Spaghetti Squash Lettuce Wraps, Asian-style

 

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Fair warning: this post brought to you by “Blogging and hunger don’t go well together”. Welp, unfortunately that’s the only time I’m ever blogging, as trial runs and free mornings with unlimited light aren’t really part of my vocabulary right now.

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Oh well. Don’t look at the pictures, consider this instead: Super healthy! Vegan! Gluten free! And somehow… really really tasty. Like wolf down 4 in a row without coming up for air. Daniel attacked them it like it was a plate of cheeseburgers (remember, vegan, gluten free!)! After your first bite you’ll glance down at the rest of the pan and wonder if you can polish it off without judgement and then realize YES! I CAN! Vegan! Gluten free! Really really tasty!

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The impetus for this recipe was a) the spaghetti squash I totally impulse-bought last week (why oh why can’t I have normal impulse buys like fancy cheese or chocolate??) and b) the influx of lettuce from our CSA(!!!). I love cooking me up some greens and eating them with toast and eggs for breakfast, with rice and beans for lunch, and mixed with pasta for dinner, but lettuce is another beast altogether. Lettuce-based salads just don’t give me the same amount of joy (*usually). Hence, lettuce wraps. Yum. The filling can be flexible, but this had the perfect texture and umami combination, so deviate at your own risk. This is a bit spicy, but goes so well with the sweet chili sauce! (I have this one and it’s great for marinating or stir-fry!)

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one year ago: …crickets…
two years ago: 
roasted beets and their greens with yogurt and simple rhubarb cake AND tofu banh mi

Spaghetti Squash Lettuce Wraps, Asian-style

a swanky original

1 spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon olive oil + extra for drizzling
½ an onion, diced
2 big cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, some seeds removed, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
5 white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
½ red pepper, in thin strips
3 oz baked teriyaki tofu, in matchsticks
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Half a lime
Lettuce leaves of choice (I used romaine and it was tasty but messy!)
s&p
Cilantro, lightly chopped
Peanuts, lightly chopped
Sweet chili dipping sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half, drizzle with olive oil and s&p, and place cut-side down on roasting pan. Roast for 35-45 minutes. When done, scrape squash with a fork to create noodle-like squash segments.

Meanwhile, heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add garlic, serrano chile, and ginger. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, peppers, s&p and cook for 3 more minutes. Add tofu and squash strands and cook for another 2 minutes. Add sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and big spritz of lime juice.

Wash lettuce leaves well. Spoon squash-tofu-mushroom filling into leaves, and top with cilantro and peanuts. Dip into sweet chili sauce (or make a fancy-shmancy sauce on your own.)

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Sweet&Spicy Chinese-ish Eggplant and Cubanelle Peppers

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My love affair with all food Asian goes far and deep. The night I graduated from high school we went to Minado, an enormous and yet high-quality all-you-can-eat sushi and seafood buffet that’s always packed to the gills (ha). I have brought three boyfriends there, who have all had to gain the stamp of Minado Success before being fully accepted into the family.  My parents bonded over late-night dinners in college at Moon Villa in Boston’s Chinatown. We ate it MINIMUM once a week growing up, and had a lovely relationship with Vanilla, the hostess at our favorite local joint. We are part of the ranks of Jews who consume their beloved sesame chicken and wonton soup on Christmas, albeit in a tiny town in the White Mountains, apres-ski. Heck, my Dad even had Chinese food at his Bar Mitzvah. It runs deep in the veins.

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What I’ve discovered about New York Chinese food is that when it’s good, it’s very good. And when it’s bad, it’s AWFUL. In the suburbs, all Chinese food is fine. It’s not authentic, but you don’t expect it to be. It’s tasty and reliable versions of the same sort of food, usually for cheap, and always plentiful. Here, it’s a different story. You can either go to Chinatown and go to a specific regional restaurant and get fantastic food, or you can go to the take-out joint on the corner and have belly aches all night. Where is the suburban happy medium?! Why do literally all Brooklyn Chinese restaurants suffer from the everything-tastes-like-oil-and-uses-the-same-gloopy-sauce syndrome? It’s so disappointing, time after time. Thank goodness we have Thai, Japanese, Korean (and Turkish, Italian, Israeli, etc) aplenty to fill the void, and Chinatown is just one quick train stop away. On all other nights, there’s bastardized homemade “Chinese-ish” food.

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This pepper and eggplant dish is a freaking delicious version of above mentioned bastardized Chinese. It’s probably not something you’d ever get served in Chinatown but if I ate it at your house I’d be ecstatic. It’s salty and sweet and spicy and oily (but not too much) and crunchy and easy, too! Don’t you dare skimp on the fried garlic&peanut topping, or you’ll have serious regrets. Serve with brown rice and never suffer through gloopy mushrooms over overcooked and oil-shimmering lo mein again. Amen.

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one year ago: spicy micheladas for drowning your autumn-relates woes and kabocha toasts with caramelized onion-maple jam to celebrate them

Sweet&Spicy Chinese-ish Eggplant and Cubanelle Peppers

adapted from taste with the eyes 

2-4 T canola oil
1 small eggplant, cut into small cubes
2 cubanelle peppers (I had them around from the CSA but feel free to use a handful of shishitos or plain old green bell pepper), cut into thin strips
salt
1.5 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 heaping t toasted sesame oil
1 scant T sugar
1 t cornstarch
1 t red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, sliced as thin as possible
¼ c peanuts, roughly chopped

Heat two medium-sized pans. Add a tablespoon of oil to each. Add pepper strips to one and eggplant cubes to the other. Cook peppers on medium-high heat for 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until blistered and softened. Sprinkle with salt when done and set aside. Cook eggplant on medium heat for 9-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown. Add more oil to eggplants if necessary, as they like to suck it all in immediately.

Meanwhile, make your sauce by combining soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and mixing. Set aside.

When eggplant is done, pour in the sauce. Cook for two minutes on medium high heat until it smells amazing. Add peppers and cook for about five minutes on lowish heat to let all flavors come together.

While that cooks, heat a small pan to medium high heat. Add 2 t canola oil. Add garlic slices and saute, stirring frequently, until garlic is nutty and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and coat with salt.

Top individual portions of eggplant and peppers with fried garlic and chopped peanuts. Serve with brown rice. Repeat until you wonder where the food has gone…

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Mustard Greens with Oyster Sauce and Garlic Oil

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Three years ago I returned from Israel on the Fourth of July. I was flying down the East Coast just as it became dark. My return to the US was celebrated with hundreds of different fireworks displays out the window, dotting the horizon as we hurried from Toronto towards JFK. Every suburb along the route outshined its neighbors with their colorful luminescent displays. After a month of touristy activities and solitary explorations (and amazing hummus), I was elated to be above this spectacular opening of America’s arms, witnessing this celebration of her might.

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Then last year I experienced my first “ribBQ”–a rib and meat-filled event of Texan proportions. Very celebratory, very America, very memorable. (More on that, plus very un-Texas tacos, here.)

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This year, as July 4th loomed closer and no plans to escape the city materialized, we decided to embrace the opportunity to make our own event. A grill grate and coolers and folding chairs were purchased, and now you can officially invite me to a suburban soccer game because I own One of Those Chairs That Folds Into Its Own Bag. So does Daniel. They were $8 (yay Home Depot!).

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We dressed in red, white, and blue and ate delicious food with lovely people in our inviting backyard. We made elotes, grilled veggies, and burgers aplenty, gorged on salads and grilled peeps (yes you read that right–it was time for the Easter candy to go), and giggled over a drunken bout of Cards Against Humanity. Although not condensable to a single moment or story, it was a total success! Memories made.

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and oh! These greens? Definitely didn’t make an appearance at our joyous Americana evening. The recipe’s simplicity and promise of “just like dim sum!” were enough to give it a go the next day, after all the dishes were washed, the yard was cleaned, and a nap was had. I super recommend it: easy, filling, light, and delicious. Mustard greens, til we meet again (probably in tomorrow’s CSA basket…)!

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one year ago: Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint YogurtSimple Rhubarb Cake, and epic Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches 

Mustard Greens with Oyster Sauce & Garlic Oil

from Rasa Malaysia 

1 bunch mustard greens, rinsed well and roughly chopped, big stems removed
2 drops canola oil

Garlic Oil:
3 small cloves garlic, finely minced
1 T oil (olive, canola, whatever)

Sauce:
2 t oil
1.5 T oyster sauce
1.5 T water
½-¾ t sugar
2-3 dashes white pepper

Set a large pot of water to boil. When it’s boiling, add the two drops of canola oil. Add mustard greens and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, or until the structure starts to breakdown and both leaves and stems are soft. As soon as this happens, use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer greens into a colander. Rinse with cool water. Dry well, either with towels or a salad spinner.

For Garlic Oil: Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add oil. When shimmering, add garlic and cook until oil is fragrant and garlic is browned. This happens very quickly! Could be as short as 10 seconds, depending on how finely you mince the garlic. Pour oil and fried garlic bits into a small bowl and set aside.

For Sauce: Return empty garlic oil pan to medium heat and add oil. Add next 4 ingredients, being very careful. Pan may sizzle! Cook together for about 15 seconds, until ingredients are cohesive and viscous.

Arrange greens on a serving platter. Top with sauce and garlic oil. Delicious served with brown rice.