Asian Lettuce Cups

For Thanksgiving this year, I was trying to come up with out-of-the-box ideas since our family isn’t big on the traditional turkey/stuffing/potatoes menu. I decided to make stuffed cabbage (using this Smitten Kitchen recipe but adding some fennel seeds and caraway seeds), and Asian lettuce cups. Unfortunately, COVID always changes plans, so I didn’t end up making this for Thanksgiving, but I did make it last night, and my entire family willingly ate it! Yay!

Here’s what you need:

For the filling:

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 red onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves minced, or 1 tablespoon fresh garlic paste

2 pounds ground turkey, chicken, or pork, or a combination (I did half turkey, half pork)

1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1/2 cup peanuts, crushed

2 green onions, sliced

1 large handful of cilantro, chopped

For the sauce:

4 tablespoons soy sauce

5 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon sweet chili sauce

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

For the wraps:

1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated

shredded cheddar (optional)

hot sauce (optional) (Note that I made this mild since my kids were eating it too. However, before I ate it, I stirred in some Gojuchang–spicy Korean hot paste, and my husband added hot sauce)

Here’s what you do:

1. Heat the peanut oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the onion and saute for a minute or two. Stir in the garlic. Then add the ground meat, and cook until the meat is browned/lightly crisped, about 7-10 minutes.

2. While the meat is cooking, prepare the sauce. Add all the sauce ingredients to a bowl and whisk together.

3. Once the meat is browned, stir in the water chestnuts. Then, add the sauce and combine well. Allow to cook for a minute or two. Then stir in the crushed peanuts, green onion and cilantro, and cook another minute or two.

4. To assemble the lettuce cups, take one leaf of butter lettuce, add a scoop of the filling, and, if desired, top with hot sauce or cheddar cheese.


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Roasted Tofu and Eggplant

Recently, I tried a recipe for “Black Pepper Tofu and Eggplant.” While I’m not sure I’d make it again–since it kind of tasted like my teriyaki recipe but not as good–I loved the method for cooking the tofu and eggplant, which was much easier than my teriyaki recipe.

So, I encourage you to cook the tofu and eggplant this way, and then to combine it with my teriyaki sauce, or any other favorite sauce (coconut curry? peanut sauce? tomato-based?).

Here’s what you need:

15 ounces extra firm tofu

2 eggplants

2 tablespoons cornstarch

salt and pepper

4 tablespoons safflower oil, or other neutral, high-heat oil

Here’s what you do:

1. Place the tofu on paper towels, cover with more paper towels, and place a heavy item on top. After 15 minutes, remove the wet towels, replace with dry, and repeat.

2. While you are waiting for the second round of tofu-draining to finish, add two tablespoons oil to a large baking sheet, place in the oven, and preheat to 425 degrees.

3. Cut the eggplant into about 1 inch cubes. When the tofu is done draining, do the same for the tofu.

4. In one bowl, toss the eggplant with the remaining oil, and season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, toss the tofu with the cornstarch, and some salt and pepper.

5. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven. Spread the eggplant over two-thirds of it, the tofu over one-third.

6. Bake for 20 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the tofu and eggplant. Bake another 15 minutes. Flip again. Bake another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

From here, toss with your favorite sauce. Enjoy!

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Tomato, Kale, Gruyere and Bread Casserole

If you want something hot, easy and loaded with veggies, give this French-style casserole a try!

Here’s what you need:

2 bunches kale, stems removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup white wine

1.5 cups broth (chicken or veggie)

1.5 pounds large tomatoes (beefsteak, or “on-the-vine”), sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces

1 loaf French/white/country bread, at least a day-old, sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces

1 block gruyere cheese, shredded (about 5-8 oz.)

Here’s what you do:

1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the kale for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and once it has cooled enough, squeeze out the excess moisture and roughly chop.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and butter a baking dish.

3. In the same pot where you cooked the kale, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and thyme, and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the wine to the onion, and then the kale, and simmer until the wine is reduced. Remove the kale mixture from the pot. Using the same pot, heat the broth.

5. In the pan, make a single layer of slightly less than half of the bread. Top with half of the tomato slices. Season with salt and pepper. Add half of the kale mixture, and then half of the cheese mixture.

6. Layer the second slightly-less-than-half of the bread again, topped with the remaining tomato slices. Season again with salt and pepper. Add the remaining kale mixture and the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining few slices of bread.

7. Push the casserole down with a spatula. Pour the hot broth over the top and press down once more.

8. Cover and cook for about an hour. Then, remove the cover and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, and up to an hour. Serve warm.


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L.A. Kalbi, but with Chicken

Another recent find in the L.A. Times Food Section. This recipe was originally for Korean style short ribs, marinated in a sweet sauce and grilled. I was intrigued by the marinade–Asian pear and maple syrup–but wanted to make a healthier version. We made this with chicken, baked in the oven and then finished on the grill, and it was delicious! (And we served it with steamed rice and homemade potato salad, as suggested.)

Here’s what you need:

2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken thighs

1 Asian pear, cored

6 garlic cloves, peeled

1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice wine

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons sesame oil

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch thick disks (optional)

Here’s what you do:

1. Make the marinade: In a blender or food processor, combine the pear, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine and maple syrup. Puree until smoothish. Then add salt, pepper and the sesame oil.

2. Place the chicken thighs in a dish or bag, add the carrot pieces, and pour the marinade over the chicken/carrots. Allow to marinate at least an hour, up to 4 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the chicken and carrots, covered, for about 45 minutes, then uncovered for another 15 minutes. Check to be sure the chicken is cooked through.

4. If you’d like, finish the chicken on the BBQ or stovetop grill to give it a bit of char, and allow the sauce to carmelize.


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Bistro-Style Meatloaf

My grandma–Simon and Jacob’s gigi, has been saving the LA Times Food Sections for me. I pulled this recipe from one of the more recent ones, simplified the ingredients and preparation a bit, and it was great.

Here’s what you need:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered

1 cup parsley leaves (if you don’t have them, you can always add a teaspoon of dried parsley to your meatloaf; you could also replace with green onions, or cilantro)

juice from 1 lemon

1.5 pounds ground beef (the second time I made this I did half beef and half turkey, and while I usually love turkey meatloaf, this recipe was a little dry for turkey)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1.5 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

approx. 1/2 cup ketchup (you can also add a couple of tablespoons hoisin sauce if you’d like)

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a food processor, combine the butter, garlic, onion, parsley and lemon juice, and process until you have a smooth paste.

3. In a bowl, mix the beef with the butter mixture, salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, breadcrumbs and egg.

4. On a piece of foil, shape the beef mixture into an 8.5 x 4.5 rectangle, about 1.5 inches thick.

5. In an oven proof pan, heat the oil over high heat for two minutes. Using the foil as a “utensil,” flip the shaped meatloaf directly into the pan. (You will hear it sizzle.) Spread the ketchup on top, trying not to let it drip down.

6. Place into the oven and bake about 28-30 minutes.


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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

My dad grows all kinds of delicious fruits and veggies, so when I went to his house this weekend, he provided me with a very large bag of homegrown tomatillos. The below recipe is adapted from a Food Network recipe, but kicks up some of the flavor a bit, as well as extends the cooking time. Once Simon tasted this salsa, he couldn’t get enough, and probably ate about 4 servings with chips for dinner. I spread some on fish tacos.

Here’s what you need:

2 pounds of tomatillos, husked and well rinsed

1-2 jalapenos

1 medium white onion, quartered

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1 cup cilantro leaves

juice from one lime

2-4 teaspoons kosher salt

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. On a large baking sheet, toss the tomatillos, jalapenos, and onion with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

3. Roast in the oven for 7 minutes.

4. Add the garlic cloves to the tray, turn it around and roast for another 15 minutes. Check to see if the veggies are starting to look slightly roasted and charred. If not, roast another 5 minutes.

5. Remove the veggies from the oven and allow to cool. Then, remove the garlic from the peel, and seed and stem the jalapenos. (Note, I only put one of my jalapenos in the salsa, and it was not spicy at all, but had great flavor. If you want more bite, feel free to add the second one.)

6. In a blender, combine the roasted veggies (tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapeno), the cilantro, the lime juice, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Blend to combine, adding the remaining olive oil while the mixture is blending.

7. Adjust to your taste (e.g., more salt, more lime, more cilantro, more heat).


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Carrot, Broccoli and Egg Terrine

Going down the rabbit-hole of reading about “genius” cooking tips online, I came across a list of carrot recipes, which included a Wolfgang Puck recipe for a terrine similar to the one I assembled. Today, I gave it a try. It was both beautiful and delicious.

Here’s what you need:

4 tablespoons butter

2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced in circles about 1/4 inch thick

1/2 cup water



6 ounces broccoli, chopped

4-6 ounces shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 eggs and 3 egg whites

4 ounces feta cheese (or shredded gruyere or sharp white cheddar)

Here’s what you do:

1. Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy pot with a lid. Add the carrots and water. Cover and lower heat to moderately low. Allow carrots to cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then uncover, turn up the heat, and allow remaining water to boil off. Put carrots in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

3. In the same pot used for the carrots, add half a tablespoon butter and the broccoli. Cover and cook over moderately high heat for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a smaller bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly beat one whole egg and stir into the broccoli.

4. Coursely chop the carrots.

5. In the same pot used for the carrots and broccoli, add the remaining half tablespoon of butter and the shitake mushrooms. Cook over moderaly high heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and then add to the carrot bowl.

6. Lightly beat the remaining four eggs, and add to the carrot/mushroom mixture along with the cheese and a bit more salt and pepper. Mix to combine.

7. Line a loaf pan with foil, and grease the foil. Spread in half of the carrot mixture, topped with all of the broccoli mixture, and then the remaining carrot mixture. Smooth down.

8. Place the loaf pan in a large baking dish. Fill the baking dish with hot water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Cook in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes.

9. Remove from the oven. Allow to stand for ten minutes, then invert the terrine onto a plate and remove the foil. Slice.


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Almost Instant Soft-Serve

After making this recipe, I think it’s highly unlikely I’ll be buying much ice cream again. It’s so easy, so delicious, and made up of mostly fruit that it’s kind of like a smoothie. I made this round with strawberries and peaches, and can’t wait to try some new flavors too!

Here’s what you need:

1.5 pounds of fruit, chopped into chunks and frozen (at least overnight)

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

generous pinch of kosher salt

Here’s what you do:

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until the fruit is finely chopped.

2. Then puree another 2-3 minutes until the mixture is smooth (scraping down the sides if needed). I found that some of my fruit just wouldn’t break down, so we ate around it.

3. Eat right away, or freeze until just firm. If eating it the next day, let it stand at room temp about 5-10 minutes before serving.


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Oven-Roasted Tomato Vodka Sauce

I always love a good tomato sauce, especially one you can eat on pasta or as soup. This one had a small list of ingredients, simple steps, and didn’t require anything too seasonal. We gave it a try and loved it!

Here’s what you need:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or none if you don’t want any heat)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 cup vodka

2 28-oz cans whole, peeled tomatoes

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

about 1 cup heavy cream, or fat-free half and half, or some combination

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In an ovenproof pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes (if using) and oregano, and cook for another minute. Add the vodka, and simmer for about 5-7 minutes.

3. In the meantime, add the salt and black pepper to one of the cans of tomatoes. Turn off the heat, and add the two cans of tomatoes to the onion mixture. Stir to combine.

4. Cover the pan and bake in the oven for 1.5 hours. Remove and stir in the sugar.

5. Working in batches, puree the tomatoes until they are smooth and creamy. Add the cream to the tomato sauce. Stir and enjoy!

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Just Cauliflower Soup

Simon randomly requests different vegetables–cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, broccoli. Most recently, he asked for cauliflower, in part because Highlights Magazine had a recipe for cauliflower “popcorn.” Well, we didn’t make that, but when I came across this super simple cauliflower soup recipe, I figured we should try it. There are so few ingredients, but it still tastes great!

Here’s what you need:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, sliced (can be yellow or red)

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

5 cups water, divided into 1/2 cup and 4 1/2 cups

salt and pepper

Here’s what you do:

1. Place the olive oil and onion in a pan with a tight fitting lid, uncovered. Turn the heat on low, and allow the onions to softly cook without browning for about 15-20 minutes.

2. Add the cauliflower, the 1/2 cup of water, and some salt and pepper. Turn the heat up higher, cover with the lid, and allow the cauliflower to cook until tender, about 18-20 minutes.

3. Add the remaining 4 1/2 cups water, bring to a low simmer, and cook an additional 20 minutes, uncovered.

4. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until velvety smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow the soup to stand for about 20 minutes to thicken.


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