Friday, January 22, 2010

Roasted Sweet Bell Peppers

After the cold fronts a few weeks ago in Louisiana, all of our lemons and kumquat fruits were miserably ruined. Also many of our plants had seriously damaged. It is sad to see that the garden lost many colors.

A variety of bright colors always give me energy. So everyday I try to have colorful food items as many as possible. Of course, they must be no artificial.

I love the vivid colors of bell peppers. Their various colors, such as red, yellow and orange, make me very happy. Also I enjoy their delicious flavors and healthy benefits. Indeed, they are an excellent source of vitamins A and C.

Our garden looks dead at a glance. But if you take a careful look, there are a lot of small buds, which are almost ready to come out.

These days I often make this dish while dreaming of coming spring.

4 bell peppers
2-3 cloves of garlic
3-4 tablespoons of organic balsamic vinegar
4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Place the red bell peppers on the oven pan and roast them until the peppers become tender and the skins turn blackened.
Or place them on the barbecue grill for 15 to 20 minutes until the peppers become tender and their skins become blackened.
2. Remove the peppers from the oven or grill and transfer to a glass bowl. Cover it with a plastic wrap and let them cool for 20 to 30 minutes (or leave the bowl cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes or overnight.).
3. Transfer the peppers into a serving plate. Peel the skins and remove the seeds on the pan so that the delicious juice would not be wasted. Cut them into stripes. Place them on the serving plate.
4. Add the sliced garlic, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours to several hours. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Pastitsio is one of the most popular dishes in Greece. Also this is one of my most favorite Greek dishes. I always wanted to try to cook this. But each time I decided, my husband, who is native to Greece, stopped me. He thought it was very difficult --almost impossible-- for me, non-Greek, to cook this traditional Greek / Mediterranean food. Um, my challenging sprit became awake.

When we found various goat meats (shoulder, chop and ground etc.) in the local farmers market, we were excited. Then, I suggested making pastitsio. He was too excited to say “No” to me. So he immediately agreed on me making pastitsio. Luckily I also found bucatini, pasta used for pastitsio.

I admit that it was very time consuming and a little bit tricky. But it was defiantly worthwhile. I made it in a big oven pan so that we could enjoy three times or more Unfortunately it lasted less than three times. Indeed, our appetites were more enormous than I thought.

1 lb ground beef, lamb or goat
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 large rip tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup of red wine
¼ cup of flat-leave flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of cinnamon
1 lb of bucatini (According to Wikipedia: a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. Please refer to my picture of bucatini)
1 cup and 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Béchamel sauce:
½ cup of butter
½ cup of all-purpose flour
3 cups of milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of nutmeg powder
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a fry pan and fry the chopped onion and garlic until they become translucent. Add the ground beef (lamb or goat) and cook till well done.
2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir them well. Add the white wine and bay leaf. Stir the mixture well.
3. Season the mixture with salt, freshly ground pepper, and cinnamon. Simmer for 30-40 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the parsley and cover the pan.
4. For béchamel sauce: Heat the butter on another pan. Place the butter and let it melt completely. Add flour and mix with butter well. Add the milk little by little. Stir and simmer on low heat until the mixture is thickened.
5. Turn off the heat and add the eggs, lemon juice, nutmeg, salt, black pepper and Parmesan cheese. Mix them well.
6. Boil water in a large pot and cook the bucatini in the pot for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain the bucatini well. Toss them with 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
8. Pour the ½ of extra virgin olive oil. Place half of the bucatini and make a layer on the large oven pan. Sprinkle the ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Pour and spread the tomato mixture. Next, place the rest of the bucatini and make a layer. Again, sprinkle the ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Pour the béchamel sauce and spread evenly over the top. Pour the rest of the extra olive oil. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese.
9. Bake it in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes until the top is brown.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Soybean Sprout and Seaweed Salad (Moyashi and Wakame Salad)

Soybean Sprout and Seaweed Salad (Moyashi and Wakame Salad) Alfalfa sprouts are quite popular and can be found in any supermarkets in US. However, finding soybean sprouts in Louisiana is not easy. I have to go all the way to Asian supermarkets to obtain them. The flavor is delicate like alfalfa. The texture is crispier than alfalfa’s. This vegetable is one of the most popular vegetables in many Asian cuisines.

They contain two times more protein and three times more potassium than the amounts of alfalfa. They are an excellent sauce of vitamin C, fiber and aspartic acid, as well.

Boiled/steamed soybean sprouts can fit with any kinds of dressings. But this time I mix with Chinese flavored sauce. If you like Japanese style, stir them with soy sauce, sesame oil and lemon juice or ponze. Korean style, which is spicy with hot pepper and grind garlic, is my favorite, too.

Growing soybean sprouts at home is easy. It does not require a lot of sun, space or care. Lately fresh vegetables became very expensive because of the recent cold. So why don’t you grow this healthy vegetable at home and try this dish!

3 cups of soybean sprouts (moyashi)
3 tablespoons of dried seaweed (wakame)
2 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of Sichuan spicy bean paste
½ teaspoons of sesame seeds

1. Soak the dried seaweed into cold water for about 30 minutes (or follow the instruction on the dried seaweed package). Drain them well.
2. Boil the soybean sprouts for about 1 minute. Drain them well.
3. Put the soybean sprouts in a bowl when they are still hot. Add the seaweed, sesame oil, soy sauce, Sichuan spicy bean paste and sesame seeds. Stir them well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spinach with Tofu and Sweet Sesame Sauce

Since I had a lot of meat during the holiday season, I decided to cook and eat vegetarian food as much as possible. This dish is one of these healthy and delicious vegetarian dishes.

As many of you may know, soybeans are one of the most essential food items in Japanese cuisine. Soy sauce and miso, which are made of soybeans, are primary Japanese seasonings. Tofu is made from coagulating soy milk and it is a very popular food item among not only Japanese people but also health conscious people around the world. Tofu is extremely healthy food. It is rich in tryptophan, manganese, iron and protein.

The taste of tofu is very delicate. I love simply boiled or microwaved tofu with a little bit of grind ginger and ponzu. But if it is too plain for you, try this dish. Delicious grind sesame mixture and spinach enhance the tofu flavor.

1 bunch of spinach
150g of soft tofu
3 tablespoons of roasted sesame seeds
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of mirin (sweet rice wine with a low alcohol content)
1/2 teaspoon of sugar

Directions:1. Steam or boil the spinach until they become tender.
2. Drain the spinach well and cut the spinach into about an inch long.
3. Grind the roasted sesame seeds very well using a Japanese mortar and pestle (or regular mortar and pestle). Add the soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Mix them well.
4. Place the tofu on a plate and microwave briefly until well warmed. Drain the tofu. Smash it and add into the soy sauce mixture. Stir them well.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fried Daikon (White Radish) Leaves

Happy New Year to all of you!
May the New Year bring these Wishes to you all.

Well, I had been busy cooking during holidays. Mainly I cooked Mediterranean food. Therefore, I had been eating mostly Mediterranean food. After all of the parties were over, I realized I missed Japanese food very much. I longed for a cup of white rice with miso soup and some simple Japanese side dishes.

I found daikon (white radish) in some local farmers markets. They did not come with the leaves. I was very disappointed because the leaves are one of my favorite vegetables. Luckily I found daikon with leaves in Whole Foods. So I decided to cook this easy but yummy Japanese dish.

I recommend you to cook only organic daikon leaves. If they are not organic, they may contain agricultural chemicals more than their roots. Daikon leaves are rich in vitamins A and C. I cannot believe they used to be thrown away and people did not eat them at all!

1 bunch of daikon leaves (white radish leaves)
¼ cup of dried shaved bonito
1 teaspoon of roast sesame seeds
1-2 tablespoons of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of mirin (sweet rice wine with a low alcohol content)

1. Steam or boil the daikon leaves until they become tender.
2. Drain the daikon leaves and cut small pieces.
3. Heat the sesame oil in a fry pan and fry the daikon leaves for 3-5 minutes.
4. Season them with the soy sauce and mirin.
5. Add the dried shaved bonito. Mix them well.