Korean Seaweed Salad

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Confession time: I’m eagerly awaiting the day that seaweed goes trendy in American food circles. Greek yogurt had its day. So has turmeric. It’s seaweed’s turn, y’all. I’m glad nori has gone mainstream. Now let’s make it happen for wakame, for mokuzu, for hijiki.

This easy to prepare and super healthy Korean salad makes good use of wakame, or miyeok as it’s known in Korean. It’s perfect alongside a meal of grilled meat and rice, or by itself, really.

Korean seaweed salad

Ingredients:

1 cup dried wakame (miyeok) seaweed, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Blanch the drained soaked seaweed in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Drain again and set aside.

2. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and garlic in a serving bowl and add the seaweed and mix well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving and serve cold or at room temperature.

Artichoke and Spinach Filo Rolls

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This is the story of how misreading a recipe can lead to glorious results. Almost twenty years ago when I just learning how to cook, I mistook a recipe’s instructions to use puff pastry for filo dough. Frozen artichoke hearts became marinated artichokes. Shallots became onions. You get the picture. By the time all was said and done, this appetizer was the result. I had a totally different recipe on my hands. And you know what? It was delicious.

This recipe is endlessly adaptable but the spinach and the artichokes have stayed the same over the years. Oh, and nutty, melty Gruyere is key. It’s an impressive appetizer that’s easier to make than it looks. In this case, just make sure to read the recipe.

Artichoke and spinach filo rolls

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch spinach, blanched, squeezed dry, and chopped
1 cup drained marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 package puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 egg

1. Heat oven to 400F degrees. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, abut 4 minutes. Remove from pan and combine in a bowl with spinach and artichokes. Set aside to cool. Stir in Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Unfold half of the puff pastry sheets (about 15 layers) in one stack on a flat surface. Top with vegetable-cheese mixture, leaving half-inch border. In a small bowl, combine egg and 1 tablespoon water. Starting at one end lengthwise, roll up pastry, jelly roll-style. Cut into 1-inch slices.

3. Lay slices flat 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Brush with egg mixture. Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.

Lamb Larb

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Anything I get to wrap in lettuce to eat makes me happy. (See: bulgogi, spring rolls, etc.) Larb is right up there with the best of them. It’s typically meat seasoned with that perfect balance of hot-sour-salty-sweet and served with sticky rice, herbs, and lettuce to wrap it all up in. Larb is popular in Laos and the Issan region of Thailand and while lamb doesn’t usually factor into traditional larb, I love this unorthodox version.

Ground peanuts substitute for the more traditional toasted rice here. Think of this as a protein-packed flavor bomb wrapped up in guilt-free packaging.

PS: Please ignore the godawful lighting in this photo. Blame my impatient tummy.

Lamb larb

Ingredients:

1 stalk lemongrass
4 garlic cloves
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
2 red Thai chiles
2/3 cup salted, roasted peanuts
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground lamb
Cooked sticky rice, butter or bibb lettuce leaves, sliced cucumber, lime wedges, and mint sprigs for serving

1. Remove tough outer layers from lemongrass. Thinly slice the bottom 6 inches from the bulb end. Pulse lemongrass and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add shallot and Thai chiles and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl; set aside. Pulse peanuts in food processor until coarsely ground and transfer to another bowl; set aside.

2. Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar in a small bowl; set lime dressing aside.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over high. Add lamb to skillet and press into a single flat layer with a spatula. Cook, undisturbed, until underside is browned and crisp around the edges, 5–7 minutes. Use spatula to break into smaller pieces and turn. Cook pieces on the other side until edges are crisp and meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer lamb to a bowl with a slotted spoon, then use spoon to break up meat into bite-sized pieces.

4. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet and set skillet over medium heat. Cook lemongrass mixture, stirring often, until fragrant and starting to stick to skillet, about 3 minutes. Add reserved lime dressing and peanuts and return reserved lamb to skillet. Toss until meat is coated. Remove from heat and season with more fish sauce, if desired.

5. Serve larb with rice, lettuce, cucumber, limes, and mint sprigs for making lettuce cups.

Crepes with Dark Chocolate Sauce

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I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but crepes are one of my weak spots. (And doughnuts, especially the ones that rhyme with Drispy Dreme.)

But back to crepes. They’re easier to make that it appears, as long as your batter is sufficiently thin. If you find yourself producing pancake-like creations on your first couple of tries, add a bit of water to thin the batter and proceed.

These make an indulgent breakfast and are endlessly adaptable. (Nutella! Bananas! Whipped cream!)

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Ingredients:

4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons butter, room temperature, plus 3 tablespoons butter, melted
4 eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups flour

1. Make the dark chocolate sauce: Heat cream in a small saucepan until steaming (do not bring to a boil) and turn off heat. Immediately add chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let sit until chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons butter and whisk until butter incorporated and mixture is smooth. Set aside and keep warm.

2. Blend eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a blender until frothy. Add flour and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and blend just to combine. Cover batter and chill 1 hour.

3. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high, then brush with butter. Ladle 1/4 cup batter into skillet and swirl to evenly coat bottom. Cook crepe until bubbles form on surface and edges are golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Slide a spatula underneath crepe to loosen and carefully flip. Cook on the other side until a few brown spots appear, about 1 minute, then transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining butter and batter.

4. Serve crepes with dark chocolate sauce.

Homestyle Sichuan Tofu

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Sichuan chili bean paste is my most used condiment in the fridge these days. Made from fermented broad beans, soybeans, salt, rice, and spices, doubanjiang is spicy, salty and packs a punch — a delicious, warming punch. It’s perfect stir-fried with all manner of ingredients (seriously). It’s essential in this easy, warming dish of tofu and a healthy amount of alliums. Add a bowl of rice and you’re all set.

Homestyle Sichuan tofu

Ingredients:

1 block of firm tofu (about 1 pound)
Vegetable oil for shallow-frying
2 tablespoons chili bean paste
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 inches ginger, sliced
2 leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally
1 1/3 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons cold water

1. Cut the tofu into square slices 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick.

2. Heat oil for shallow-frying to a high temperature. Add the tofu slices in batches and fry for a few minutes until golden (they should still be tender and white on the inside). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3. In the same wok, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over moderate heat. Add the chili bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is red and fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

4. Add the chicken stock and tofu and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, season with sugar and soy sauce, and simmer for 4 minutes until the liquid is reduced and the tofu has absorbed some of the sauce. Add the leeks and stir briefly until just cooked. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the wok, stir until the sauce thickens, and turn out onto a serving platter.