String Beans and Mushrooms with Garlic Sauce

Far easier to make than eggplant with garlic sauce, string beans with garlic sauce is a much more commonly found Chinese dish. It’s just as tasty, sweet and tangy but since the string beans are not deep fried, don’t need to be salted and let sit to lose their bitterness, or dredged in corn starch, the dish is so easy to construct, taking just minutes. Pre-steaming the beans or using frozen ones makes it even quicker to prepare. Many vegetables lend themselves to this process – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

First prepare the beans by steaming or thawing them – any color string beans works equally well:

1 pound fresh or frozen string beans (I used yellow [or wax as my father always called them])

Remove the stems and steam for approximately 3-5 minutes until starting to tenderize but still have a bite, like al dente pasta. In a 12″ skillet, over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When the oil is shimmering hot, add:

6 ounces mushrooms

Sauté the mushrooms until lightly browned and tender. Add the string beans and remove from heat. In a small saucepan (2 cup size), heat over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 small shallot, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 small can mild green chilis

Cook until the shallot softens before adding:

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup soy sauce substitute

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon date syrup

Stir to combine. Make a slurry of:

2 teaspoons corn starch or arrowroot

1 tablespoon water

Add to the sauce and stir until the sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and let cook for 5-7 minutes. Add to the string beans and mushrooms and reheat the vegetables over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with scallion greens and serve.*

*I actually only used half the garlic sauce so put the other half into a 1 cup jelly jar and stuck it in the freezer for the next time I need it.

Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Another recipe adapted from my chicken bible. If you don’t like green food, this isn’t the recipe for you! LOL! Either boneless skinless breasts or thighs can be used, just be sure to trim off any fat. It’s a fairly quick and quite simple recipe and if you like cilantro and limes, you should really enjoy this recipe. I don’t like cilantro so I used flat leaf parsley which also worked.

Put a 12″ skillet on medium heat and when hot add:

1/3 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

Roast in the dry pan until aromatic, about 7-10 minutes, being sure not to burn the seeds. Remove to a bowl and add to the skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or herbamare

Cook over medium high heat until onion softens, about 3-5 minutes. Add:

6-8 small tomatillos, peeled, washed and chopped

3 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (leaves removed from the stems) or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1 can mild to medium jalapeno chilis, drained and diced (4-6 ounces)

1 1/2 cup chicken stock

And most of the seeds, reserving about 1 tablespoon for garnish. Cover and cook over medium heat until the tomatillos have softened, about 10 minutes. Add:

4 small chicken breasts or 6 thighs, boneless and skinless, fat trimmed

Salt and pepper the chicken before adding. Push the chicken into the sauce so the pieces cook evenly. Flip them over midway through cooking. Cook the chicken in the sauce for 15-20 minutes depending on size of the chicken pieces (to 160 degrees). When cooked, remove to a plate, cover and let sit while the sauce is finished.

In a blender, combine:

1 cup cilantro (or parsley)

juice from 1 lime (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon date syrup (or date sugar)

Sauce from the skillet

I ladled the sauce into the blender until most of it was in before pouring the remainder from the skillet. This will be HOT so be sure to cover the blender lid with a towel before blending. Blend until almost smooth, about 1 minute.

Arrange chicken on platter and ladle sauce over, garnish with the reserved seeds. Serve with rice and remaining sauce.

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

I know, another eggplant recipe! I can’t help myself, it’s so good right now. My local grocery has such fresh ones on hand, I just have to buy them. This recipe traditionally should be made with Japanese eggplants but they are hard to find. I used to get them at the farmers’ market when I lived in Massachusetts, haven’t found them here in Minneapolis as yet. So I used the common oval eggplants. Look for ones that are narrower, they’ll have fewer seeds and be a little less bitter. Also make sure when purchasing eggplants, that the stems are still green and the eggplant is firm to the touch. And always buy the ones with the inward flower end rather than ones with an outward end, they will also be less bitter.

Because this recipe was made using 2 oval eggplants rather than the Japanese, the proportions will be different if you happen to find the long, skinny kind. So double the eggplants needed if you strike it lucky and are able to use the Japanese. They also won’t need to be peeled!

First, peel and cut into bite size pieces:

2 oval eggplants, medium sized (about 6 cups of meat altogether before salting)

Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle with:

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sea salt

Mix thoroughly and set aside for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer is better. After they have sat, rinse thoroughly with water to remove the salt and then dry as thoroughly as possible with paper towels (or a clean kitchen towel). It’s not possible to remove all the water from eggplant since the meat acts like a sponge with any moisture. When dry, toss with:

1 tablespoon corn starch (or tapioca starch)

Mix thoroughly and then repeat with a second tablespoon of starch.

Heat in a large skillet (or griddle if you have one):

1/4 cup olive oil

When shimmering add the eggplant and cook on medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes until browned then turn to brown the other side, cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove pieces as they are browned and set aside. When all the pieces are well browned, and crunchy, and the skillet is empty, make the sauce.

In a medium skillet heat over medium:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup chopped white scallions (slice the greens for garnish)

1 teaspoon minced green chilis

Cook for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add:

1/2 cup soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces and condiments)

1/4 cup water

Stir to distribute and let cook for a minute or two while making a slurry with:

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon corn or tapioca starch (or arrowroot)

Add slurry to the skillet, stirring constantly until sauce is thick. Stir in the eggplant chunks. Remove to a serving plate and garnish with the greens from the scallions and some white sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.

TIP: Add some diced chicken, beef, pork, tofu, etc., to make this a complete meal.

Spicy Spanish Meatballs (dairy free, gluten free, soy free, egg free)

Just like with meatloaf, I love meatballs. I’ve gotten lazy in my old age and simply made meatballs with some of my meatloaf mix but I recently saw a recipe for Spicy Spanish Meatballs and thought I’d give them a try. Here’s my revision of that recipe that used beef, veal and eggs, none of which I can eat.

You’ll need for the meatballs:

2 teaspoons cumin seeds (or ground cumin)

2 teaspoons coriander seeds (or ground coriander)

2 whole cloves (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)

9 ounces ground turkey

8 ounces ground pork

2 teaspoons allspice (or you can use nutmeg, I don’t happen to like it so substituted allspice)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 garlic cloves crushed

1/2 cup chopped dates (if you used dried dates, be sure to rehydrate them before adding)

1 small hot red chili pepper (I used a red finger pepper, seeds and veins removed), finely chopped

flax gel (3 tablespoons ground flax mixed into 1/3 cup hot water; let stand 5 minutes)

You’ll need for the sauce:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds (roast and grind as above) (or 1 teaspoon ground cumin)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium red onions, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons diced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon paprika (I used 1/2 teaspoon regular paprika and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika)

1/2 cup wine (if you can have it) OR 1/2 cup chicken stock

28 ounces (1 large can) diced tomatoes

2 dried bay leaves

1 teaspoon dry oregano or marjoram

2 tablespoons date syrup

Make the meatballs: In a dry skillet, heat the cumin and coriander seeds and whole cloves over medium heat until aromatic, a minute or two. Let cool for a few minutes and then grind in either a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (I used my coffee grinder that I never use for coffee).

Add to a food processor, the flax gel, dates, dried spices, garlic, cinnamon, allspice and chili pepper and grind until smooth. Remove to a bowl, add salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of each) along with the meats and blend until mixed. Try not to overmix to avoid tough meatballs. Form into about 1 ounce meatballs with wet hands (makes about 16-18). Place on a greased, small baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator.

Whwn the sauce is simmering, take the meatballs out of the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.

To make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a small Dutch oven, add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, salt and pepper (again about 1/2 teaspoon each), cumin, cinnamon and paprika and cook for a few minutes over low to medium heat being careful not to let the spices or garlic burn. Add the wine or chicken stock and boil for several minutes until almost evaporated. Add the chopped tomatoes and bay leaves, turn the heat down and simmer for 20-30 minutes uncovered, stir occasionally.

Add 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste depending on how thick you like your sauce, and the oregano or marjoram along with the date syrup (don’t have any? Use maple syrup or agave instead).

Add the meatballs to the sauce, remove the bay leaves. If you wish, you can sprinkle the dish with chopped fresh parsley. Serve over any small grain such as quinoa or faro, couscous would also work. Or serve with slices of gluten free bread to sop up the sauce.

Serves 4 people generously.