Hunan Lamb With Green Onions

I’ve been trying to cook with lamb more often lately. I’ve always loved lamb Iranian-style, but there’s so much more out there. To paraphrase Aladdin, a whole new world (of lamb), if you will.

This spicy lamb stir-fry is adapted from the Shun Lee Cookbook and is just what I’ve been looking for. A word of caution, however: make sure your wok is super hot, otherwise you’ll end up with a mushy mess instead of nicely-seared meat.

Hunan-style lamb

Ingredients:

1 pound boneless leg of lamb, trimmed
1 egg
3 tablespoons cornstarch
vegetable oil
1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots, sliced
3 tablespoons rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon hot bean paste
pinch of ground pepper
1 leek, white part only, trimmed and cut into thin 1 1/2-inch-long strips
5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4 green onions, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces

1. Cut the lamb across the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices. Cut the slices into pieces about 2 inches long. Mix the lamb with the egg, 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Heat a large wok over high heat. Add enough oil to come about 1 inch up the sides of the wok. Once hot, add the lamb carefully so the pieces don’t splash or stick to each other and gently stir-fry until they turn light brown, about 1 minute. Add the bamboo shoots and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Using a spatula, transfer the lamb and bamboo shoots to a plate. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok.

3. To make the sauce, mix the rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, hot bean paste, and white pepper in a small bowl and set it aside. Dissolve the remaining cornstarch in 2 tablespoons cold water in another small bowl and set it aside.

4. Return the wok with the oil to high heat. Add the leek and garlic and stir-fry until the garlic is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Return the lamb and bamboo shoots to the wok; then add the green onions and the rice wine mixture and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir-fry until the lamb turns a dark brown and the sauce has evenly coated the meat and vegetables, about 30 seconds. Serve hot.

Sichuan-Style Cold Sesame Noodles

This is one of the earliest recipes I learned to cook and more than fifteen years later, it still remains one of my favorites. This spicy, peanuty noodle salad is easy to make and is perfect for picnics or lunches on the go. It’s worth seeking out Sichuan peppercorns for this dish, as they add a unique, tingly spice that can’t be replicated.

Sichuan-style cold sesame noodles

Ingredients:

1 package (about 12 ounces) fresh Chinese egg noodles
4 teaspoons sesame oil
1 Persian cucumber, julienned
1/4 pound fresh mung bean sprouts
2 cups cooked shredded chicken breast
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground, toasted Sichuan peppercorns

1. Cook noodles in a pot of boiling water according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Place noodles in a bowl and add two teaspoons of sesame oil and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

2. In the meantime, prepare the dressing: in another bowl, combine broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, remaining sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, sugar, and whisk until blended.

3. Add cucumber, mung bean sprouts, chicken, and dressing over noodles and mix well. Serve cold.

Korean Zucchini Pancake

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than, say, five minutes, then you know I love Korean food. When my parents’ garden produced a giant bounty of zucchini last year, I turned to my favorite Korean food blog, maangchi.com, for inspiration. It was from there that I adapted a recipe for hobakjeon, or zucchini pancakes, served with a delicious dipping sauce. So easy and so delicious, these pancakes have become one of my favorite recipes ever since.

Korean zucchini pancake

Ingredients:

2 zucchini, julienned
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or more as needed)
1 tablespoon sesame oil (or more as needed)
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 chili pepper, sliced

1. Combine zucchini, flour, salt, and water in a bowl and mix well.

2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat and place 1 cup of the batter in the pan, spreading evenly and thinly to make a large pancake. After two minutes, add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil on the pan, along the edge of the pancake. Tilt and shake the pan so that the sesame oil spreads underneath the pancake. Cook another couple of minutes until the bottom turns light golden brown and crispy.

3. Carefully flip the pancake with a spatula and add another tablespoon of vegetable oil, if needed. Cook for another three to four minutes, until crispy. Transfer the pancake to a large serving plate and serve with dipping sauce.

4. To make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl mix the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and chili pepper. Serve alongside the warm pancake.

Sardinian Clams with Fregola

“Fregola, fregola. Is that like couscous?” I’d been searching far and wide for fregola when I finally found it at Berkeley Bowl. This tiny Sardinian pasta is indeed similar to pearl couscous, except fregola is toasted and the product of Tunisian immigrants to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.

Combined with clams in a saffron and tomato-based broth, this soup makes a comforting cold-weather meal evocative of warmer climates. Hunting down your ingredients and the time it takes to cook this dish is a bit of effort, but it’s totally worth it and it tastes even better reheated the next day.

Sardinian clams with fregola

Ingredients:

3 lbs clams, such as Manila or littleneck
5 cups fish stock
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 pinch crushed pepper
salt
1 1/2 cups fregola
1 pinch saffron, finely ground
2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced
grated zest of 1/2 lemon

1. Wash clams thoroughly with water. Place clams in a large pot with 1 cup of the stock. Heat until clams open. Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and set aside, keeping warm. Reserve strained cooking liquid and set aside.

2. Bring remaining stock to a boil in a saucepan.

3. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add garlic, parsley, and crush red pepper and sauté until garlic is tender, about 1 minute. Add the reserved clam juice mixture and boiling stock. Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil, add fregola, saffron, and tomatoes and cook 10 minutes on medium heat. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. (Add more stock if broth seems dry.)

4. Remove pot from heat and stir in lemon zest. Divide clams among bowls, placing clams around rim. Fill with the soup.

Beet Salad with Pickled Onions and Feta

Beets (bears, Battlestar Galactica) are a controversial vegetable. They elicit strong opinions usually along the lines of “eww!” or “yum!” I’m from the yum camp and I love cooking sugary, earthy beets in nearly any shape or form. This salad, adapted from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food, is a winner, combining the beets’ natural sweetness with the piquantness of feta cheese and vinegared onions.

Roasted beet salad with pickled onions

Ingredients:

1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
salt
1 1/2 pounds (about 4 medium) beets
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)

1. Combine the onion, vinegar, and a couple of pinches of salt in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Scrub beets clean. Fit a steamer basket in a large pot, add water just to the bottom of the basket, and arrange the beets in a snug single layer. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer. Cook until the beets are completely tender when pierced with a skewer, about 35 minutes. (Keep an eye on the water level during cooking, and add more if it threatens to dry up.) Remove from the heat and let cool. Slip the skins off once they’re cool enough to handle and slice thinly or into eighths.

3. Reserving the liquid, remove the onion from the vinegar and add to the beets. In another bowl, whisk together the oil, mustard, honey, 1 tablespoon of the reserved vinegar, and a few pinches of salt.

4. Add the dressing, the parsley, and the feta to the beets. Toss well and taste; season with more salt or vinegar as needed.