Sharing the Love (of Okra)

Beef Recipes, Others, stew

Cooking and writing actually calm me down. And lately, I think I would not be the only one needing to simmer down. With the news being like they are, from here and there and everywhere, it is hard to disengage from it and not be angry at the world. But anyway, today is a new day and I will do my best to contribute love by cooking and writing more.

I fell in love with Okra because of Leena, a dear friend of mine in Chicago. Many years ago, Farah and I came by Leena’s house for dinner. She had prepared her fabulous Syrian stew made of okra and beef in this tomato broth (bamya). I was hooked and I would always order that stew whenever Jeff and I went to Mediterranean restaurants. I asked Leena for a recipe a while back but I never got a chance to make it. A few weeks ago, after a year of moving back to Indonesia, I began to miss all sorts of non-Indonesian cuisines. I thought of bamya. Found that recipe in my email and it was dated December 2013. That felt like a lifetime ago. Before Jeff and I bought a house in Michigan, before we had our daughter, before we sold the house, before we moved back to our homeland. Why does time move even faster once we hit 30, 35, or 36?

Anyway, I dedicate this article to my beloved, beautiful, fashion-inspiration source, Syrian friend, whose friendship I treasure, and whose homeland has been on my mind.

Below is her Okra Stew recipe, with a little bit of my touch

1 bag of fresh okra (here in Surabaya, the stores carry them fresh. One bag contains maybe 10-15 okras.) – Chopped into little cuts.
1 lb. (or 1/4 kg works too) beef stew meat
1 small onion – diced
4 cloves garlic – roughly chopped
3 fresh tomatoes – diced
Salt, pepper, basil, and oregano to taste
Jasmine rice
I added: a handful of parsley, a pinch cumin powder, coriander powder, and chili powder.
Prepare beef stew :
  • Heat up a little bit of canola oil, add onions. Cook for two minutes.
  • Add beef and cook to well done. Set aside.
  • In a deep saucepan, heat some oil and saute the garlic until pink.  Add okra.  With a wooden spoon, gently toss on medium heat for about 10 minutes, until “slimy strings” disappear.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the beef and tomatoes to the okra pot. Let simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • I add chopped parsley, oregano, cumin, coriander, and chili powder to taste and let simmer for another 15 minutes more until everything is cooked and melded together. The okra should be so nice and tender once they are done cooking. Serve hot and with rice.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!



Versatile Vegetable Stew

Seafood Recipes, Vegetable Recipes

(My version of gulai sayur. Origin: Indonesia)

Here is my version of gulai, which refers to the flavorful yellow broth made of turmeric, chili peppers, garlic, shallot, and coconut milk. It makes such a wonderful vegetable stew. In fact, I have written a couple of versions of this recipe before, titled Chayote Squash in Spicy Broth and Spicy Kale. Today, I’d like to adjust it a bit to show how easy and versatile it could be.

Squash and Shiitake Mushroom by Tiny Chili Pepper

When summer comes to an end, it usually yield tons of produce. Like many of you, I love going to farmers market to get those goodies. Maybe like some of you, I tend to get too many things. Just like the other day, I got a variety of peppers and tons of shallots and garlic—the three key ingredients in Indonesian cooking and in this vegetable stew recipe. I also had a couple of Chayote squash and two handful of shiitake mushroom in the fridge.  So, here’s what I did with them:

Prepared the vegetables:

  • Peeled, cored, and sliced the Chayote squash into long and thin cuts. Then I soaked the cuts in a bowl of water mixed with salt for about 30 minutes to get rid of the sap. Could be substituted with summer squash/zucchini/ bell pepper (see more vegetable options on the bottom of the page)
  • Remove the shiitake stems and roughly chopped the mushroom

Prepared the gulai broth:

List of ingredients:

  • 4 shallots
  • 4 garlic
  • 3 hot peppers (red/orange color)
  • 3 sweet peppers (red/orange color)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 cups of water
  • 1/2 can of light coconut milk
  • 1/2 inch of sliced galangal root (or 1 lemongrass) to add lemony aroma to the stew. Could be substituted with lemon zest (from one lemon).


  • Chopped shallots, garlic, hot peppers, and sweet peppers in a food processor (or blender)
  • Added turmeric powder and a little bit of salt to the mixture
  • Sweat it in a heated pot with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, to release the moisture
  • Added water and galangal root, let it simmer
  • Added coconut milk, stirred
  • Once the broth simmered for the second time, I added the squash and mushroom
  • Let them stew for about five minutes or until the broth simmered for the third time
  • Removed galangal root before serving

At dinner time, my guy had a good point. He said that the stew’s contents could vary. We could have different types of vegetables with (or without) mushroom or even with tofu/tempeh/some seafood in it. Aha! That comment gave me an idea. I listed several produce that would taste great in this vegetable stew recipe:

Choose one vegetable or do a pairing of a vegetable with either mushroom/one of the seafood selections/tofu/tempeh from the following list: (I’d combine up to two things to avoid stew overcrowd)


  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Chayote
  • Eggplant
  • Bell peppers
  • String beans

For these greens, I prefer to have it just by itself in the stew, not in a combination.

  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Collard Green


  • (I like using) Shiitake mushroom


  • Smoked salmon (I’d cut it into small square and add into the stew closer to the end of cooking, since it is already cooked)
  • Shrimp (cook together with the vegetable of choice in the simmering broth until shrimp is fully cooked, about 5 minutes)

Soy-based protein goodies:

  • Tofu (extra firm and cut into small square. Cook together with the vegetable of choice in the simmering broth for about 5 minutes)
  • Tempeh (cut into small square and cook together with the vegetable of choice in the simmering broth for about 5-10 minutes)

What do you think? Anything else we could try? I’ll add to the list if I could think of more.

Thanks for stopping by!

Green Pea Salad Over Broiled Halibut

Salad, Seafood Recipes

Green pea salad by HR

People say we eat with our eyes. There might be some truth to that statement. I like this warm green pea salad recipe, another creation of Giada De Laurentiis, not only for its taste but also for its beautiful colors.

I must admit that I never really thought much of green pea before, let alone turning it into something appetizing. To me it was just some complementary vegetable used in a soup or in fried rice or just served (sadly and quietly) steamed as a side of something else better and tastier. And Jeff confirmed. He said he didn’t really care for green pea until he tried this salad. In this recipe, the vegetable gets a special attention enough to transform its plain being into a flavorful and visually appealing dish. Sometimes it really does depend on how we cook things, doesn’t it?

Green peas salad on broiled halibut by HR

In Giada’s recipe, the salad is served over baked halibut fillets. As usual, I did a few things differently. First, I used regular green pea instead of petite pea. Second, I made the salad a little bit garlicky and of course spicy by adding Serrano peppers ;). Third, since I prefer to have my fish crispy on the outer part and flaky inside, I broiled the halibut instead of baking it. Lastly, the recipe called for fresh mint and thyme, which I didn’t have this second time I made it so I went without.

The result? Sweet but yet spicy with a hint of lemon, nicely seasoned, and surprisingly filling salad. A perfect companion to the flavorful, lemony, and flaky broiled fish. The combination makes a great dinner menu. I added boiled potatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper as a side but I really didn’t need to. The fish and salad were quite filling by themselves.

Here’s my adapted version to serve two people:

Salad ingredient list:

  • 1 small bag of frozen peas (thawed)
  • 4 garlic (chopped)
  • 3 shallots (thin sliced)
  • 1 red bell pepper (sliced)
  • 3 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Serrano peppers (you could also use other bigger peppers like jalapeno, hot fingers, cayenne, etc.)
  • Lemon zest from 1 lemon

Broiled halibut ingredient list:

  • 2 halibut fillets (enough for two people)
  • Lemon juice from 2 lemons
  • 3 garlic (chopped)
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper


  • As suggested in the original recipe: I mixed the lemon juice, chopped garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Then I added the halibut fillets in the bowl, covered it with a plastic wrap, and let the fillets marinate for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
  • Then I heated up a medium pan and added: olive oil, garlic, shallots, and bell pepper to cook for about 6 minutes until they became soft and translucent. Once they were cooked, I turned off the heat, and added the thawed peas, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Mixed all of them together nicely and set aside.
  • After the 30 minutes marinating time was up, I placed the halibut fillets on an oven tray (sprayed with olive oil), and broiled them for 10-13 minutes (no turning) or until they had these golden color around the edges. I also made sure that there was about 6 inches (about 15 cm) distance between the broiler and the tray to avoid charring.
  • I served the fillets and topped them with the green pea salad.

Green peas salad on top of broiled halibut by HR

Thanks for coming and have a great day!

Original Recipe: Roasted Halibut with Pea and Mint Salad, (De Laurentiis, Giada. Giada at Home. Clarkson Potter, 2010. Pg. 134)

Online version: Roasted Halibut with Pea and Mint Salad

Spicy Beef with Mint

Beef Recipes

I purchased two cookbooks this month to broaden my cooking horizon. My need for food inspirations is currently being met by Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner and Giada at Home: Family Recipe from Italy and California. I simply love Giada‘s passion for food that transpires through her cooking style and quality. Though rooted in her Italian heritage, Giada’s recipes don’t shy away from being eclectic.

For Monday night dinner, I made Spicy Beef with Mint (also on Weeknights with Giada, pg. 159). This one-pot and Thai-influenced meal was so flavorful and easy to make. The sweet soy sauce, bell peppers, and shallots infused the tender thin slices of beef sirloin with sweetness. Then, the fish sauce, soy sauce, mint and basil leaves made this dish to be pleasantly tangy and aromatic. For an extra kick, Thai peppers and sriracha sauce did a good job in integrating successfully with the rest of the flavors. What an impressive flavor combination and balance!

I followed the ingredient list and steps from the original recipe. A few notes:

  • The recipe on the cookbook calls for sirloin steak (instead of flank as stated on this online recipe). I sliced the sirloin steak into ¼ inch cuts.
  • I used two bell peppers instead of one. One in red and one in yellow to create a nice color combination.
  • I also had some leftover asparagus in the fridge. So I sliced them up (threw out the very bottom white section) and added them into the pot with the basil and mint toward the end of cook time.
  • I happened to have these white basil leaves in the fridge. So that’s what I used instead of the Thai basil.
  • Best served with rice

Serve 4-6 people

Click here to see original recipe: Spicy Beef with Mint 

Sweet Peppers with Artichoke Hearts Salad – A Side to My Mini Burgers

Vegetable Recipes

I’m finding more things to like: roasted sweet peppers. They make such a wonderful side dish. These pretty and colorful little things complement savory dish very well. Recently I mixed them with artichoke hearts, another fave, and served alongside my turkey and halibut mini burgers. The result? The three make a  superb combination, light but substantial. Definitely a great springtime dinner menu.

Inspired by a fellow blogger’s post at We Call Him “Yes! Chef!”

Here’s what we will need:

  • A bunch of sweet peppers (mini or regular ones are fine – I happened to have the mini ones for at the time)
  • A jar of marinated artichoke hearts (halved)
  • A tablespoon of olive oil

Steps (while my turkey patties and halibut fillets are grilling outside):

  • Drizzle olive oil on the peppers and mix with both hands. Place on a baking sheet
  • On a separate baking sheet, place the halved artichoke hearts
  • Set the oven to broil
  • Place both peppers and artichoke hearts in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the peppers’ skin turn darker
  • Take both out of the oven
  • Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with a plastic wrap to steam. Then the skin can come off easily
  • Chop the peppers and mix with artichoke hearts
  • Serve on the side of these guys: