Tag Archives: Jeffrey Saad

Hot and Sour Soup

Growing up I never liked or remotely appreciated Chinese food.  Since take-out isn’t particularly healthy and is deemed an occasional greasy and guilty pleasure by most people, including my parents, they didn’t push the issue at all.  I think I once tried a wanton and begrudgingly said it was okay.

But, yes, I did manage to make it to my mid-twenties having never really tried much in the way of Asian food.  When Matt and I started dating, he offered to take me to a nice Chinese restaurant once, and I informed him I didn’t really like Chinese.  He told me later he wondered then if this was going to work out.  Instead of breaking up with me, he decided to try and persuade me to at least try it.  I’m glad he did, for two reasons:

1)      I’m glad we’re still together, and
2)      I really, really like most Asian food!

I have now come to appreciate so many Asian dishes and cuisines.  I love sushi (something I previously wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole), I’m obsessed with Thai food, and I think Korean barbecue is delicious.  I now find Vietnamese food wonderful, noodle bowls delightful, and my bucket list includes going to Singapore and eating at a noodle shop.  While at one point this would never have appealed to me, now Matt and I love exploring a city’s Chinatown, or other Asian neighborhood, like K-Town in New York or Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. And frankly, those are some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

I must confess though, that I’ve never completely warmed to hot and sour soup.  I’ve always thought it was okay, but not great.  However, as it is one of Matt’s favorites, I did want to make it for him at least once.  This soup really grew on me as I ate it.  At first I thought the vinegar was too strong, and I would probably recommend cutting back on the stated amount, then adding more as you feel is desired.  However, the soup had really mellowed after a few bites, and I really enjoyed it.  The heat was just the right amount.  All in all, a very nice dish!

So… what is your favorite Asian neighborhood?  What city is it in?  Is it a Chinatown or something different?  What do you love about it?

Source: Global Kitchen, by Jeffrey Saad

1 tbs cornstarch
1 tbs cool water
1 tbs toasted sesame oil
4 ounces white mushrooms, chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp finely chopped fresh garlic
1/4 to 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp Sriracha
1 quart chicken stock
2 large eggs
1/2 cup firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and water and set aside.
In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add the sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes until soft. Add the scallions, ginger, and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, salt and Sriracha. Cook for 2 minutes to infuse all the flavors.
Add the stock and bring to a boil. While whisking the soup, slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture. Whisk until combined and the soup starts to thicken. Shut off the heat.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs until just mixed. Slowly pour the eggs into the pot, stirring continuously in a circular motion. Continue to stir for 30 seconds. You will see the egg cook in long strands and the soup will take on a creamy look, though it will still have a broth consistency.
Taste the soup to test the vinegar amount at this time. Add more, up to another 1/4 cup, if you think it is lacking. Now add the tofu and cilantro, and serve immediately.

Baba Ghanoush

Like most people, I absolutely adore appetizers and I would subsist on them to the near exclusivity of everything else if I could. Alas, most are not so easy on the waistline. They tend to be carb-heavy and cheese-heavy, and many are best if deep-fried. And as a group, they tend to be light on the inclusion of nutrient dense vegetables. So I don’t make them nearly as often as I’d like. Which makes me feel kind of sad.

It was a great pleasure, then, to discover baba ghanoush several years ago. I feel no guilt for making a dinner out of this dish, as it’s mainly just pureed, grilled, spiced eggplant. Baba ghanoush is Middle Eastern (Lebanese, actually) in origin, so it should surprise no one who reads this blog that I hadn’t heard of it until moving to New York. I’ve taken quite a shine to Middle Eastern cuisine in recent years. I have to credit it with expanding my palate quite a bit. You can expect to see more Middle Eastern dishes here in the coming months.

Baba means “daddy” in Lebanese and ghanoush means “coquettish” or “pampered”. So there you have it: a pampered daddy, which is likely a (sort of) polite reference to a sultan of a royal harem, which means this dish may have originated in a harem. But, no one really knows for sure, and it’s delicious and healthy no matter where it comes from. And, even if it was born in those unsavory circumstances, it’s not like it’s the only beloved dish or ingredient to have some rather dark originations. Graham crackers, anyone?

The basic components of baba ghanoush are smoky eggplant, garlic and tahini (sesame paste). Beyond that, it usually includes lemon, various spices, and maybe some onion. Pita chips are what I’ve always used as a dipping vessel. This recipe is made spicy with harissa, but you can always omit it if you please.

Source: Global Kitchen, by Jeffrey Saad

1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp caraway seed
4 Japanese or baby eggplants
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs finely chopped garlic
2 tbs chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp tahini
1 tbs harissa
Pita chips

In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the cumin and caraway seeds until you smell them, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Grind them to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder.
Turn on your grill to high heat. Once hot, place the eggplants on the grill and rotate occasionally until they are blackened. Let cool.
While the eggplants are grilling, in a medium skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once it is hot, add the garlic and mint and cook for 30 seconds, just until you can smell the garlic. Remove from the heat and transfer to a food processor.
Peel the eggplants and discard the stems and skins. Put the flesh (you should have about 2 cups) in the food processor with the garlic and mint. Add salt, tahini, harissa, and ground spices. Depending on how you like your dip, either pulse-chop until combined but still chunky, or puree until completely smooth. I like mine very smooth, but either way is fine. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the food processor bowl to make sure everything is evenly combined, regardless of your desired texture.
Put the dip in a serving bowl and garnish with an extra small drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita chips alongside. This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It’s best eaten at room temperature.

Squid Ink Fettuccine with Shrimp and Chorizo

Pasta has always been a favorite of mine, since before I can accurately remember things.  There are pictures of me as a toddler in a high chair making a horrid mess of spaghetti with meat sauce (which, incidentally, is the first meal I ever learned to make!).  I’ve always loved pasta, no matter its shape and size, and I think I was one of the few that refused to get on the low-carb bandwagon when that rolled around in the late 1990’s.  Give up my beloved pasta?  Never!

Since moving to New York, pasta has been one of my best palate expanding experiments.  I’ve tried all manner of the different shapes, of course, but more importantly, it’s become a vehicle for eating my vegetables on a consistent basis.  Sure, I’ll always love the rich sauces of tomato, meat and/or cream.  But I’ve come to appreciate lighter sauces with less cheese and more greens, and occasionally seafood.

I’ve mentioned the endless variety of toppings, but what about the pasta itself?  I would say until about a year ago, I had tried what I’ll call the big three: regular semolina, whole wheat, and spinach.  I like them all, and I do try to incorporate more whole what pasta into our diet.  But every time I walked past the artisanal pasta section of my grocery store, I saw a black pasta: squid ink.  It looked intriguing, but I had no idea what to do with it.

Enter Jeffrey Saad, the cook and TV personality who, in my humble opinion, should have won his season of “The Next Food Network Star” (more on that in another post).  He released a cookbook earlier this year and offers a recipe for squid ink fettuccine.  It was the first recipe I made from the book.

I was very excited to try this black pasta with which childhood Julie wouldn’t have even shared a room.  The shrimp-chorizo sauce was fantastic, but I am not sure what the pasta is all about.  I couldn’t really taste anything definitive about it that differentiated it from regular semolina pasta.  Now it’s true that I’ve never tasted squid ink, so maybe I just didn’t know what to look for in flavor.  It also could be that the strong flavor of the chorizo overwhelmed it.  But I was a tad unimpressed.  It was still an enjoyable dish overall, but I’m left scratching my head over the squid ink part.

Question: have you ever tasted squid ink pasta?  Do you think it has a distinct flavor?  How did you prepare it?  Thanks!

Source: Global Kitchen, by Jeffrey Saad

20 jumbo shrimp, with their shells
3 tbs olive oil
1/3 cup shredded carrots (I just thin sliced mine)
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
Kosher salt to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1 pound squid ink fettuccine (I could only find 12 oz packages, so I scaled the recipe accordingly)
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/4 pound raw chorizo, casings removed if necessary
1 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Peel and devein the shrimp. Reserve the shells.
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tbs olive oil. Add the shrimp shells, carrots, shallots and salt. Cook until deep golden, about 5 minutes.
Add the white wine and simmer over high heat until the wine is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Alternately, you can use an immersion blender to do this. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and reserve the liquid. Made sure to press on the solids in the strainer to get all the juices out. Discard the solids.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 tbs olive oil. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Make sure to leave at least 2 inches between the shrimp so they don’t over crowd and steam. Cook in two separate batches if necessary. Pull the shrimp out when they are firm and cooked through. To the same pan, add the garlic and chorizo. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the tomato puree and simmer for a few minutes to reduce and thicken.
Pull the pasta once it is al dente and drop it directly into the sauce. Add a little pasta cooking water and simmer the past in the sauce for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat and toss in the shrimp and butter. Stir until the butter is evenly melted. Top with parsley and serve immediately.