Okay, full disclosure: When I first saw this recipe for grilled Malaysian satay, I thought, “Wait. Satay is Malaysian?” I’ve had satay (grilled skewers of meat or fish) in Thai restaurants, Japanese-fusion restaurants and even a couple of Indian restaurants. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Malaysian cuisine.

And then I felt embarrassed and woefully ignorant. So here’s the upside; if you all can benefit from my stupidity, I’m all for it. This dish is fragrant, nuanced deliciousness.

Turns out, Malaysian food is a multi-ethnic mashup of lots of worldly flavors. It’s got elements of Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisine. You’ll see a lot of the usual Asian flavor-bombs in Malaysian fare: shallot, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, lime, chile and coconut. While Malaysian food is full of nose-tingling spices, it’s not spicy. You’re not going to singe your tastebuds like you would at a Bombay curry house or Thai restaurant. The flavors are a little more forgiving for delicate palates. No worries, though–there’s plenty of punch packed in there.

I first made this recipe using chicken thighs and the result was scrumptious. I made it this summer for a lunch with friends and between the four of us, we devoured the entire batch of chicken (which technically feeds six). Once we started eating it, we kind of attacked the platter like storming locusts. I didn’t think the recipe could get any better but then I slathered some of the leftover marinade on shrimp and you know what? It. Totally. Rocked.

I especially liked it because shrimp take a lot less time to marinate and grill. If you use chicken, it’s at least a 4-hour wait time in the marinade–and while it’s certainly worth it, shrimp only need a 30 minute bath in the marinade to soak up all of the complex flavors. That makes it perfect for busy nights.  Or hot ones–it may be mid-September, but we have been in the 90’s for over a week straight. Poor Mozz-man keeps wagging to go outside and once there, looks back at me like, “WHY?” I don’t blame the little man.

Another plus–if you own a grill basket, you don’t even need to thread the shrimp onto skewers! Just plop them in a well-oiled basket in a single layer, grill one side, flip, grill another minute or two and done! I think it’s worth owning a grill basket solely for the ease of grilling shrimp. Putting those suckers on skewers can be a messy affair.

When I made the chicken version, I served it with a salad of chilled sesame noodles.  It would also be great with rice pilaf and a simple vegetable side. I made the shrimp version on a day I was feeling particularly lazy…I served it with warm naan bread and a cooling salsa of summer corn, tomatoes, red onion, lime and cucumber. It felt like the perfect end to a sweltering day, especially with a nice cold lager or glass of Pinot Grigio.

Just because the fall schedule has started doesn’t mean I’m ready to part with the grill just yet. The supermarkets might be trying to rush us into autumn with their Halloween displays, but Colorado has some fighting words about that. The upside is that we still have those last balmy nights worth fighting for. All the sweeter knowing that they’re numbered.

Malaysian Shrimp (or chicken!) Satay

serves 6

slightly adapted from Bon Appetit

 

12 shallots, sliced

1 stalk lemongrass (bottom 1/3 of stalk only, 2-3 outer layers removed), sliced

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled

1/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed

1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric

3 tablespoons whole coriander seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons whole fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon chile flakes

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined OR 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks

Metal skewers or bamboo skewers (soak them first to prevent burning on the grill)

 

In a blender, combine shallots, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, and half of the oil and blend to a paste.

In a dry pan over medium heat, lightly toast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds until fragrant. Remove spices and finely grind using a spice or coffee grinder.

In a large bowl combine wet paste, toasted spices, chile flakes, sugar, salt and remaining oil. Add shrimp or chicken and mix well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes if using shrimp; if using chicken, marinate in the refrigerator for at LEAST 4 hours.

Thread the shrimp/meat tightly onto skewers, leaving at least an inch of space on the bottom (so you have space for turning them).* Reserve any marinade leftover in the bowl.

Combine the leftover marinade with a cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 6 minutes, or until thickened.

Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat and grill the skewers (in batches if your grill is small) for 3-4 minutes total, if using shrimp. Brush with glaze the last 30 seconds of grilling.

If using chicken, grill for 8 minutes, turning skewers once. After 8 minutes, brush the glaze onto the skewers. Grill 2 more minutes; flip, re-glaze and grill 2 minutes more. Your grilling time will be about 12 minutes total.

 

*I like to skewer shrimp using two side-by-side skewers to prevent the shrimp from rotating around the skewer or falling in between the cooking grates.

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I Have Soup

September 7, 2018

 

 

I know. September isn’t for soup. September’s devotion should be saved for its finest gifts to the Earth: tomatoes, corn, peaches, plums. Basil and mint and ALL of the herbs. I am not ignoring–or squandering–those gifts.

But sometimes life and circumstance require soup.

There are details, but they aren’t mine to tell. I can assure you that all is basically a-okay here. Here is not the problem.

Truth of the matter is, sometimes other people need soup. It’s soup they didn’t ask for; it’s soup they didn’t want dropped on their doorstep, if they had their druthers.

When life delivers a swift and foul kick to the gut, some people send flowers. Or money, or time, or pies or comfort in a casserole dish. I tend to send soup. Even in September.

The details, if you care about things like soup: This particular soup is a workhorse; it can be served warm, cold or room temperature. There’s no dairy in it to irritate bellies in revolt and it’s vegan/vegetarian for people who belong to that tribe. It’s laced with spices that are warm and comforting but not spicy. It’s full of nutritious stuff to fuel people who might not be eating much, or who are eating at erratic hours. It freezes beautifully, in case someone is drowning in pies and needs to stash it away for later consumption.

It will do.

It is what I have.

I will stand in front of your house, fully aware of my luck.

Me, who gets to bring the soup.

The person who drew the long straw, when you got the short one.

I’ll hesitate at the doorbell, heavy pot between my hands, knowing that there’s so much more I wish I could offer.

A better week. A better day. A night’s better sleep. A different diagnosis. An answer. A way to see out. A way to see something else than what I know you’re seeing. A hundred barrels of courage. A sliver of peace.

I never have any of those things to offer.

I wonder, when you open the door, if you’ll say: “Hey, asshole. Are you doing this for me? Or for yourself?”

I wonder what I’ll say to that. It’s a fair question. I’ll stumble on it.

Instead, all I have to offer is soup and I feel ridiculous, standing there with soup.

But I don’t know what else to do.

So I ring the bell and hand it over.

Me, who gets to bring the soup.

 

 

 

 

 

Lemony Carrot and Cauliflower Soup

serves 4

adapted very slightly from Melissa Clark

 

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

5 medium carrots (1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

6 cups water or unsalted vegetable broth (plus more as needed)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

3 tablespoons white miso (I used Miso Master Organic Mellow White Miso, found in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods)

1 small (or half of a large) head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

Smoky (ancho) chile powder, for serving

Coarse sea salt, for serving

Cilantro leaves, for serving

**Author’s serving suggestion**–stir some full-fat coconut milk into this soup if you can. It takes a soup that is good to the WOW level, in this author’s opinion.

 

In a large, dry pot over medium heat, toast the coriander seeds until fragrant and dark golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and coarsely crush. (If, like me, you do not own a mortar and pestle, transfer the coriander seeds to a ziploc bag and whack the hell out of them with a cast iron skillet or meat mallet).

Return the pot to medium heat. Add the oil and the cumin seed and heat until the seeds begin to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook until soft and lightly colored, 7-10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for a minute.

Add carrots, crushed coriander, salt, pepper and 6 cups water or broth to the pot. Stir in the miso until it dissolves. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, bring back to simmer and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, 10-15 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree with an immersion blender or you can do it in batches in a blender. If necessary, turn on the heat and warm the soup through. Stir in the lemon zest and juice right before serving. Taste and adjust for seasoning. If soup seems too thick, thin with additional broth OR swirl in some full-fat coconut milk, which I really, really recommend.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of ancho chile powder, a sprinkle of sea salt and some cilantro.

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Love Lives in a Tupperware

August 30, 2018

                  Bear witness, yo. The human pretzel leg.^^Apparently, it’s a trademark move.

 

 

My husband teases me a little that I’m the Food Police in our house, and when it comes to him, I guess I am. Guilty. I’m a little more lenient in the dietary department with the girls, because they’re still growing teenagers, with the metabolism that comes with it. A certain amount of junkity junk is bound to pass their lips…but that guy?

He’s a frigging adult.

An adult who works super long, hard and (sometimes) weird hours. An adult who is genetically predisposed to high cholesterol a few other worrisome things. An adult whose whole family counts on to live long and prosper.

I could just keep my nose out of it and let him do his own thing, since he is *ahem* an adult. And as far as his exercise routines and doctor’s visits go, he’s the master of his domain. But when it comes to what he puts in his belly on a given day, I run interference.

I’m a nutritional busybody. So sue me.

Unless he’s got a work meeting at the crack of dawn, breakfast is eaten at home, cooked by yours truly, and he’s sitting down to eat it. No breakfast croissant gulped down in the car. It will have protein and whole grains and a vegetable or two. When he leaves for work, he’s got “Wife Lunch” waiting in the refrigerator. He comes home to a crushingly boring, nutritious dinner that’s again stuffed with the mountains of vegetables and whole grains.

He’s got the occasional wiggle room in there for a burger and fries or some pizza, but it’s just that. Occasional. He enjoys his most favorite of treats–chicken fried steak and fish and chips–maybe 5 times a year. Maybe. That poor, poor man.

But hey. I love him, I like him, I want him to live, okay? I am fully aware that I’m annoying, but I’ve been married to the man long enough to know that he won’t complain.

Things get a little dicier when he works bizarro hours, like he did this past week. He was on the dreaded swing shift for what seemed like a bazillion days. The swing shift is an incredibly busy and shitty shift that lasts from early afternoon to late night. He’s not home for his Puritan-esque dinner, nor does he necessarily have time to even heat up something I’ve sent with him.

It sucks.

It’s also a prime opportunity for him to shove some crap down his gullet. I don’t want him to do that, though. He’s going to feel like roadkill anyways and fueling himself with garbage isn’t going to help matters.

I could send him to work with a sandwich, some carrot sticks and an apple, and I sometimes do that. But I feel guilty about it. How depressing is that dinner? That dinner is grim business. Nobody wants that dinner. It’s still too warm outside for soup and like I said, he often doesn’t have time to heat it up anyway.

Enter the Dinner Tupperware of Love and Devotion. In other words, the noodle or hearty grain salad. It’s got carbohydrates to keep him satisfied, protein to keep him ticking, and vegetables to keep the wife happy. This particular one has Asian-inspired dressing that ties it all together and crushed peanuts and zingy Wasabi peas make things interesting. And kind of addictive, to be honest.

I first used the crushed peanut/Wasabi trick in this recipe, and I’ve become kind of obsessed with the combination. I’m sprinkling that crack dust on everything, even my night time bowl of popcorn (you guys. It’s genius on popcorn). Crack dust! On everything! I’m weird!

But it really does make life fun, and it works wonders in this salad. If you’re packing it up to send with someone you love, send a little extra container of salad dressing and a separate bag/container of the crack dust to add at the last minute. Crack dust is not nearly as delicious if it’s soggy, so keep it separate. It’s an anal-retentive and kind of fussy detail but it’s worth it.

One slurp of this noodle salad will make anyone feel taken care of, and that is definitely worth it.

 

 

 

 

Crack Asian Noodle Salad

serves 4

 

12 ounces buckwheat soba noodles or rice noodles

1/3 cup minced fresh basil, Thai basil or cilantro

1/4 cup minced fresh mint

1/2 cup sliced scallions

1 medium English hothouse cucumber, seeded and sliced

2 medium carrots, shaved into ribbons (optional)

1 jalapeno or Fresno chile, seeded and chopped

1 pound cooked, chopped protein: shrimp, chicken, steak, tofu, etc. (your pick and yes, optional)

3 tablespoons crushed hot Wasabi peas

3 tablespoons chopped roasted, salted peanuts

 

Dressing (you may not need all of the dressing for the salad):

1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons warm water

2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 cloves grated garlic

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (black or regular)

 

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water and drain well again.

Combine the noodles with the basil, mint, scallion, carrots, cucumber, chile and whatever protein you wish in a large bowl.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Toss the noodles with about 3/4 of the dressing mixture and let sit for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. If salad seems dry after that, add remaining dressing and chill another few minutes. If packing up the salad to eat later, send a little container of extra dressing along with it.

To serve, toss the noddles again and top with the crushed Wasabi peas and the chopped peanuts.

 

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