Long live the chili peppers!

Nutritional Tips

Love it when I stumble across good news – especially about things that I like to eat, drink, or do. Saw this piece on the health benefit of chili peppers from Epicurious.com. And I quote: “The compound responsible here might be capsaicin, the very thing that makes peppers spicy—it might guard against heart disease and obesity, and it has antimicrobial properties that might aid gut health.” Read the whole article here: Chili Peppers Might Help You Live Longer.

Red_Peppers By http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope via Wikimedia Commons

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).

Steps:

  • 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)

Vegetable:

  • 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

Mushroom:

  • (I like using) Shiitake mushroom

Seafood:

  • 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!

Eggplant with Chili Peppers, A Great Condiment

Vegetable Recipes

Aha! Another eggplant inspiration. After I told my mom about the grilled eggplant I recently made, she gave me another dish idea to try: eggplant and chili peppers or sambal terong. Sambal is a blend of chopped fresh chili peppers and it is used as a condiment. (Think salsa, only more intense.) Like my mom, I usually add garlic, shallots, and a half slice of small tomato in it too. Sambal alone has so many varieties in Indonesia. This dish is just one variant of it. Terong is eggplant in Bahasa Indonesia. So sambal terong is basically eggplant mashed in a mixture of chili peppers.

At my parents’, a type of sambal is served daily, typically on this traditional stone mortar, to accompany the main dishes. Man, now that I think about it, that’s a lot of chili peppers! And that’s only one household. Hmm…I wonder how much the total consumption of chili peppers would be in a country of 240 something million people. But I digress 😀

Anyway, here’s how I did my version of eggplant with chili peppers. I served it as a side to my fried red snapper fillets.

(Warning: This eggplant dish could be very spicy for those who are not used to chili peppers. Please see the milder version.)

In a food processor, chop:

  • 7-9 Thai peppers (For a milder version, use 2-3 Thai peppers or 2-3 Hot Finger peppers. I notice that, with chili peppers, the smaller the peppers the more intense. So if Thai peppers are not for you, choose bigger but skinny chili peppers. In my humble opinion, Hot Finger peppers have similar aroma and taste as Thai peppers but way milder.)
  • 1 small tomato (For a milder version, use 1 small tomatoes)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 shallots
  • (Optional: 1/2 teaspoon of shrimp paste—find it at Asian grocery store)
  • Salt

Steps:

  • Cut up the 1 long eggplant (or the big one we normally see in many grocery stores) into ½ inch thick slices. Drizzle with a tablespoon of vegetable/canola oil.
  • Heat up a nonstick pan/grill griddle over medium heat and add a table spoon of vegetable/canola oil.
  • Reduce the heat and place the cut up eggplants on the nonstick cookware. Let them cook and brown for 5 minutes on each side. (The eggplant should be soft when they are done.)
  • In a medium bowl, combine eggplant with the chopped chili pepper mixture. Using a spoon, gently mash the eggplant, just a little bit, to blend it with the chili.

Serve with fried/crispy baked fish (red snapper, grouper, tilapia would work well here)/ roast chicken and rice.

Easy Summer Menu: Sweet and Spicy Corn Salad

Salad

A few weeks ago, Jeff prepared a corn dish to serve alongside our steak and tomato salad. He basically just cooked thawed frozen corn kernels in a little bit of butter and cayenne pepper powder. I couldn’t believe how that simple process produced such a delicious dish. I was hooked and inspired to create a salad out of it.

This colorful salad just screams summer, don’t you think? 🙂 It’s a little sweet and spicy, lemony, crunchy, and mmm…it’s got that wonderful cilantro’s fragrance!

Here’s what we will need for my version:

  • A bag of thawed frozen corn or peeled fresh corn kernels from four to six ears
  • One tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • One red bell pepper (cored and chopped)
  • Cayenne pepper powder (I also added three fresh cayenne peppers. But PLEASE adjust to your piquant-tolerance level)
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • A handful of chopped cilantro (if you’re not a cilantro fan, go with parsley).
  • Lemon juice from 1 lemon

Steps:

  • Heat up a medium pan
  • Melt the butter
  • Add the chopped bell pepper and corn kernels. Cover with a lid and let cook for 5 minutes (until the butter and water that comes out of the corn and bell pepper start to bubble).
  • Remove from the heat
  • Add salt, pepper, a dash of cayenne powder, cilantro, and drizzle with the lemon juice. Mix and serve. You could also chill it in the fridge and serve it cold.

This time I served the corn salad with grilled lamb shoulder and tomato salad. Delicious!

Chayote Squash in Spicy Broth

Vegetable Recipes

Chayote squash in spicy broth with shrimp (optional)

Revised by author on 8/29/2013

Another squash dish that I love is this chayote spicy soup. When I think of chayote, I always associate it with a cooling effect. Maybe because of its green color or its soft, watery, and refreshing texture once cooked. Though native to Latin America, this pear-shaped squash is often used in Indonesian cuisine too.

One favorite recipe of mine is to cook chayote in spicy broth. It makes such a wonderful side for a meat dish like my braised and broiled beef tongue. This squash recipe could also be turned into a main dish just by adding large shrimp. Serve with warm jasmine rice…mmm, perfection!

We will need:

  • 2 chayotes (peeled, cored, and quartered). Cover the quartered chayotes with salt for 5-10 minutes to get rid of the sap, rinse with water, and then julienne.

Chop and mix in a food processor:

  • 4 shallots
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 3-5 red hot finger peppers (substitute with 1 red bell pepper if you want it milder)
  • 3 Thai peppers (substitute with 1-2 red hot finger peppers)
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Salt

For aroma:

  • 1 inch of galangal root (peeled and smashed)
  • 1 lemongrass (get rid of the very top and bottom part and then halve)

For the broth:

  • ½ can of light coconut milk
  • 1 box of chicken stock
  • 2-3 cups of water

Steps:

  • In a medium pot, mix chicken stock, spices from the food processor, galangal root, and lemongrass. Bring to boil.
  • Add coconut milk and stir to mix
  • Add the julienned chayote and cook for 5 minutes (Chayote cooks really fast – be careful not to overcook)

Serve 2

Spicy Beef Stew

Beef Recipes

(My version of Rendang. Origin: West Sumatra)

Rendang, a favorite

It seems like many cultures have their own versions of beef stew.” my guy said last night as we tried a delicious Middle-Eastern style Okra and Beef Stew. I nodded in agreement as I thought of other beef stews, like the French beouf bourguignon or the Indonesian rendang, a spicy beef stew from the West Sumatra region (and surely, there are plenty more delicious stews from all around). Their taste might be different from each other but they all make wonderful, substantial, and nourishing meals. 

The beef-stew talk last night got me thinking about my spicy beef stew. I looked at my blog and realized that I have yet to write about it. This dish is one of my favorite dish. Traditionally prepared for special occasions, this stew takes a long time to cook. But, just like any other slow-cooked meal, the meat gets to be rich tasting and tender that it just melts in your mouth. This particular dish is less watery than what a stew would typically look like but wait until you taste the sauce. Oh the sauce! After cooking, the liquid that the meat stew in becomes this thick, spice filled, and mouthwatering sauce that I could just eat with rice or bread alone.

A few years back, my mom taught me how to make the dish from scratch. Well, actually, she only told me the five main ingredients: ginger root, galangal root, lemongrass, red hot peppers, and turmeric. When I asked about how much of each I should use, she said that I should try and figure it out myself! She said that was how her mother taught her. I guess we’re big on learning-by-doing in this family. It worked out though. After years of tasting, tweaking, and perfecting, I think I have developed a version that my guy and I like very much. 

Here’s my version of the stew.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of stew beef
  • 7-10 long red peppers, like Cayenne peppers (substitute with two red bell peppers if Cayenne is not available)
  • 5-7 Thai peppers (Note: Spicy. Please adjust accordingly)
  • 2 inches of ginger root (peeled)
  • 1 inch of galangal root (peeled)
  • 1 lemongrass (remove the the very top and bottom part)
  • 5-6 shallots
  • 2 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Salt

Steps:

Chop and mix the following in a food processor:

  • Long red peppers (or bell peppers), Thai peppers, ginger, galangal, shallots, and garlic
  • In a large pot, heat up a tablespoon of Canola oil over medium heat
  • Saute the chopped and mixed spices from the food processor for a minute or two
  • Add beef and stir to make sure it is well coated with the spices
  • Fill up the pot with water enough to cover the beef
  • Add lemongrass, turmeric, and salt
  • Stir well and then bring to boil
  • Add the light coconut milk and stir well
  • Reduce the heat just a little bit, cover the pot with a lid, and let it cook for another hour and a half to two hours until the liquid is reduced by 2/3 (until 1/3 of liquid left)
  • The meat should be fork tender when it’s done
  • Best served with white jasmine rice

Note: Since I enjoy the sauce from this dish SO much, I make my version to have more sauce than how the original would have.

Serve 2 generously