Tag Archives: jalapeno

Ajat (Thai Quick Pickle)

11 Feb

ajat (thai quick pickle)

Combine my love of Thai food and my love of pickles, and you have ajat. A traditional Thai condiment that’s really easy and quick to make and pairs perfectly with a variety of Thai dishes – although it’s most notably served alongside satay to balance the richness and greasiness of the grilled meat (or fried tofu) and peanut sauce. The part of this quick pickle that seems ingenious is the preparation of the syrupy pickling liquid separately ahead of time – it’s only poured over the fresh sliced vegetables (cucumber, mild peppers, and shallots) right before serving, so the prep at serving time is minimal, and the veggies stay nice, bright, and crisp. The cilantro garnish is optional, but I thought the herb’s flavor was a great addition, especially towards the end of the meal as the delicate leaves macerated slightly in the syrup. The recipe as given makes quite a lot of ajat, but if you need less, I recommend making the full recipe of pickling liquid to use on multiple occasions, cutting up as many vegetables as you want at a time and pouring over only as much liquid as needed to barely cover them.

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Spiced Cauliflower

10 Oct

spiced cauliflower

I think my priorities might be a little skewed. When I was packing for Buenos Aires, I made an effort to get my possessions down to a bare minimum, to pack only what I really needed. But I decided that, along with a basic wardrobe, laptop computer, and camera, what I really needed to bring along was as many spices as possible. I’d heard that some were hard to find, and I didn’t want to deal with the start-up cost of buying new spices (plus they’re light!). Some people made fun of me for the decision, but when I picked up a head of cauliflower and saw this recipe, I knew I’d made the right decision. For many of the main ingredients, it was just a matter of reaching into my already well-stocked cabinet, and the resulting dish is spicy and immensely flavorful, reminiscent of (though I’m sure not authentic) Indian food. And not only did it taste great hot out of the pan, it was equally tasty eaten cold the next day.

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Mushroom and Black Garlic Pasta

8 Oct

mushroom and black garlic pasta

While there are some ingredients I’ve had difficulty finding here in Buenos Aires (like canned beans), there are others that I’ve been surprised to see in abundance. Black garlic, which I’ve never once seen on a grocery store shelf back in DC, is mysteriously present in multiple stores here. The vendor at the vegetable stall I bought it from warned me that it was not intended for cooking but rather meant to be eaten medicinally, but I’d heard of black garlic before and knew better. If you taste a clove plain, it’s hard to believe this is garlic at all – the fermented ebony-colored cloves are sticky-sweet, with flavor reminiscent of a balsamic reduction or tamarind paste, but there’s still a hint of mellow garlic flavor in the background. Definitely worth grabbing if you happen to see some around. I wanted to cook something simple but special with this, so I picked up some fresh pasta from the grocery store (another ingredient that can be easily found here in abundance – and is often cheaper than the dried stuff too!) – spinach pasta, hence the green hue in the photos – and combined the two with the earthy flavor of mushrooms and thyme (and some fresh garlic too, of course). The unique taste of black garlic permeates the dish, well-complemented by the other ingredients.

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Spicy, Citrusy Black Beans

3 Oct

spicy citrusy black beans

On my first trip to the supermarket in my new neighborhood here in Buenos Aires, I was surprised to see hardly any canned beans – and the small cans that were there (I’m used to stocking up on large 32-ounce cans) were quite expensive. So I decided to make this into an opportunity to try my hand at cooking dried beans. I bought some dried black beans, looked up a promising recipe, and was amazed at how easy it was to cook these up. Admittedly, they took quite a long time to cook (though I suspect they had been sitting in the supermarket bulk bins for some time), so I still have to perfect the process (I may try soaking them for two days next time), but the flavors here are amazing. Enough spice for quite a kick, and the tartness of orange juice, lime juice, and red wine vinegar help round out the flavors. I would have really liked to use chipotle peppers in adobo here, so if you have some, definitely toss one in, and I hadn’t yet found a place with cilantro (luckily, I’ve been able to get my hands on some since cooking this), so there’s no pleasant sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro on top. But even without those ingredients (as I’ve written the recipe here), these beans were delicious topped with salsa and sour cream and served alongside fried eggs for breakfast. Even plain, they’re fantastic.

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Avocado Salsa Verde

24 Aug

avocado salsa verde

I love making my own condiments; many, like this salsa verde, are quite easy to whip up, yet still manage to be much more flavorful than their store-bought cousins. Here, all you have to do is a little chopping and a little blending, and suddenly you have something perfect for topping tacos or dipping chips. The avocado is a great twist, too, adding extra creaminess and richness. And, one of my favorite parts of making these sort of things myself, you can easily adjust everything to your taste with minimal extra effort – adding extra jalapenos here, for instance, if you like things spicy, or omitting the jalapeno altogether for a mild take.

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Summer Fajita Bowls

17 Aug

summer fajita bowls

When I was a kid, I remember feeling annoyed when my parents would proclaim some fresh vegetable to be “as sweet as candy!” It seemed like such a blatant falsehood that I couldn’t believe these people who had so impressed on me the importance of being honest could dare to utter it. But maybe my taste buds have changed because I could’ve sworn this sweet corn I roasted tasted just like candy. Alongside other fresh summer produce – squash, bell peppers, onion, and jalapenos – also roasted until caramelized, it added a wonderfully savory sweet touch to these fajita bowls, rounded out by black beans and chorizo. Of course, you can also grill all the vegetables, if you’d like. Either way, this recipe is perfect for all that overflowing summer produce that’s currently at its peak!

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Japanese Curry

16 May

japanese curry

Japanese curry is an interesting phenomenon – traditional Indian curries twisted their way through the British to Japan and beget this now widely popular dish. Usually served over rice (or sometimes noodles) and often called “curry rice” as a result, Japanese curry adds extra sweetness over its predecessors (from a grated apple in this recipe – sometimes raisins are also added) and is thickened with a flavorful roux. I can’t help but love every incarnation of curry, from Thai to Indian to British, and Japanese curry is no exception. Usually made with humble potatoes, carrots, and peas, I like to switch out the potatoes for cauliflower and add in mushrooms and chickpeas, resulting in a variety of flavors and textures, as well as quite a lot of food.

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Vegetarian Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew)

25 Apr

vegetarian feijoada

If you are Brazilian or have been to Brazil and eaten authentic feijoada, let me apologize right now. Traditionally, feijoada is a stew of black beans with a variety of cuts of meat, so I’m sure I am being completely blasphemous by creating this vegetarian version. In place of the meat, I’ve used mushrooms and quinoa (a new favorite of mine) to add a variety of textures and flavors. If you’re like me and not totally vegetarian (I eat mostly vegetarian for health and cost reasons), feel free to use beef broth in place of vegetable broth and bacon fat in place of olive oil to add a little extra heartiness and smokiness, but you should also fare just fine without it. I’m always looking for tasty and filling dishes to have on hand for weekday lunches, so this was a nice change of my pace from my usual while still using ingredients I had on hand.

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Stir-Fried Pork and Vegetables in Black Bean Sauce

18 Apr

stir-fried pork and vegetables in black bean sauce

Stir-frying is a really useful technique; it’s simple, fast, and yields delicious results. I especially love it for fresh vegetables where the high heat draws out their natural sweetness while keeping them nice and crisp. This type of preparation is my favorite for brussels sprouts which I think get a bad reputation due to often being overcooked. I like my brussels sprouts only slightly softened, still retaining a crisp nearly raw interior. Chinese long beans (which are very similar to green beans but a bit better suited to stir-frying as they stay crisper) are a great match here, while ground pork marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, and Chinese five-spice helps to round out the flavors. Despite the jarred black bean sauce being used here (as much as I like to make everything from scratch, sometimes it’s just not feasible), this stir-fry is miles ahead of your standard take-out – both tastier and healthier! Once you get the hang of stir-frying, you’ll realize how invaluable it is to be able to toss together whatever vegetables are hanging out in your fridge and end up with a delicious meal.

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Roasted Pepper and Mushroom Paprikash

14 Mar

roasted pepper and mushroom paprikash

Paprikash is a Hungarian stew, usually made with chicken, where the spicing comes entirely from paprika. As a paprika lover, this stew is naturally a favorite of mine. I’ve made a more traditional version using chicken before, but was recently inspired to try out this vegetarian version. The sweetness of roasted peppers and earthiness of cremini mushrooms is a great match with the paprika (I think I’m going to start adding both to my chicken paprikash!), and I tossed in some lentils to make it a little heartier.

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