This week has been a struggle between sickness and health. I. injured my foot, contracted a fresh strain of the seasonal flu. Adding to this, my graduate testing studies are in full swing as well. This also means that I really haven’t a had the time to write a blog that is worth the kind of content I write. The blog was never only about the food, it was an exercise in vulnerability. It’s a way to share a personal journey with the recipe as a cherry on top. While I have a lot of recipes to share, I want to retain what the blog means to me. So bear with me as I take some time to recover and recuperate, and I do hope these healthy recipes provide a solace to readers who are looking for things to make this weekend!
As always do share your pictures, thoughts, and comments on these recipes. I love when I know people love my food as much I loved making it!
Lemon Garlic Chicken with Mushroom Wild Rice
My favorite restaurant in college was Northstar Cafe. It’s a chain of homey little eateries found only in Columbus, Ohio. The food is locally sourced and the menu is small but each dish is made to perfection. The casual atmosphere is inviting to a mixed crowd of both young and old(er) patrons. As a college student it was definitely on the pricier side. My best friend Morgan and I loved this place. We would come here all the time and usually get the same things. One of us would get a flatbread, either chicken or veggie; a fish sandwich; a couple of ginger ales and a dark chocolate truffle giant cookie (for starters). While I loved all the food, the one thing that always made me happy was the side dish that came with the fish sandwich. It was called a wild rice salad. A rice with a husk covering giving it the texture of oatmeal, along with a sweet dried currents, a silky acidic bite because of added dry wine, and a crunch delivered by slivered roasted almonds. The complexity of flavors and the simplicity of its appearance baffled me. I wanted to recreate this but give it my own twist.
This recipe is a take on that rice served with a beautiful breaded rosemary, garlic lemon chicken filets.
Easy Curried River Sole Bowl
This recipe came out of the realisation that the ingredients the original needed were either to expensive or just things I forgot. The original bowl was a saffron rice with flaky soy salmon, a side of tahini yogurt, and miring soaked shiitake mushrooms. All sounds great but also something so hard to procure and make on a daily basis. So I changed it up: I boiled the rice with turmeric to get that beautiful yellow colour, a curried river sole, with a side of tzatziki sauce (yogurt, cucumber, and mint), and soft boiled eggs with a beautiful runny yolk. The result is a bowl that matches the colour, texture, and taste that I was going for but something that doesn’t need an arm and a leg to make it.
Miso Noodle Soup
My introduction to good ramen was by my college friend Yen Anh. Growing up in a Vietnamese family, she loved broth based noodle dishes and going out with her was how I encountered the wonderful flavors of asian cuisine outside of cornflour and soy sauce laden Chinese food. She introduced me a world of fresh clean flavors: whether that was through her grandma’s beef pho, Korean barbecue, or ramen. I started loving ramen because of how it has a plethora of textures and flavors that is unified by an overlaying mother broth that encompasses the full symphony of the dish. Ramen to me, never felt heavy even though pools of fat and pork belly were visual indicators that what I’m eating will be clogging my veins shortly. While in New York, Yen Anh took me to Ippudo. A famous ramen shop that had me in love. I think that was the first time I tasted umami (and it did not remind me of Ross saying “Unagi” hehe). My new found love for ramen led me to miso and its versatility as a flavorful ingredient.
This recipe was one of my first attempts at making a soup with umami. I made this with a variety of veggies: carrots, shiitake, and miso were ingredients from ramen dishes, while the addition of ginger, garlic, spring onions, and coriander leaves come from the fresh flavors of Vietnamese pho. In a way, this is a tribute to the food Yen Anh introduced me to and a way to remember our memories through these flavors.
Chai Spice Chicken with an Orange Soy Sauce
This recipe was created in college which was in the middle of nowhere Ohio. The original recipe required a Chinese five spice mix however, without a car, getting some spice for just this recipe would be hard (and SO much work). After perusing my pantry I found some Chai Spice that I probably brought from India. It was a blend of cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and black pepper. Essentially things that on puts in a hot cup of tea in the freezing cold or in the rains. This seemed promising. I added some streaky bacon to the chicken. It imparts some fat and smokiness. The fat melts away and reduces the amount of oil we use. Instead of fresh orange juice, I used Tropicana. It’s sweeter and tastes the same every time I make it. The last adjustment I made was to reduce the amount of sugar. Reducing the sugar doesn’t reduce its taste and makes it a little less sticky but I kind of like that because then I can cover all my rice in the sauce. Un-sauced rice gives me hiccups haha!
I have never had a sweet-tooth. Friends, both old and new find that surprising because I seem like a guy who likes sweets but I think it’s one of those things I have picked up from my mum. She hates sweets too. We both love savory, spicy foods with very little desire for sugar. Even when we go for sweets we like dark, bitter flavors. Chocolate, coffee, deep liqueurs are what we gravitate towards. Gone are the days I would ask for strawberry and butterscotch ice creams from Nirulas, today my sweet cravings are quashed by homemade tiramisu or mum’s fat-free kulfi.
Like oatmeal, I was hesitant about this until I actually had it largely because I was convinced that it wouldn’t be sweet enough. To my pleasant surprise, I was oh so wrong. Heating the milk thickens it as the water evaporates and the fat settles. Since this doesn’t have too much fat expect for there to be water in your final pour in batch. What does that mean, well you might get some ice crystals but other that it attains the creamy texture of a good kulfi, the same taste, and hey did I mention that its only 60 calories?
Sesame Lavender Swirl Tea Cake
I have rarely followed one recipe religiously, and this sesame lavender swirl tea cake is an example of one such recipe. I knew I wanted to make a tea cake with a swirl. I also knew that there aren’t too many seasonal fruits in the market right now. I then read a whole article on tahini being used in sweets to get a beautiful sweet and savoury flavour. The lavender was literally the last thing I added when I was searching for vanilla and the bottles of vanilla and lavender looked exactly the same. This recipe takes some thought so do follow the recipe to get that texture right but by all means, change it up!