Lemongrass Mahi Mahi

Marinades are one of those irresistible improvisational creations. Not much in the way of science to worry about usually, just imagine the flavors you love and swirl them together in a sea of deliciousness.

The only problem one encounters occasionally in improvisational marinades is happening upon utter perfection, and having no way to duplicate exactly what you’ve done. A way around this would to be measure everything carefully as you go and write it all down, but that takes away half the fun.

This Lemongrass Mahi Mahi is one of those problems…

Serious. Died-and-gone-to-heaven good.

I don’t have the measurements for you, but I do remember what I mixed together. You’re on your own for the proportions. Luckily for both of us, marinades are rather forgiving concoctions. Here’s what I used:

  • coconut milk
  • minced garlic
  • minced red & green Thai chilies
  • lemongrass, sliced & smashed
  • green onion, sliced crosswise
  • celtic sea salt
  • coconut sugar
  • galangal powder
  • amchur powder

Cook as desired and serve over brown rice, with romaine lettuce leaves for scooping. (Or go paleo-style and skip the rice, just serve with romaine.)

Lemongrass can be bought fresh or frozen in Asian supermarkets. You can even grow it yourself if you live in a warm climate. Lemongrass gives bright, citrus-y notes to curries, soups, and marinades, and goes particularly well with garlic and chili.

You can cook with lemongrass in one of two ways. First, like in my marinade above, in large pieces used for flavor and removed before eating. Smashing the lemongrass with a large cleaver helps release more flavor. The second way is to cut the lemongrass into small pieces and pulverize them with a mortar and pestle or food processor, then add to food before cooking.

Galangal powder is available in Asian and Indian markets. Galangal is a relative of ginger root and tastes a bit like peppery ginger. It is used in Thai and Indian cooking. It goes well with fish, as well as garlic and chili. A little goes a long way. Like ginger, galangal can also be used fresh.

Amchur powder, or ground dried green mango, can be found in Indian markets or online from Rani’s World Foods. Amchur has a sour, acidic taste and is used in curries and chutneys. In marinades it makes a good tenderizer. Use it with fish and other meats, in vegetable curries, and wherever you’d like to add a bit of tart flavor.

What’s your favorite marinade mixture?

Tuesday’s Rice

Fried rice is a great dish to highlight your favorite fresh ingredients or even simply use up whatever deliciousness happens to be hiding in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Today’s special contains a little of both: baby broccoli, snow peas, and home-grown tomatoes.

Traditionally, a large round-bottomed wok with a ring, and very high heat is used in making fried rice. I’ve adapted the process for easy home use with a 12-inch nonstick pan on medium heat. It’s still a quick dish to make, just a little more relaxed. If I have other tasks to do in the kitchen, I often work on them in the several minutes in between adding each ingredient to the pan.

One advantage of this non-traditional cooking method is that you can leave the minced garlic in the finished dish without fear of it burning. You’ll get a softer flavor from cooking the garlic at a lower temperature, plus many of the garlic’s nutrients will still be retained. If you want a more pungent garlic flavor and higher nutritional value, add the garlic closer to the end of the cooking process.

I like to have fresh Thai chili peppers on hand (Prik Chee Fah). These flavorful peppers are about 2-4 inches long (not the tiny, extremely hot bird’e eye chilies, also referred to as Thai chili). They add a bit of heat and a vibrant dose of color to any dish. If you don’t want the heat, remove the membranes and seeds before chopping. Look for Thai chili peppers in Asian grocery stores. You can also substitute Serrano chili.

Tuesday’s Rice

Yield: serves 1 as a main course or 2 as a side dish

Tuesday’s Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion
  • 3 fresh red Thai chilies (prik chee fah)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 5 stems baby broccoli
  • 1 handful snow peas
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1-1/3 c leftover brown rice
  • coconut oil or other cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon raw coconut aminos (or gluten-free tamari)
  • Thai basil (for garnishing)

Instructions

  1. Chop the onion and set aside.
  2. Finely mince the chilies and set aside. If you'd like it less spicy you can remove the membranes and seeds before mincing.
  3. Finely mince the garlic and set aside.
  4. Chop the baby broccoli into 2-3 inch long pieces and separate the stems from the florets.
  5. Remove the strings from the snow peas and set aside.
  6. Chop the tomato and set aside.
  7. Julienne the Thai basil and set aside.
  8. Heat a frying pan or wok to medium and melt a little coconut oil in it. Add the chopped onion and stir fry for several minutes.
  9. Add the minced chili and stir fry for a minute or two.
  10. Add the minced garlic and stir fry for a minute or two.
  11. Add the baby broccoli stems and stir fry for a couple minutes. Add the baby broccoli florets and stir fry for a couple minutes.
  12. Add the snow peas and stir fry for a couple minutes.
  13. Add the leftover brown rice and stir to combine. Add a teaspoon of coconut aminos and a little more oil if necessary. Stir fry for a couple minutes.
  14. Add the chopped tomato and gently stir fry for a minute or two until the tomatoes are warmed. Check the seasoning and add a little more coconut aminos if necessary.
  15. Garnish with the julienned Thai basil.
  16. Enjoy!
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2011/tuesdays-rice/

Feel free to adjust this recipe to fit your tastes and what’s in your refrigerator on any given day. You may want a bit more rice than I used. I was surprised to find that 1-1/3 cups of cooked rice was all I had on hand today. Two cups would make a more usual proportion of rice to vegetables and would serve more people as well. Of course, you would then also need to adjust the seasonings. I enjoyed the generous proportion of vegetables to rice, so I decided to share it with you exactly how I made it. Cooking, unedited.

(This recipe was shared at: Gluten Free Friday)

Italy Meets Southeast Asia … {+ coconut oil giveaway}

Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and basil. Simple, yet divine.

Before the last of summer’s tomatoes are gone, I’d like to introduce you to a fresh twist on this Italian classic:

Tomatoes, garlic, coconut oil, and Thai basil. Italy meets Southeast Asia.

Tomatoes and garlic are familiar enough. Ever use coconut oil or Thai basil?

Tropical Traditions sent me a jar of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to try in my recipes, and I’ve used (and loved) it in everything from curries, stir-fry dishes, and roasted veggies to cakes, muffins, granola, and more.

One lucky reader will also receive a 32-ounce jar of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil. (Enter to win at the end of this post.)

One of the best things about unrefined coconut oil is the fresh coconut scent and taste that it gives to your food. Take advantage of this flavor boost in your cooking. The Southeast Asian-Inspired Spaghetti recipe, below, has a light coconut taste from unrefined coconut oil.

For a bold coconut flavor, such as in a curry, start out by sauteing the ingredients in unrefined coconut oil and then later thickening with coconut cream or milk.

If the taste of coconut won’t go well with the ingredients in a particular recipe, you’re better off using a different oil that time and saving your unrefined coconut oil for the recipes where it can really shine.

A hint of coconut flavor from unrefined coconut oil is almost always welcome in baking. Coconut complements fruits of all kinds, chocolate, and nuts. The melting point of coconut oil is about 76° F. When the temperature is above 76°, coconut oil is liquid. Below 76°, it is solid. This makes it very versatile for baked goods. Unrefined coconut oil is easily melted if you need a liquid oil. If you need a solid oil, like butter or shortening, just chill it in the refrigerator. Unrefined coconut oil makes a flaky vegan pie crust with ease.

For research on the health benefits of coconut oil, visit CoconutOil.com. For even more recipes using coconut oil, visit FreeCoconutRecipes.com.

The final ingredient in our southeast Asian foursome is Thai basil. Thai basil is easy to grow and is quickly becoming more common to find in nurseries. Or simply pick up a package of fresh leaves on your next trip to an Asian grocery store. Thai basil is sweet and has a distinctive anise flavor. It will lend an authentic touch to your Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Try Thai basil in curries, with stir-fried ginger eggplant, or fresh in salads.

Southeast Asian Spaghetti

Southeast Asian Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked brown rice spaghetti
  • 2 cups baby broccoli, cut into 1-1/2" to 2" lengths
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil, julienned
  • 3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Instructions

  1. Bring water to boil in a large pasta pot with insert. Blanch the chopped baby broccoli for 1 minute in the boiling water. Remove the insert and set the baby broccoli aside. Do not discard the water. Separate stems and florets when cool.
  2. If you prefer your tomatoes peeled, you can dip them in the boiling water before cooking the spaghetti. Then peel and chop the tomatoes while the pasta cooks.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of the sea salt and the brown rice spaghetti to the boiling water. Cook according to package directions. Be careful not to overcook. Drain and rinse well with cold water. Drain excess water and set cooked spaghetti aside.
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Cook 2 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Add the baby broccoli stems and cook 2 more minutes, stirring often.
  6. Reduce heat slightly to medium-low and add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil and the cooked spaghetti. Stir gently to coat the noodles with oil.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes and julienned Thai basil and stir gently to combine. Check the seasoning and add more sea salt if desired. Cook until spaghetti and vegetables are heated through.
  8. Enjoy! This dish is also good chilled as a pasta salad.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2011/italy-meets-southeast-asia/

(This recipe was shared at: Gluten Free Friday)

Enter to win a 32 ounce jar of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil! (a $29.50 value) There are 3 ways to win:

  1. Subscribe to Tropical Traditions’ Email Newsletter for special sales and free recipes.
  2. Follow Tropical Traditions on Twitter
  3. Like Tropical Traditions on Facebook.

Leave a me a separate comment below with your name and email address after completing each item. Each comment will count as an entry. The giveaway starts today, Sunday, September 18, 2011 and ends Wednesday, September 28, 2011. A winner will be picked at random via Random.org on Thursday, September 29, 2011. Open to residents of U.S. & Canada.

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

32-oz. – Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil – 1 quart

Soy Good! Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Options

Just because you’re gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to go soy sauce-free. Even if you’re soy-free, there’s a sauce for you, too!

There is actually a whole world of soy sauce out there. Once I browsed an entire aisle of soy sauces at 99 Ranch Market. It must have taken me a half-hour or more to read the labels of all those bottles. A handful of them are made from gluten-free ingredients.

  1. Tamari, a Japanese soy sauce, is dark and smooth, never bitter like some soy sauces with wheat can be. Tamari is naturally brewed, so it is complex and richly-flavored. You can use it in stir-frying, marinating, and in recipes calling for soy sauce. Tamari is easily available in well-stocked grocery stores, health food stores, and Asian grocery stores.  It is available in both organic and non-organic varieties. Tamari is sometimes made with a little wheat so always read the label. San-J Tamari is certified gluten-free. All the tamari I have seen are also free of artificial preservatives.
  2. Ponzu is a Japanese dressing made from soy sauce or tamari, rice vinegar, citrus juice, and sugar. Ponzu containing tart yuzu juice is the most traditional. The combination of sweet, sour, and salty flavors blend well with a variety of foods. Use Ponzu as a marinade, dipping sauce, or even a low-sodium citrusy replacement for traditional soy sauce. You could also whisk ponzu together with your choice of oil for a fresh Asian-inspired salad dressing. Wan Ja Shan‘s Organic Ponzu is made with all-natural gluten-free ingredients, and contains no artificial preservatives. You’ll probably have to visit a large Asian supermarket to find ponzu made with gluten-free ingredients.
  3. Coconut Aminos is a raw, gluten-free, soy-free alternative to soy sauce. It is 100% organic, naturally fermented and made from coconut tree sap and sea salt. The coconut amino sauce is lower in sodium than traditional soy sauce and is slightly sweet. Tastes nothing like coconut. It is rich and complex, but not as assertive as Tamari. Due to the fermentation process coconut aminos sauce is a bit fizzy when you first open it and smells a little like booze, but don’t let that put you off, it’s wonderfully delicious. You can use coconut aminos in stir-frys, marinades, and dipping sauces, or to replace soy sauce in recipes. Find Coconut Secret‘s Raw Coconut Aminos at health food stores.
  4. Kecap Manis is a dark, sweet Indonesian soy sauce traditionally made from soy sauce and palm sugar. It is thick like molasses, has a rich caramel flavor and is only slightly salty. Kecap manis is essential for many Indonesian, Malaysian, and even some Thai dishes. It’s also a great ingredient for marinades, and pairs addictingly well with chili sauce. I found a ready-made version made without wheat, but with regular sugar instead of palm. This particular kecap manis lists the vague term “spices” which probably includes things like garlic, star anise, galangal, coriander, and bay leaves, but I always get nervous when ingredient labels are vague. It also has artificial preservatives, which I prefer to avoid. The most disappointing part though, was the lack of palm sugar, which adds a depth of flavor that even brown sugar cannot duplicate. I recommend making your own gluten-free kecap manis. Next time I need kecap manis I’m going to try this recipe from Food.com, substituting coconut or palm sugar for the plain sugar and diluted tamari for the soy (see Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce, #7 below). In a pinch you could probably use equal parts diluted tamari and coconut/palm sugar with a little minced garlic thrown in for good measure.
  5. Black Bean Soy Sauce is from Taiwan. It’s not made from the same black beans that the good folk at Chipotle pile into gluten-free burrito bowls, but rather from fermented black soy beans, plus salt and sugar. (Most soy sauce is made from yellow soy beans.) Black bean soy sauce is tangy, slightly sweet, and has a hint of the heat of chili, amazingly enough, since it contains no chili. You can use it in stir frying, marinating, and as an ingredient in dipping sauces. Black bean soy sauce pairs especially well with fresh green beans and tofu. Read the labels, some black bean soy sauces may contain wheat. O’Long makes a traditional Taiwanese black bean soy sauce without wheat or artificial preservatives. Find it at Asian supermarkets.
  6. Liquid Aminos are made from unfermented soy beans. Bragg Liquid Aminos are raw, unfermented, and gluten-free. I prefer the traditional brewed soy sauce flavor when cooking Asian-style food, so I don’t use it in my Asian dishes unless I have no other options. The taste of liquid aminos is flat and not very authentic. But its fine for non-Asian food such as spaghetti sauce, chili, or western-style soup to get the salty essence of soy sauce without an overpowering Asian flavor. Available in health food stores and some well-stocked grocery stores.
  7. Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce is available in gluten-free tamari. In my experience, reduced sodium soy sauce tastes like watered-down soy sauce. That being said, I haven’t tried reduced-sodium tamari, so I can’t comment on its quality. It seems more practical and cost-effective to buy the full-strength kind and dilute as necessary or simply use a smaller amount if less sodium is desired. To dilute your full-sodium gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos, mix 3 parts soy sauce with 1 part water. Or even better, create your own mushroom-flavored reduced-sodium soy sauce by mixing gluten-free soy sauce with strained soaking water saved from reconstituting dried Chinese black mushrooms. Yum!
  8. Fish Sauce is not a soy sauce, but it seems to fit in with this post. Fish sauce is available gluten-free, and that’s good news for lovers of Thai and Vietnamese food. I have to admit, although I love the taste of dishes made with fish sauce, I haven’t quite gotten over the smell to use it in my own kitchen. Check the labels, some brands, not all, are gluten-free. A Taste of Thai gluten-free fish sauce can even be found in regular grocery stores. Here’s an interesting recipe for vegan fish sauce from The Recipe Renovator blog.

What’s your favorite gluten-free sauce (soy, BBQ, marinade, or otherwise)? I’m always up for trying something new!

Salmon Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng, or Indonesian fried rice, is a lively dish, full of spices and a variety of flavors. Classic ingredients include chicken, shrimp, eggs, tomato, and cucumber, however Indonesian cooks frequently use whatever meats and vegetables are fresh and on-hand. So don’t be afraid to use your creativity to add your own special touch with favorite items.

One of my favorite Nasi Goreng combinations is salmon, haricot vert (French green beans), onion, and campari tomato. The bright, colorful veggies make it as beautiful to look at as it is delicious to eat.

A bit of tomato, a bit of chili… If you like Spanish rice, you’re sure to enjoy this version of Nasi Goreng. Thanks to the Bamboe instant seasoning mix, it’s so easy to create Indonesian-inspired dishes of your own. (more about Bamboe) My family likes spicy food, so I usually add two seasoning packets to turn up the heat, but I made it with one packet here for you.

Day-old rice is much easier for cooking fried rice. There’s less moisture and stickiness. It’s a great way to use up leftover rice, too. If you absolutely must cook your Nasi Goreng with fresh rice, leaving it out to cool first should help some.

Salmon Nasi Goreng

Salmon Nasi Goreng

Ingredients

  • 4 cups day-old brown jasmine rice (or your favorite long-grain rice)
  • 2 six-ounce cans wild salmon, packed in water, no salt added, drained
  • 1-1/2 cups onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Trader Joe's frozen French green beans, chopped in 1/2" pieces (or regular frozen string beans)
  • 1 cup Campari tomatoes, quartered (or halved cherry tomatoes or chopped Romas)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 package Bamboe Nasi Goreng spice mix (or two packages if you like spicy)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (light coconut milk is OK)
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
  • sea salt to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Drain water from salmon, then combine drained salmon, coconut milk and spice mix in a bowl. Set aside to marinate.
  2. Chop onion, green beans, and tomatoes, and mince garlic. Set each aside in a separate bowl until needed.
  3. Cook the chopped onion in the oil in a non-stick skillet or wok for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the chopped green beans, mix well with the onions, and cook until green beans are heated through, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the minced garlic, mix well, and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add the marinated salmon, mix well, and cook until salmon is heated through, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the rice, mix well to combine all ingredients, and cook until the rice is heated through, stirring occasionally.
  8. Taste to check the seasoning and add sea salt if desired.
  9. Add the quartered tomatoes, mix gently, and cook for 5 minutes.
  10. Enjoy!
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2011/salmon-nasi-goreng/

Meet Bamboe

Bamboe instant spice mixes

Bumbu is Indonesian for spice mix, and Bamboe is a company that makes instant bumbu.

When you hear instant, don’t think neon cheese powder. Every ingredient is all-natural. The kinds of things an Indonesian cook would use to make bumbu from scratch. Shallots, garlic, chili, and various spices in a bit of oil to make a paste. Ingredients like lemongrass and galangal (a relative of ginger) that are not always easy to find.

What's inside Bamboe packets

Most varieties are made from gluten-free ingredients. Check the label to be sure, at least one of them (Bumbu Bali) contains soy sauce.

Bamboe’s curries are probably my favorite. However I’ll use any of their gluten-free mixes in my cooking. There are directions on the back of the packets to make the dish in a traditional way, and creative recipes on the Bamboe website. Often I will simply check the ingredients list for the flavors I am looking for and use a packet that sounds good to improvise with the ingredients I have on hand.

Look for Bamboe at Asian grocery stores. You could even ask your local health food store if they would order Bamboe mixes. Pure and natural, they’d fit in perfectly on a health food store shelf.