Cumin Beef

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The first time I had cumin beef was decades ago at an Islamic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. The silk road influences were obvious: cumin is often used in Ughyur cuisine in China’s Xingjiang Province, in tandem with loads of garlic and chiles. I was hooked.

This fragrant dish is a cinch to make and takes me right back to that first time I tasted Muslim Chinese cuisine. Serve this with rice for an easy weeknight meal.

Cumin beef

Ingredients:

1 pound trimmed sirloin steak
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon potato flour
1 green or red bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
3 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Cut the beef into thin slices. In a medium bowl, stir the marinade ingredients with 1 tablespoon water and add the beef, mixing to coat. Cut the peppers into 1-inch strips, then cut diagonally into diamond-shaped slices.

2. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a wok over high heat. Add the beef and stir-fry until just cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove beef from the wok and set aside.

3. Return the wok to the heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the garlic and chili pepper, and stir-fry until hot and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Return the beef to the wok and add the cumin and dried chiles, continuing to stir-fry until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Just before removing from the heat, add the green onions and stir. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.

Maui-Style Salad with Avocado and Roasted Beets

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Adapted from an Edible Hawaii recipe, this salad is labor-intensive, but worth it. Macadamia nuts, avocado, and hearts of palm provide a tropical note, and a preserved lemon-tarragon dressing gives the whole thing a bracing bite. This salad is filling enough for a light meal on its own.

Maui salad with avocado and roasted beets

Ingredients:

1 8-ounce bag mixed salad greens
1 14-ounce can hearts of palm, washed, drained, and sliced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
3 medium-sized beets
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1/2 cup toasted macadamia nuts
1 bag sunflower sprouts (optional)
1 preserved lemon, rinsed well
1/2 cup tarragon, leaves stripped and stem discarded
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
salt
pepper

1. Wash and spin salad greens.

2. Peel and cube beets, and roast in 375F degree oven with avocado oil and salt for 25 minutes or until tender.

3. Place preserved lemon, tarragon leaves, honey, and olive oil in a blender and blend for 15 seconds until smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and thin the dressing with a splash of water if it is too thick.

4. Place greens into salad bowl or platter with the beets, heart of palm and sprouts. Toss with dressing, adding more to adjust to taste. Garnish with avocado, macadamia nuts, and sprouts.

South Indian-Style Potato Roast

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I originally made this dish alongside a yogurt salad and a spinach braise — the crunchy, crispy potatoes providing a contrast to the other dishes. Who doesn’t love fried potatoes? They make the world go round. Contrary to the dish’s name, these aren’t actually oven-roasted, but rather, cooked in a skillet until they’re nice and toasty.

South Indian-Style Potato Roast

Ingredients:

2 pounds potatoes, boiled until just cooked, peeled, and diced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt
1 tablespoon curry powder
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon yellow split peas (chana dal), picked over and rinsed
1 teaspoon urad dal, picked over and rinsed
1 red chili, halved
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 sprig curry leaves

1. Heat oil in a skillet, preferably nonstick. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, yellow split peas, urad dal, chili, asafoetida powder, and curry leaves.

2. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the diced potatoes, turmeric, and salt to taste. Cook over low heat for at least 30 minutes, turning the potatoes every 5 minutes, being careful to not break the pieces.

3. Saute potatoes until golden. Sprinkle with the curry powder and mix. Serve warm.

Seaweed and Ground Turkey Stir-Fry

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This is one of those #uglydelicious dishes that you make up at the spur of the moment: check out the freezer, open the cupboard, and make something out of nothing. Except that this nothing is actually quite delicious — and healthy to boot. Ground turkey and seaweed are an unlikely pairing, but they come together in moments in a garlicy, lime and fish sauce-flecked seasoning. This is delicious on its own or with rice.

Seaweed and ground turkey stir-fry

Ingredients:

1 or 2 ounces dried mixed seaweed (I used a mixture of wakame, kelp, and white fungus), soaked in water for 10 minutes
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 Thai dried red chiles
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon torn cilantro leaves

1. Drain the soaked seaweed, rinse, and drain again. Cut the seaweed into roughly 1-inch size pieces and set aside in a serving bowl.

2. Place a wok over high heat. Once heated, add the oil, shallots, and garlic until aromatic, about 10 seconds. Add the turkey and chiles. Stir-fry, breaking up meat, until turkey is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the lime juice and remove from heat. Add the fish sauce, stir, and add the mixture to the seaweed. Add the cilantro and mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chickpea Shami with Lime and Saffron Glaze

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Shami is kotlet’s cousin: an Iranian meat patty that’s delicious on its own or with bread, comfort food that comes in all sorts of variations. My mom makes these the traditional and labor-intensive way with braised and shredded lamb shank combined with yellow split peas. When it comes to Iranian food, I’m nowhere near as good a cook as her, but my version, albeit easier and not the same, still hit the spot.

Chickpea shami with lime and saffron glaze

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef, lamb or turkey
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup chickpea powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1. Place the lamb in a large mixing bowl. In a food processor, place the onion, carrots, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and turmeric, and pulse until you have a grainy paste. Transfer to the mixing bowl, add the chickpea flour, and knead with your hands until all of it has been absorbed. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat until hot. Shape the lamb mixture into 3 inch-patties, gently poking a hole in the middle of each. Place the patties in the pan and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through.

3. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, combine the water, sugar, lime juice, saffron mixture, and remaining salt in a small bowl. Pour the glaze over the patties in the pan once they have cooked through. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until the sauce has been absorbed. Serve warm or at room temperature on their own, or with flatbread, fresh herbs, and yogurt.