Sichuan-style broccoli with garlic and red pepper

Sichuan style broccoli with garlic and red pepper
Easy, quick and cheap

Craving Szechuan numbing peppers and not motivated enough to head out of the house for a restaurant over 1/2 hour away, I stayed in on a cold rainy Sunday and cooked up some delicious spicy broccoli with reheated rice.

Here’s how:

Put up pot of water.

Cut broccoli into medium-size florets. Peel stems and cut into thick slices.
Reconstitute some birds eye peppers with hot water from the heating broccoli-cooking water in a small bowl. Get out your Sichuan peppercorns (use 1/2 t).
Peel and slice a few garlic cloves.

Heat rice in instant pot with steam function for five minutes.

When the water comes to a boil, add 1 t salt and 1 T peanut oil. Add broccoli and blanch for two minutes. Scoop into colander and let drain.

Heat sauté pan, add 3 T peanut oil and peppers and garlic. Heat for less than 30 seconds and add broccoli, tossing and stirring for one minute until coated with flavorful oil. Add salt and dump onto rice in a bowl. Feel virtuous and well nourished. Indulge in a slice of good bread. A pear makes a nice dessert.

Inspiration: Fuschia Dunlop, Stir-Fried Broccoli with chili and Sichuan Pepper, p 174, Every Grain of Rice

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Marcella’s Potatoes and Onions in Instant Pot

This is one of my favorite winter dishes to bring to a pot luck: Marcella’s baked potatoes and tomatoes with onions, olive oil, oregano and pecorino. It bakes in the oven for an hour, during which you have to stir several times. And it all sticks to the pan, especially I think the cheese. Why not try the pressure cooker? Indeed I did just that yesterday as an experiment and it turned out well. Sliced potatoes cook in the pressure cooker in 8 minutes. But remember: Eight minutes is not eight minutes! First the machine has to come to pressure, which took nine minutes, then it cooks for the 8 minutes, and then the pressure has to subside, which takes 10-15 minutes. That’s 32 minutes for 8 minutes. So: not a whole lot quicker, but easier I reckon. And it has the benefit that after it cooks, it switches to “keep warm” cycle. So one could put up to cook, leave the house for an hour or more, and return to cooked yummy potatoes that one could wrap into scrambled eggs like a sloppy Italian-esque Spanish potato omelet. But hey! It’s your kitchen so who is to criticize when it is delicious?!

Here’s what I did:

Cut an onion in half, peeled and sliced very thin. Heat Instant Pot on sauté function, add olive oil, and sauté onion for 5+ minutes until transparent.

Meanwhile: Scrub potatoes, and slice thinly, less than 1/4″. Open a can of tomatoes, such as diced, low salt. Chop up some fresh oregano and grate cheese.

When onion is semi-cooked, dump in potatoes, S&P, tomatoes, oregano, olive oil and cheese. Stir and set on pressure for 8 minutes with keep warm function on. Do as you like and come back later to soft but intact potato slices, etc. Delicious! Especially with good olive oil.

Winter fruit pie with almonds

This is where “easy as pie” must come from! This is a close cousin of fruit crisp, and is easier and simpler than a traditional apple pie.

Almond pie shell (aka “crust”) and almond topping for my wheat-flour averse friends. Added benefit: pie shell involves no rolling out; quick and easy!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

Almond pie shell:

1-1/2 c almond flour (168 g)
3 T sugar (37.5 g)
3 T (1.5 oz) butter, melted
pinch salt (optional: pinch cinnamon)

Combine almond flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl with whisk, then stir in melted butter with a spoon. Press into pie pan, and bake about 20 mins until just turning golden. Remove from oven and let cool, or jump on in and make filling.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Almond topping:
Almonds, slivered, 3 oz, chopped coarsely
Almond flour, 3+ oz (or use wheat flour, part WW pastry flour)
Brown sugar, 5 oz+
Cardamom (not too much!)
Dried ginger
Sea salt, fine, pinch
butter, 6 T melted, and cooled a bit

Mix together and then chill to get butter to clump up the mixture.
Can be made well in advance and refrigerated.
Fruit filling:

Dried fruit
Mix together:
Currants
Diced apricots
Crystallized (candied) ginger

Fresh fruit
apple, 1, cored, peeled and sliced 1/4”+ thick
pears, 2, prep same as apple (optional: add 4 oz cranberries, picked over and rinsed)

Sugar, 3 oz — 1/2 vanilla sugar, 1/2 light brown sugar
Cardamom (not too much!)
Lemon juice

Directions:

Mix together sugar and spices. Juice one lemon, and de-seed. Keep on hand.
Cut apple and pears in half, core, peel and slice. Put one at a time in bowl. Add lemon juice, toss with hands, sprinkle with sugar. Repeat with remaining fresh fruit.
Mix in dried fruit mixture.
Mix in 2 T cornstarch, and mix well.

Line baking sheet with silpat and place pie pan on top.
Dump fruit mixture into pie shell. Place topping on top.

IMG_6352
Bake at 375 degrees for 50+ minutes until fruit juices are bubbling around edges.
If crumb gets too dark, cover lightly with foil.

Inspiration
Which is from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber & Julie Richardson

Adventures in cooking beans in Instant Pot

Factors that have led me to cook beans recently:
1. I purchased an Instant Pot.
2. Instant Pot led me to purchase dried beans at my food coop.
3. Frugality. Reading about it; not actually practicing yet! But it led me to a stockpile of dried beans.

Two successes of late:
Cranberry aka Borlotti beans are the bomb.
Oh the gigante were creamy, smooth, delicious.
Today’s black beans were off the charts. I thought I liked canned black beans well enough, but MAN, these are scrumptious! Delicious, not just as a mix-in for the greater sum.

Note it takes longer than cooking time — It takes 9-14 mins to come to pressure, then there’s the cooking time PLUS to release pressure, either by itself, for 10-15 minutes, or by human power, turning the steam release valve.

Here’s how I prepared today’s rice and beans with black beans:

Prepare brown rice in rice cooker. Medium grain is nice. 1 c rice, rinsed well to 2 1/2 c water, and salt.

Rinse 1 # beans. Measure out 5 c water.

Ingredients:
onion, 1 large, diced
Garlic, 3 cloves, minced
cumin, 1 t
salt, 1 T

Directions:
Rinse beans
Cut up onion. Heat up Instant Pot on sauté function, add 2 T olive oil, and then onions. Sauté for 20 minutes until golden, stirring occasionally.
Mix in garlic and cumin. Stir and cook for less than one minute until fragrant.
Add: beans, salt, water, and stir.
Pressure cook for 45-50 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then release manually. If beans are not cooked through, cook for another 5 minutes, and then manually release pressure.

Serve:
Steamed spinach, sprinkled with za’atar
Rice
Beans
Hot sauce
Dab of sour cream
Pepitas

Other ways to do it: skip za’atar; add 1 t chili powder to beans with cumin; top with cilantro and scallions and Monterey Jack cheese.)
Another option: Purée 1 tomato, cilantro, scallion whites and 1 garlic clove with 3 T olive oil and salt. Mix tomato mixture into beans when cooked and let sit for 5 minutes.

Inspiration: Melissa Clark, Dinner in an Instant, Black Beans, p. 109

Bean cooking times and proportions:

Gigante
1 # beans to 7 c water with aromatics, 32 minutes +

Black turtle beans
1 # beans to 5 c water, with sautéed onion, then 3 garlic cloves, minced and 1 t cumin, 50 mins. (or less)

Cranberry beans
1 # beans to 7 c water, with 3+ garlic cloves, smashed, 4 T olive oil, pinch of red pepper flakes, and some fresh sage leaves if ya got ’em, 24 – 27(?) minutes. (14 mins to come to pressure.)

Here are some guidelines

And more on timing beans in Instant Pot

And here is a collection of Instant Pot cooking info:

Miso Mushroom Pasta

What’s great about cooking a lot is that we lazy-ish home cooks can find recipes that are easy-peasy yet delicious. Contra the two-dozen steps over three days recipes that turn out bleh. That’s why I write this blog — to record the recipes, adaptations and techniques I have used with success and would like to repeat.

When there is little in one’s pantry and no desire to shop, it’s very welcome to have a recipe like this one. The only fresh ingredients one needs are mushrooms and heavy cream. Fancy are good; cremini in a pinch will do. Browning the mushrooms I read increases the unami flavor. It’s like a Japanese fettuccine Alfredo — all comfort and deliciousness and okay, indulgence. Perfect for a cold winter eve. Stay home. Cook this. Relax.

Ingredients:

Dried pasta, 4 oz Bucatini is good
mushrooms, 3 oz — cremini, oyster, shiitake, any other exotic/Japanese type especially
Sherry vinegar, 1 t
Miso paste, 2 t White or red
Butter, 2 T, cut up to soften to room temp
Garlic cloves, 3, minced
Heavy cream, 1/2 c
Optional: scallion, finely sliced

Directions:
Take out butter to come to room temp; cut up to hasten process if needed.
Put up pot of water for pasta.
Cut mushrooms into large bite-sized chunks.
Heat large sauté pan over high heat, add 1 T canola oil, and sauté mushrooms until well browned, about 4-5 minutes, adding S&P. Add sherry vinegar to pan, toss and set aside.
Cook pasta until 1 minute underdone. Drain and set aside.
Whisk together butter and miso.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 1 T oil and minced garlic and cook for less than one minute until fragrant. Add mushrooms, then add miso-butter mixture, then cream, and bring to a boil, stirring.
Add drained pasta to sauce, and stir. Add salt, and cook and stir until pasta is desired doneness.
Place into bowls, top with sliced scallion and pepper.

Source: Miso-Mushroom Pasta, by Yi Jun Loh, Food 52

Coconut Thai-inspired chicken breasts

When you want to change up the preparation of boneless chicken breasts, try this simple marinade and technique. It’s akin to the classic Thai soy-fish sauce-chili-ginger flavor notes, with coconut milk added to mellow the whole thing and no lime for acid. It can be made in less time than it takes to cook rice, if you have not thought ahead to marinate the chicken. The chicken ideally would like 2 to 4 hours of marinade time, but if you’re pressed, less than one hour still works.

Put up a pot of coconut rice in your rice cooker. Easy: 1 c brown jasmine rice, rinsed and salt added to pot. Pour 1 can of coconut milk into 2 c measuring cup, add water to bring to 2-1/4 c (!), and cook in the regular way. (I used the cream on top of the can, and next time I think it would be better to spoon that off and perhaps save for sautéing, rather than use for the rice.)

Make a marinade for chicken breasts:

1 c coconut milk — heat to simmer in small pot. Add:

1 hot pepper, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Ginger, grated, ~ 1 T or less (Will need same amount later for cooking chicken)
2/3 T fish sauce
1 T soy sauce
Star anise or smallish piece of cinnamon stick
Brown sugar, 1 T
1 T chili garlic sauce

Stir together, transfer to flat bottom bowl, and then let sit together and then cool to room temp.
Cut 1/2 # chicken into strips, and then large bite-size pieces.
Add to marinade. Refrigerate if going to be more than one hour until cooked. Ideally marinate 2-4 hours.

Heat sauté pan over medium high heat and add 1 T canola or coconut oil. Scoop chicken out of marinade and add to pan. Sauté for about 4 mins, turning. Right before removing, add reserved minced garlic, toss a bit for one minute, and then remove onto plate or atop rice on plate.

Nice served with plain steamed fresh local broccoli.
Otherwise add peas to rice, perhaps.
Or roast a sweet potato, in wedges. Or carrots, roasted or boiled/stove-top braised.

Source: Jonathan Rosenberg’s Coconut-Marinated Chicken over Coconut Rice, p. 359 in One Big Table; a portrait of American Cooking by Molly O’Neill

Beans and greens deluxe

I thought I had the beans and greens dish down: Sauté lots of minced garlic and some red pepper flakes in oil, add greens, some water & salt, cook gently covered, then add beans from a can, warm up and douse with parmesan. Pretty Good.

THEN . . . . I finally dragged my Instant Pot out of its box on the floor of the dining room where it had been neglected for months. And I got Melissa Clark’s Instant Pot book out of the library, again. She has a recipe for Garlicky Beans with Broccoli Rabe. With book by a NY Times recipe provider and dispenser of kitchen advice, and with a bunch of farmers market broccoli rabe in my fridge, I set about it. Okay a preview: FABULOUS in all ways.

The traditional Italian way I believe is to sauté a mess o’ minced garlic in oil. That’s what I have long done. Melissa takes it to another dimension combining garlic-infused beans with garlic-infused oil that hasn’t had the chance to get at all bitter, solely deeply flavored. Brilliant!

Ingredients:

Cooked beans — gigante or cannelini, with their cooking liquid (1 # beans to 7 c water)
Garlic cloves — 4 smashed, and 3 sliced thin
Red or sweet onion, 1/2 large
Broccoli rabe, 1 bunch, large ends cut off, and washed
Olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes, good pinch

Directions:

Cook beans in pressure cooker. Either keep warm, or make ahead and refrigerate. (Good idea to pop some in freezer too. Mixed in with their liquid for soups later, and some dry in a bag.)
Prepare broccoli rabe, onion and garlic.
Put a sauté pan on medium-low heat, add 4 T olive oil, sliced garlic and pinch of salt. Sauté about 3-4 minutes, stirring, until garlic is just golden. Transfer contents to a small bowl and set aside.
Put pan back on the stove (you may have to wipe the bottom so you don’t ignite any dribbled oil) over medium-high heat, and add 2 T oil. Add onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes and then red pepper flakes. Turn heat up to high (!), add broccoli rabe and cook, tossing in oil, and add good pinch salt. Add good ladle-full of bean liquid and cook until liquid is absorbed/evaporates, about 8 minutes.
Serve: Beans in shallow bowl, drizzle with oil (and garlic!), dump broccoli rabe mixture on top.
You won’t miss the parmesan. So very deeply satisfying and delicious with good beans and heavily garlic-infused oil.