and snacks. Like a veggie mercenary, I’ve slipped spinach in a smoothy and told him that it was a shamrock shake. That’s great for a handful or two of veggies but I needed to get him to eat lots more vegetables, lest he start to look like a pirate. I knew I needed a bold new strategy, but what? Then it hit me like a scud missile: make the greens hide in plain sight!

This brave (and some might say suicidal) strategy is what I like to call The Veggie Shock and Awe. The premise is simple: confuse the carnivore’s senses with a riot of colors, textures and scents to utterly overwhelm him. If the whole damned thing is composed of vegetables, maybe he won’t notice them! And just in case he examines it more closely, I’ll toss in a ton of fresh yakisoba noodles and some fake chicken chunks to distract him.

This concoction is so simple and quick-to-make and it’s mouth-wateringly delicious! The spicy teriyaki sauce makes it irresistibly flavorful and zesty, the noodles make it filling, and the veggies make it incredibly healthy and filled with interesting flavors in every bite – from the subtle sweetness of sugar snap peas to the earthy richness of shitake mushrooms.

When the moment came to pull the trigger and serve the Veggie Shock and Awe to John, I held my breath, took cover in the kitchen and prayed that I wouldn’t hear him cry out in protest. But guess what I heard? “Mmm, good noodles! I like this one.” It worked! Mission accomplished.

Veggie Shock and Awe

From fridge to table: 15-25 minutes (depending on how fast you can chop)

Serves: 3-4 (depending on your appetites)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil for stir-frying (such as grapeseed oil)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 2-3″ strips

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional – only if you like some heat!)

2 small zucchinis, sliced lengthwise then chopped into 1/2″ thick half-moons

2 baby bok choy, chopped into 2″ strips

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup asparagus, woody stems removed, cut into 2″ pieces

7 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced

1 cup fake chicken chunks (a really great tasting one with a realistic texture is Vegetarian Plus’ Ginger Chicken – my carnivore gives this one a big thumbs up. It’s available at Whole Foods in the frozen food section)

1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced

2 packages of fresh yakisoba noodles (fresh ramen and udon noodles work well, too)

1/3 cup thick teriyaki sauce, such as Kikoman Spicy Miso Teriyaki

(If you’re feeling ambitious and want to make your own teriyaki, just blend these together for a quick and tasty sauce: 1/8 cup veggie broth; 1/8 cup dry sherry; 2 tbsp hoisen sauce; 1 tbsp sesame oil; 1 tbsp brown sugar; 3 tsp cornstarch; 2 tsp Thai chili sauce)

Boil water in a medium pot and keep it boiling on the side. Meanwhile, heat a large wok over high heat and drizzle in the oil. (Resist the urge to throw in all the veggies at once since that will make them soft and icky – instead follow the sequential additions listed here to insure that each veggie will be cooked to perfection.) When the wok is hot, carefully slide the red pepper down the side (sliding it in helps ease splattering) and stir. When it starts to turn orange, slide in the zucchini and jalapeno (if using). Stir for 1 minute, then slide in bok choy and garlic. Stir for 1 minute. Slide in the asparagus, mushrooms and sugar snap peas. Stir for 1 minute. Then add the faux chicken and basil. Cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, toss the noodles in the boiling water and turn off the heat. Stir for 30 seconds then drain well. Toss the noodles in with the veggies. Add the teriyaki sauce and toss thoroughly. Serve hot and enjoy!

Crazy for Thai Red Curry (vegan-style!)

Is it unhealthy to be head-over-heals in love with a meal? Before you call for an emergency psych consult and fit me for a tight fitting jacket with extra long arms, let me explain my infatuation with Thai red curry. See, it’s the meal that has it all! First of all, it only takes *15 minutes* to prepare, start to finish! The silky smooth sauce has luscious savory-sweet flavors with just the right amount of spicy heat. It’s rich enough to satisfy the most hardened carnivore. The flavors of the sauce blossom in your mouth, and since it’s thick, it’s easy to hide lots of healthy vegetables in it. And the addition of pineapple also adds a surprising, sweet burst of flavor to keep your palate interested with every bite.

Thanks to jarred Thai red curry paste, this is my go-to dish when I’m feeling really lazy but we still want to eat a delectable, flavorful meal. When I want to mix it up a bit, I sub in Thai green curry paste for the red curry, which has a mellower, earthier and equally alluring flavor that’s a little less spicy. And yes, it’s carnivore tested and carnivore approved: John loves Thai curry! He likes it so much that sometimes I can sneak in a handful of tofu cubes without him noticing, which is cause for much rejoicing. So can you blame me for being crazy about Thai red curry?!

(Well, you might still want to have me committed when you read the story about my attempt to make red curry paste from scratch, which is below the recipe).

Cimeron’s Vegan Version of Thai Red Curry

From prep to plate: 15 minutes!

Serves: 3 big eaters, or 4 people who have had an appetizer

1 – 14 oz. can coconut milk (note: do NOT use light coconut milk as it’s too watery for this dish)
1/2 tbsp – 1 tbsp “Thai Kitchen” Thai red curry paste (which you can find at most Safeways, and even at some Targets – see photo at bottom of post. Adjust the amount of curry paste based on your taste and how much heat you want in the dish)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable broth
7 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1-2″ pieces
1/2 cup pineapple, cubed
1/2 cup baby corn (if you think they’re freaky, feel free to sub in sugar snap peas or another veg)
1/2 cup asparagus, chopped into 2-3″ pieces
3/4 cup fresh basil, torn
small handful of tofu, cubed (optional)

Cooked rice (I prefer basmati since it’s so fragrant and has a lovely hint of nuttiness)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, blend the coconut milk and red curry paste until the paste is fully integrated and the coconut milk turns pinkish red. Once it’s heated through, add the salt, brown sugar and broth. Stir and bring to gentle boil. Add the mushrooms, red bell pepper, tofu and pineapple, stir well and cook for a few minutes. Test the mushrooms – when they’re soft, add the baby corn, asparagus and basil. Cook just until the asparagus is tender but still crisp in the middle. In a bowl, serve atop rice and prepare yourself for a loud chorus of “omm nom nom nom!”

Note: The pineapple and shitake mushrooms really add a lot of flavor, depth and a unique flavor to this dish, so I think those are pretty essential. However, you can swap out some of the other veggies for your favorites, like broccoli and sugar snap peas.  Get crazy!

When I was in Thailand a couple of years ago, I sampled Thai red curry at 16 different restaurants in all parts of the country and it tasted just a little different each time. At a tiny restaurant tucked behind a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, I asked an ancient, nearly toothless cook to teach me how to make her version of it. She grinned so wide that her two teeth sparkled in the light of her cooking fire as she gleefully handed me smoked chilis, fragrant galangal (a relative of ginger), lemongrass stalks, kaffir lime leaves, and a stone bowl in which to grind the ingredients for her curry paste. With a playful, friendly monkey watching over me from a nearby rain tree, I started off strong, but after 20 minutes, my arms felt like they’d caught fire. After 40 minutes, my hand was blistered and I’m pretty sure the monkey was laughing at me. After 60 minutes, the monkey was openly mocking me and I declared this to be an insane and potentially crippling endeavor. After 61 minutes, I decided that Thai red curry paste out of a jar is one of the best inventions of our time and I thanked my lucky stars that I could buy it at just about any Safeway in the U.S. And after you try this Thai red curry recipe and see how easy, delicious and fast it is, you’ll be doing the same!