I like cooking vegetables. Their wide variety gives out many different taste and menu possibilities. That, and most of the time I find a lot of the veggie recipes to be easy to make. Here’s one to prove my point: sautéed cabbage and carrots, another childhood dish I grew up with in Indonesia. Originally called, orak-arik, this recipe has to be one of the easiest things to make. With shredded cabbage, carrots, a little bit of vegetable oil, salt, black pepper, and garlic, I get a delicious plate in no time. Do you notice how sweet carrots become after being sautéed? That sweetness goes real nice with the black pepper and crunchy cabbage. In its traditional form, the recipe includes scrambled eggs in the mix. But I am making that optional here.
Things that we’ll need:
- 1 small (or half of a large) cabbage head (cut into thin shreds)
- 3–4 carrots (cleaned and chopped in a food processor)
- 3 garlic (chopped)
- Black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- Heat up a medium size pan (over medium heat)
- Add oil and then garlic. Let it sizzle for two minutes
- Add carrots, cabbage, salt, and black pepper. Stir to mix everything together (I use two cooking spoons to mix them up).
- Cover the pan and let the veggies cook for five minutes or until everything wilts
- Move it away from the heat
Ideal to serve as a side to a beef or chicken dish. Don’t forget the rice :D.
Hope you like it and happy cooking!
Whoever invented stuffed vegetables was a creative genius. The compact goodness, with plentiful stuffing choices, makes a great meal. I have a list of stuffing and vegetables that I’d like to pair together. But this week the mood for a good cheesy, creamy, either grain or pasta based, stuffing was heightened. So the search for the right ingredients began.
Curiosity led me to try quinoa for my vegetable stuffing base. I have heard about the grain a lot but have never tried it before. So I had to see what the excitement was all about. I grabbed a small bag of quinoa from the market and learned from the back of it that the grain makes a great substitute for rice and couscous. Right there and then, my cooking planning process began. I stood in the produce aisle, totally switched off from my surrounding, meditating on my next steps. An image of stuffed red bell peppers entered my mind. Next I imagined mixing the cooked quinoa with unsalted butter, light shredded mozzarella, halved grape tomatoes, onions, and a little bit of chop parsley. Then I visualized stuffing the mixture of quinoa into the bell peppers and liking the end result. Here’s the product of my food meditation 🙂
The real cooking process was as easy as I had pictured it in my mind. And even better, the result was as tasty as I had hoped for. Quinoa’s subtle nutty flavor and soft crunchy texture pair well with the sweet and tender red bell peppers and tomatoes and with the savory cheese. I imagine the grain would be great in different styles of cooking too. Ideas already pop up in my head for the next quinoa-based meal. I’ll be sure to write them down and give them a try. More to come later!
- 1 cup of quinoa
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- A handful of chopped parsley
- ¼ chopped onions
- A handful of halved grape tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
- 2 handful of light shredded mozzarella
- 3 red bell peppers (remove the top and the seeds)
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a small pot, cook 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of chicken stock. Stir and bring to boil. Close with a lid and let cook for 20 minutes (I followed the cooking instruction on the bag).
- After 20 minutes, turn the heat off, add butter and stir until it melts
- Add the shredded mozzarella
- Add the grape tomatoes, onions, parsley, salt, and pepper into the mixture and mix well
- Scoop the mixture and fill up the bell peppers
- Top with a little bit more of mozzarella
- Using your fingers, coat the outer part of the pepper with a little bit of olive oil
- Place the stuffed bell peppers on a baking dish, add a little water on the bottom of the dish (like two tablespoon of water). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the bell peppers become a bit wrinkly and soft.
The inspiration came from the Green Curry and the Pad Ped Fish dishes at my favorite Thai restaurant in Chicago, Ben’s Noodle and Rice. This restaurant became like a second kitchen for me when I lived in Andersonville neighborhood. What I love about Thai curries is the combination of spices and sweetness that come from coconut milk and also the vegetables.
In this dish, my idea is to create a vegetable curry that I’d pour over a crispy and firm baked white fish. I enjoy dishes that involve seafood and vegetables. A mixture of taste, texture, and colors in one dish makes the meal all the more exciting. Another thing I like about Thai curry dishes (in restaurants in the US at least) is the presence of bell peppers and eggplant. The softness of the eggplant and the crunchy bell peppers along with their different colors make the dish far from being boring.
So here’s how I make my curry dish:
(Caveat: I eyeball everything!)
In a food processor, chop and mix the following ingredients:
- 3 Shallots
- 5-6 Cloves of garlic
- 5 Long hot peppers (like cayenne)
- 1 Red bell pepper
- ½ Inch of ginger (or 1 teaspoon of ginger powder)
In a medium pot, add:
- 2-3 cups of water
- A pinch of turmeric powder and salt
- ½ Inch of galangal root
- 1 Lemon grass
- 2 Kaffir lime leaves
- The chopped and mixed curry ingredients
- Stay on medium heat until it bubbles
- Add half a can of light coconut milk (you can do the whole can if you want a thicker and richer broth) and stir to mix
Cut one big eggplant and two bell peppers into small cubes. Place the eggplants on a plate. Heat them up in a microwave oven for two minutes. This will expedite the cooking process of the eggplant. Want to veg-it-up? Go crazy! Add carrots, broccoli, and tomatoes into the curry.
Add the vegetables into the pot and let it cook for 10-15 minutes. Remove the galangal root, lemon grass, and kaffir lime leaves before serving. Turn the heat off.
Now, let’s talk about the fish:
- Place two or three fillets of your preferred firm white fish (like red snapper, sea bass, swai, or tilapia) on a plate
- Drizzle with apple vinegar (or lemon juice) for aroma
- Brush the surface lightly with vegetable oil (enough to coat the whole surface)
- Season with ginger powder, hot pepper powder, coriander powder, and salt. Rub evenly on both sides
- Let them sit and absorb the spices and goodness for about 10 minutes
- Place the fillets on a baking dish (might want to spray or lightly grease the dish first). Bake in the preheated 400-450 F oven for about 15-20 minutes until the fillets are crisp and firm but flake easily when pierced with a fork. (Broil to brown both sides if necessary)
Top the fish with vegetable curry or serve separately. The dish is perfect to enjoy with …white jasmine rice, of course.
Note: This is one of my flexible dishes. I can substitute the fish with other things. Try adding shrimp or chicken fillets into vegetable curry and let them cook together. Have fun and enjoy!