Simmered Swiss Chard in Dashi

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I’ve seen recipes for simmered spinach in dashi in innumerable Japanese cookbooks before, but it wasn’t until recently that I considered using Swiss chard in place of spinach. The results were delicious and I’ve since discovered that any mild leafy green goes well with this simple dashi-based sauce.

Dashi is a type of stock used in loads of Japanese dishes and is generally made by soaking and heating kelp seaweed in water, often with the addition of small dried sardines and dried bonito flakes. The whole thing is then strained and used to make soups, broths, and simmering liquids.

Simmered Swiss Chard in Dashi

Ingredients:

1 pound Swiss chard, spinach, or other leafy greens
salt
3 tablespoons dashi stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 handful bonito flakes

1. In a medium pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cook the greens briefly until crisp-tender, then drain in a mesh strainer. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Lightly squeeze excess water and cut the greens into 2-inch segments.

2. Arrange in tight bunches in serving bowls. Combine dashi and soy sauce, pour over the greens, and garnish with the bonito flakes.

Chilled Vegetable and Bean Thread Noodle Stir-Fry

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Originally adapted from an old Martin Yan recipe for vegetarian rolls wrapped in Mandarin pancakes, this recipe has gone through several permutations over the years. The biggest change is that I added more noodles and got rid of the pancake/wrapper component.

This dish makes a healthy meal on its own and the vegetables can be replaced with whatever is season. Best of all, you can make it ahead of time since it can be served room temperature or chilled.

Beijing-style chilled vegetable stir-fry

Ingredients:

4 dried shiitake mushrooms
6 pieces dried cloud ear
8 ounces dried bean thread noodles
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups mung bean sprouts
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a dash of salt
2 tablespoons oyster flavored sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Soak mushrooms and cloud ears in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Thinly slice mushrooms and cloud ears. Soak bean thread noodles in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Cut noodles into 8-inch lengths.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium-high heat in a small frying pan. Pour in 1/3 of beaten eggs and swirl pan to cover entire bottom. Cook until egg is lightly browned on bottom and set on top, about 1 minute. Turn sheet over and cook 10 seconds; slide out of pan. Repeat to make 2 more egg sheets. When sheets are cool, cut in half, stack and slice crosswise into 1/8-inch shreds.

3. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add remaining tablespoon cooking oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add mushrooms, cloud ears, cabbage, and carrots; stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add bean thread noodles and broth; cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add mung bean sprouts, egg shreds, oyster flavored sauce, sugar, and sesame oil; cook until heated through. Remove to a serving bowl and serve room temperature or chilled.

Singaporean Chili Crab

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I haven’t been to Singapore (yet), but it’s one of the countries (well, city-states) that I really want to visit. With one of the most diverse cuisines in the world, it’s a street food heaven offering Malay, Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese flavors and there really is something for every palette. If that doesn’t sound enticing, well, then I might be judging you.

One of my favorite Singaporean dishes is chili crab and it’s also one the most popular dishes in Singapore’s ubiquitous hawker stalls. The best time to make this in the Bay Area is when local Dungeness crab is in season; buy two or three because these will go fast. Chili crab is messy, spicy and saucy, but well worth the trouble.

Singaporean chili crab

Ingredients:

3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 Dungeness crabs, cooked and cleaned
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 red jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 green onion, thinly sliced

1. Mix chicken broth, ketchup, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar in a bowl and set aside.

2. Twist off the claws and legs from the crabs and crack them with a cleaver or mallet. Cut the body into 4 pieces.

3. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic, ginger, and chili; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add crab and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

4. Add the sauce and reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring once, until crab is heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in egg and cook until it begins to set, about 1 minute.

5. Arrange crab pieces on a serving plate. Pour sauce all over and garnish with green onion.

Chinese Chicken Salad

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I know, I know. Chinese chicken salad is about as unauthentic as an ethnic dish can get. Even though it’s been done time and time again, this version that I adapted from Martin Yan’s Chinatown Cooking has become one of my favorite recipes. It’s healthy, fresh and most importantly, delicious. I usually make a double batch and store the dressing separately so that I can have leftovers the next day. Don’t be deterred by the long ingredient list; it’s actually very straightforward to make.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

1 skinless chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/4 rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons plum or hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for deep-frying
2 heads romaine lettuce, thinly shredded
2 green onions, thinly sliced
8 wonton wrappers, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips
1 ounce dried bean thread noodles, broken into 2-inch long pieces
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Rub the chicken breasts with the salt and five-spice powder. Lay the chicken on a baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cool the chicken on a rack until cool enough to touch, then shred the meat and set aside.

2. Make the dressing: Whisk the rice vinegar, honey, plum or hoisin sauce, sesame oil, mustard, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, ginger and vegetable oil in a bowl until well blended. Set aside.

3. Pour enough vegetable oil into a wok to come to a depth of 1 inch. Heat over medium-high heat to 350F. Carefully slip a few of the wonton strips into the oil and fry until light golden brown, about 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining strips.

4. In the same wok, deep-fry the bean thread noodles in small batches, stirring them gently to separate the strands, until they puff and expand, about 10 seconds. Remove and drain on paper towels.

5. Place the lettuce in a large salad bowl and top with the green onions. Scatter the chicken on top, pour the dressing over the salad, and toss together. Scatter the wonton strips, fried bean thread noodles, chopped peanuts, and sesame seeds over the top.

Zucchini ‘Pappardelle’ with Tomatoes and Feta

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Contrary to what the name suggests, this dish does not include any pasta. Instead, thin strips of zucchini are created with a mandoline and then lightly broiled to create translucent, pasta-like sheets. Mixed with tomatoes and feta cheese, result is a healthy melange of vegetables tossed in a light citric dressing. This recipe is adapted from an old issue of Food & Wine, one of my favorite food magazines.

If you don’t own a mandoline, a vegetable peeler will work well to create the thin slices of zucchini. Once out of the oven, handle the slices with care so that they don’t tear.

Zucchini 'Pappardelle' with Tomatoes and Feta

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
salt and pepper
4 1/2 pounds zucchini
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tomatoes, chopped
6 ounces feta cheese, cut into small dice
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

1. Preheat the broiler. In a bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the lemon juice, mustard, honey and lemon zest and season the dressing with salt and pepper.

2. Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick “pappardelle,” turning the zucchini and slicing on 4 sides only until the seeds in the central portion are reached.

3. In another bowl, combine the garlic with the thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Spread the zucchini slices on a large rimmed baking sheet and brush them with the garlic and herb oil. Broil for about 3 minutes, or until the zucchini is browned on top.

4. Spread the tomatoes on another baking sheet and broil for about 1 minute, or until they are lightly browned on top.

5. Add the tomatoes, olives and feta to the zucchini and drizzle with the mustard dressing. Toss the vegetables well and transfer to plates or a platter.