What In The World Is Rambutan!!! Bok Choy with Rambutan

So I haven’t been writing much as I am on a quest to get healthy and make healthy food choices.   How can I make bodacious food and still eat healthy? I’m used to cooking with lots of flavors and yes lots of fat.  But if want to get healthy I need to make healthier food.

So this blog may shift for a while to be Bodacious Grub that is Bodaciously Healthy with Big Bold Bodacious Flavors. 

Yesterday I went to my local Vietnamese market to buy a few things and came home with a bag of this strange looking fruit, rambutan.

Rambutan

I was looking at a hairy red fruit that looks more like a work of art that was created by an artist rather than being grown.  They are native to Malaysia and Indonesia and are a common snack throughout Asia,

They have an odd hairy exterior that hides the smooth, sweet white fruit within. It can be easily peeled open by splitting the skin apart with your nails and spreading it back, much as one would peel an orange.

2004:07:29 18:06:23

The spines look sharp but are actually quite soft and bend back easily.

Rambutancleaned

I found the flavor of the rambutan to be similar to the lychee fruit, perhaps a tad more tart.  They are eaten as a snack and can also be muddled into cocktails or put into a tropical fruit salad.

The woman at the shop said they were very fresh.  So I wanted to take advantage of their freshness.  While I could have eaten them all  I wanted to also cook with them so I opted to add them to  baby bok choy and braise them at least that was my intent.  The finished product was more like a soup with bok choy, caramelized red onions, green peppers, hot red pepper, garlic and rambutan.  I topped it with fresh cilantro, sesame seeds and fresh rambutan.  It was fabulous, bodaciously bold and really healthy.

Braised Bok Choy with Rambutan

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 3 baby bok choy – split in half
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 10 fresh rambutan – reserve 1 for garnish
  • 1 clove garlic smashed
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 green pepper – diced
  • 1 hot red pepper – diced
  • 1 tbl sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cilantro – chopped for garnish

Method:

  1. Heat oil in soup pan
  2. Add diced onion to pan.  Saute until softened
  3. Add diced green pepper and garlic and continue sauteing.
  4. Add bok choy to pan cut side down.
  5. Add chicken stock, rambutan and hot red pepper to the pan and cover.  Simmer until  bok choy is tender.
  6. Serve and garnish with sesame seeds, cilantro and fresh rambutan.

SoupRambutan

Bon Appetite!

Advertisements

ประเสริฐ (Sublime)Thai Influenced Blue Hubbard Squash Soup

thaicurrysoup

I adore winter squash and especially Blue Hubbard squash and Kuri squash. These two varieties of winter squash are really sweet.  They keep for a long time (I keep mine in the basement) so when I want to rustle up a comforting soup I have one on hand. I wanted to have a super comforting soup on this particular day and opted to go for a Thai influenced squash soup made with Blue Hubbard Squash.  Oh yes it had coconut cream in it, rich and decadent and brimming with flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds of Blue Hubbard Squash – cut into pieces
  • 1 large leek – 2 cups diced
  • 1 medium onion – 1 cup diced
  • red curry paste – 2 tbl
  • fish sauce – 1 tbl
  • Thai basil leaves – 10 leaves
  • galangal – 1 1/2″ knob
  • 5 kafir lime leaves
  • chicken stock – 4 cups
  • 1 can (14 ounce) coconut cream
  • 2 tbl olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Roast Blue Hubbard squash for 1/2 hour or until softened and slightly caramelized
  3. Heat 1 tbl olive oil in soup pot.  Add leeks and onions to pot and saute until softened.
  4. Add roasted squash and red curry paste and briefly saute until curry paste mixed through the vegetables.
  5. Add fish sauce, chicken stock, and spices to the pot and incorporate all ingredients.
  6. Simmer the soup for 1/2 hour until cooked through.
  7. Puree soup.
  8. Add coconut cream and mix through.
  9. Serve piping hot.

I chopped up batwan fruit as a garnish.

What is Batwan (Binucao) fruit? Batwan is a fruit of a forest tree native to the Philippines and is common and widely distributed throughout Luzon and the Visayan Islands. I bought it preserved in a jar (mine was reddish in color) but if fresh it is a large green fruit with large seeds. It is commonly used as a souring ingredient in Filipino cuisine. I thought, why not try it with Thai food as a garnish.

I also made a mint/cilantro/Thai basil pesto, as a garnish. Along with mint, cilantro and Thai basil I also used peanut cookies, sesame oil, garlic, fish sauce and olive oil. Quirky but unusual. Recipe to come later.

Garnish with large shrimp, mint/cilantro/basil pesto, Batwan fruit and peanut cookies. I know unusual combination instead but tasty.

I paired this decadent goodness with an old German Riesling from a favorite producer 1996 Grunhauser Abtsberg Riesling.  Perfect amount of petrol and acid. Decadent goodness with decadent goodness.

thaicurrysoup1

A Bodacious Day For the Body – Nourishing Body, Mind and Spirit

SPQR Restaurant San Francisco
SPQR Restaurant San Francisco

My idea of heaven on earth is a day spent nourishing the entire body: body, mind and soul and I look back on my day yesterday and feel so nourished. Good food to pamper the spirit (for me food is very spiritual) and body, a day at the baths to pamper the spirit and body and a good book to pamper the mind.

And so it was, spring lunch at SPQR on Fillmore St. in San Francisco followed by an afternoon at Kabuki Springs in Japantown, the quintessential experience of body, mind and spirit.

SPQR is a  San Francisco restaurant that takes its inspiration from Italian cuisine and wine.  SPQR translates to “The People and Senate of Rome” and was the emblem of the Roman Empire. It received a Michelin star for 2013 and offers amazing service in a comfortable atmosphere. I had a truly wonderful lunch, the service was perfect, the wine list is very well chosen, offering a variety of 3 ounce pours so that one can have a small pour with each dish.  Perfect.

Today I started with an asparagus panna cotta with hot smoked salmon, roe and seaweed served with a Terlan, ‘Vorberg’, Pinot Bianco Riserva, Alto Adige 2009.  Stellar pairing.  The beautiful freshness of spring.

asparagus panna cotta with hot smoked salmon, roe and seaweed broth
asparagus panna cotta with hot smoked salmon, roe and seaweed broth

I love that the courses are a  reasonable size so one can enjoy more than one course.  It took a long time to figure out what I wanted as everything looked amazing.  I finally decided on the carrot salad:   a sweet carrot and lentil salad, medjool date and vadouvan curry crema. What a salad, wow, flavor explosion.  I had “orange wine” with it:  a couple of small pours of “orange wine”: Monastero Suore Cistercensi, ‘Coenobium Rusticum’, Lazio 2010 and Elvio Cogno, ‘Anas-Cëtta’, Langhe Bianco, Piemonte 2011 Nascetta.  Both were beautiful with the carrot salad. I love orange wine.

sweet carrot and lentil salad, medjool date and vadouvan curry crema
sweet carrot and lentil salad, medjool date and vadouvan curry crema

A meal would not be complete at an Italian restaurant without pasta and so I finished with a pasta course:  buckwheat tagliatelle, cider and bacon braised suckling pork and rapini paired withI Favati, ‘Cretarossa’, Aglianico, Irpinia, Campania 2009.

buckwheat tagliatelle, cider and bacon braised suckling pork and rapini
buckwheat tagliatelle, cider and bacon braised suckling pork and rapini

An amazing 2 hour, 3 course lunch with lovely well chosen wines by the server.  Perfect spring lunch.

Now fed I wandered over to Kabuki Springs & Spa for my afternoon of bliss.

Kabuki Springs & Spa is an urban oasis in San Francisco, a place of serenity and deep relaxation.  I love it,  it’s a magic place, I feel so nourished after an afternoon at Kabuki.

kabukispring

You are offered a robe and a key for your personal locker when you check in at the front desk. Fluffy towels are rolled and stacked inside the spa for use. No need to bring anything, all you need is offered. They offer communal baths in the tradition of Japanese public baths, Kabuki’s communal bath is designed to encourage harmony and deep relaxation. They have a hot bath, a cold bath, a wet steam room, dry steam room, showers, salt if you want to do a salt scrub, lounge chairs, beverages (cucumber water, lemon water and regular water). I love to go into the hot bath, then cool off in the cold bath and then go back into the hot bath. I’ll go into both steam rooms as well. Relaxing music is piped into the entire spa. Serenity abounds.

kabuki2

Along with the amazing baths, Kabuki offers a variety of spa services including massages, facials, body treatments and acupuncture. I love to spend a couple of hours in the baths and then have a massage as was the case yesterday, an amazing shiatsu massage. The best I’ve ever had, deep relaxing massage. Four hours later I emerged, a relaxed, revitalized person.
kabuki

Seductively Creamy Stinging Nettle Soup – Bodaciously Healthy

Seductive Stinging Nettles
Seductive Stinging Nettles

The wonder plant, stinging nettles, the plant that is good for – almost everything that ails you; it provides a cure for arthritis, it’s an herbal treatment for allergies, relieves hair loss, treats Celiac disease, bleeding, bladder infections, skin complaints, neurological disorders and a long list of other condi      tions.

It grows wild across the U.S and is highly nutritious.  But beware, one must handle the leaves with care as they sting.  The leaves and stem of a stinging nettle plant are lined with fine hairs (stingers), which give the plant its sting (and its name). Handle them with gloves!  However, that is easily rectified, blanch the tender leaves for 30 seconds to 1 minute and the little stingers are rendered harmless.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds nettles
  • 2 small onions (roughly 3-4 ounces) diced
  • 2 leeks (white part only) diced
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 1/3 cup red rice
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 tbl salt
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups water

Directions

  1. Bring pot of water to a boil
  2. Add nettles to water
  3. Blanch briefly and then remove nettles from the water and chop
  4. Add olive oil to soup pot and heat up
  5. Add diced onions to pot – saute until softened
  6. Add leeks to pot and saute until softened
  7. Add celery to pot and saute briefly
  8. Add garlic to pot and stir through
  9. Add chopped nettles
  10. Add chicken stock and water
  11. Add rice, bay leaf and salt
  12. Cover and simmer until rice is cooked
  13. Turn off heat and allow the soup to cool down (about 1/2 hour)
  14. Puree the soup until it is seductively creamy
  15. Season to taste (add salt and pepper if needed)

nettlesoup

The Sweet Taste of Spring – Asparagus/Leek Soup

asparagussoup

I love spring, it’s the start of the new growing season (at least it is in Canada).   In California, it’s the season of green garlic, tender asparagus, and young leeks.  Fresh and beautiful food appears at the farmer’s market every week.  This week I went to the market and picked up some lovely asparagus, green garlic and leeks and they spoke to me, spoke to me of a fresh asparagus soup.  So that is what I decided to make.  Garnished with fresh lovely borage flowers.  Lovely, fresh green colors and flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leeks – diced
  • 1 1/4 pounds of asparagus (1 large bunch)
  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup saffron rice
  • 1/2 cup green garlic slices
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 cup kefir
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup water

Directions

  1. Remove the tips from the asparagus, half the asparagus stocks.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a simmer
  3. Add the asparagus stocks and simmer for 12 minutes, add the tips and simmer for an additional 3 minutes.  Drain the asparagus and reserve for later.
  4. Add olive oil to same soup pot.  Add leeks and onions to pot and saute until softened.
  5. Add green garlic to leek/onions and saute for 5 minutes.
  6. Add asparagus, chicken stock, thyme and rice to the pot.
  7. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool and puree until smooth, add water if needed.  I added 1 1/2 cup of water as it was quite thick after the rice cooked.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste. 1/2 tsp of each worked for me.

 

Enjoy, the sweet taste of spring.  This is super healthy too. I garnished with hemp seeds and borage flowers. Only about 70 calories for a 1 cup serving.

Sablefish with Japanese Influence

misoblackcodopt

Lunch for the day was broiled miso black cod accompanied by a daikon, cucumber, red onion salad dressed with a ponzu, ginger dressing.

I had picked up black cod at the market yesterday and was looking forward to eating this delicate lovely fish that was marinated with miso, sake and mirin for about 4 hours. The recipes for miso marinade vary but usually call for miso, sugar, ginger and rice wine stirred together. Some people marinate salmon, ahi and aku in this mixture, but the favorite is black cod, also known as sablefish. I started with a recipe from Nobu Matsuhisa found here: However, I didn’t want the sugar so I tailored it quite a bit for flavoring.

The filets were quite small so I marinated them the night before and then removed them from the marinade so they would not be overly salty.

Black cod, it’s not a cod, it’s a sablefish belonging not to the codfish family, but to another family its own. They have black skin and get their name from the sable, a North Asian marten with black fur. This was my first time cooking black cod and I admit I found it to be intriguing. My filets were quite tiny and smelled beautiful.

I made a daikon, cucumber, red onion salad to accompany the cod prepared with my handy, dandy Japanese spiral slicer. It had been collecting dust in the box since the day I bought it over 6 ago. I had never used it so I thought, this is the time to break in the device. The slicer allows me to create ribbons of zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, and daikon radish. It grips the top of any firm vegetable and rotates it against the changeable stainless steel blade. My slicer comes with 3 removable serrated blades to cut thin ribbons and a non removable blade to cut larger ribbons.

I started first by slicing the daikon and then salting it and putting it in a strainer so the excess liquid would drain out. Next I sliced the ribbons of cucumber and added them to the strainer. Finally I sliced the red onion.

japanesespiralsliceropt

While the daikon was straining I removed the black cod from the marinade and then put the reserved marinade into a small pan and reduced the marinade down to a thick syrup.

The black cod was then put under the broiler to broil for about 8 minutes (be careful not to overcook).

To serve, I combined the daikon, cucumber, and red onion and then topped it with a bit of ponzu and ginger dressing. Then the black cod was served on the side topped with the reduced marinade.

Lovely combination of crunchy, sweet, peppery salad with the sweet delicate black cod!

misoblackcodoptimized

Blue Hubbard Squash Soup

bluehubbardsquashsoup

I love farmer’s markets and the beautiful winter squashes that are available in the fall.   I recently found a squash that I just love, the Blue Hubbard Squash. These babies are beautiful, blueish hue on the outside with bright orange flesh.  They are super sweet and make amazing soup as they take on flavors wonderfully.  They used to be very common in the early 20th century as they were one of the few foods that could be counted on to pass through a long winter unspoiled, if  stored properly.  Legend has it that Hubbard squashes came from South America where apparently they have been cultivated for some 4000 years. Stories say that that they were brought to  Massachusetts in the late 1700’s. A woman named Elizabeth Hubbard may have been responsible for spreading and endorsing the seeds.

pumpkin_bluehubbardopt

These squashes can be beasts –  some can weigh thirty pounds or even more – and with a tough rind that makes getting to the flesh quite difficult.   I’ve heard that the best way to open the large ones is to wrap them in a plastic bag and drop them with some force to the ground.  They apparently split open easily.  I didn’t have to worry about it as my hubbard was just a baby, at least it was small. I managed to cut it open with a sharp knife and then cut off the rind with the same knife.   After that I cut it up into cubes so it could be roasted.

bluehubbardinterioropt

I looked in my pantry to see what I could find to complement the squash.  I didn’t want to mess around with too many other vegetables so I opted only to use leeks and shallots to keep the flavor of the squash pure.  At the end I added some apples as I thought the apples would work perfectly.  I wanted just a hint of aji panca (a chili native to Peru)   in the soup.  This is my favorite chili powder these days, I love the flavor of this chili powder.  I added some half and half to finish the soup and to round it out.

I think it worked out well, but you be the judge.

Ingredients

¼ tsp ground aji panca chili powder

aji-panca-powder_lg

¼ tsp Alderwood sea salt

1 tsp French thyme

1 bay leaf

3 1/3 cups roasted blue hubbard squash (cut into 1 cubes)

1 ½ cup diced leeks

½ cup dice shallots

2 small fuji apples that have been cut into 1 inch pieces

5 cups organic chicken stock

1 tbl olive oil

½ cup half and half

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Roast blue hubbard squash (that has been coated with olive oil) for 45 minutes or until soft and lightly caramelized. Remove from oven
  3. In soup pot, sauté leeks and shallots in 1 tbl olive oil until softened.
  4. Add roasted blue hubbard squash to leeks and shallots
  5. Add chicken stock and spices
  6. Add apple pieces
  7. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes until apples are softened
  8. Puree soup
  9. Add  half and half

bluehubbardsquashsoup

Enjoy!

Waking Up the Palette with Sashimi, Sweet Potato Greens and Ponzu

sashimisweetpotatosmallopt

I have at times been at a loss trying to find ways to make the food really appetizing and flavorful and yet low calorie. I’ve done sous vide chicken to implode the flavors into the meat. I’ve braised the veg and the food adding lots of fresh herbs. I’ve done miso soup, I’ve cooked potato greens, I eat baby bok choy almost daily. But I wanted something really interesting with lots of peppery vibrancy that was healthy and interesting.

Yesterday I went to my local Japanese market as I really enjoy cooking Japanese food and have cooked Japanese food for many years. This time I wanted to buy the ingredients to prepare one of my favorites, sashimi.  Sashimi is thinly sliced, raw seafood and served raw in the Japanese cuisine. It is usually arranged and served on top of shredded daikon and shiso leaves. Sashimi pieces are typically dipped into a dish of soy sauce, which can be accompanied by wasabi depending on the kind of sashimi.

I picked up a nice piece of tilapia to slice up as sashimi. Tilapia is a  tender, white fish, and a rich source of protein, low in calories, no trans fats, no carbohydrates, source of several essential vitamins and minerals, lowest level of mercury concentration of all fish.

Rather than doing a traditional soy/wasabi dipping sauce I chose to make a ponzu, ginger, green onion sauce and then drizzle that sauce over the tilapia. Ponzu is a terrific product, low in calories, a bit high on sodium, but fabulous with tilapia and a number of other types of fish. Ponzu has sweet, sour, slightly salty flavor and I thought it would pair beautifully with the delicate lovely fish combined with the freshly grated ginger with its dancing, peppery, slightly sweet flavors along with finely chopped scallions.

I had picked up some lovely sweet potato greens at the local farmers market and thought they would be a perfect accompaniment to the sashimi part of the menu. Yummy, peppery, crunchy notes of pickled mustard seeds were added as the finishing touch to the greens. I would not consider the greens to be particularly peppery but more as a foil to pick up other flavors.

To make the green dish, I removed the leaves from the stems (leaving some of the tender parts of the stems), quickly blanched the greens, cooled them under running water, then removed the excess liquid from the leaves and chopped them. They were then added to a wok, where I was sauteing chopped onions, garlic and red peppers, along with some water. I covered the wok, and cooked the greens until the liquid was absorbed and then added a bit of spicy mustard into the wok to tie it together.

The greens were topped with pickled mustard seeds to pull the peppery menu together. Mustard seed’s hot and spicy flavors enhance most meats, fish, and sauces and I believed that the pickled mustard seeds would tie into very well to the ginger and ponzu sauce (the pickled mustard seed recipe comes from the Momofuku cookbook and a favorite of my friend Dan).

My taste buds were definitely going to be awake with this menu. I laid out the tilapia topped with the ponzu, ginger, green onion sauce, with the greens topped with pickled mustard seeds (that were prepared earlier in the day) and a lovely side of sliced cucumbers.

The peppery notes blended beautifully between both dishes and the cucumbers provided a wonderfully cooling component to the meal along with some crispy crunchy texture.

A wonderful, refreshing lunch under 220 calories.