Cauliflower Fried Rice with Bok Choy

Cauliflower rice is the rage now. There seems to be more people who are consciously trying to live a healthy lifestyle and are seeking alternatives to grain and carbs in their diet. This is also perfect substitute for those who are gluten intolerant.

I was skeptical at first when I heard I about this, I wasn’t really sure if it would taste great as a substitute for rice since I know that cauliflower can give an off putting smell (most cruciferous vegetables do). This was until a friend of mine invited me out to eat and introduced me to cauliflower fried rice. I was amazed at how good it was and it really did feels like you are eating rice.

To make, remove the core and leaves of the cauliflower and wash under running water. Break it apart into big pieces and grate it over a bowl lined with paper towel using a box/cheese grater. You can also use your food processor if you have one.

IMG_0918

Heat a large pan and add about 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Then add one medium sized finely chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent. Place about 1/2 a cup of frozen peas and carrots and stir until heated through. Add your grated cauliflower and stir until your ingredients are well combined. Season to taste with salt (about 1 tsp) and garlic powder (1/4 tsp). Cook until cauliflower is cooked to your liking (mine took around 3-4 minutes), I didn’t want it to turn mushy. Then throw in 2 bunches of chopped bok choy and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Scoop into bowls and serve hot.

IMG_0938

IMG_0928

New Year Daruma Bento

Daruma dolls are considered to be an important part of New Year celebrations in Japan. It is believed to be a symbol of good luck and fortune. During their first visit to the shrine that year, people would buy daruma dolls, have them blessed and return their old dolls for ceremonial burning.

To start my bento series for the year I decided to make a Daruma bento. Daruma dolls are usually made out of paper mache. It comes in only one shape but in various sizes. It is traditionally red in color but nowadays you can find it other colors too like purple, white, yellow and gold.

DSC00525

To make my daruma onigiri I used deco furi to color my rice red and used some cheese and nori strips for the facial details. For the sides I added rolled omelet, some chinese sausage, chicken kaarage and some diced cantaloupe and tomato.

DSC00499

DSC00529

Hibiscus Tea

I chanced upon some dried hibiscus flowers while browsing the aisle of a farm market in Southern Jersey. When we visit a town I almost always go to a food store in search of local specialty it has to offer.

The dried hibiscus was not a local product but it still is a rare find since it’s not something my local food store carries regularly. They say that hibiscus tea helps lower blood pressure and is a very good antioxidant.

DSC08661

DSC08666

DSC08669

After searching the web I decided on the most simple and easiest way to prepare it. To make a cold brew, I took about a cup of dried hibicus flowers and added 4-5 cups water. I let it steep in a carafe inside the refrigerator for 4-6 hours or if you want overnight. Strain the brew and serve over ice. You can add simple syrup to sweeten it and garnish with strawberry slices or even some blueberries or raspberries.

DSC08696

DSC08691

Corned Beef Sinigang (Corned Beef in Tamarind Broth)

This dish was created by a chef from a famous Filipino restaurant in the Philippines. She wanted to give a modern twist to a very popular and traditional dish Sinigang. Sinigang is a soup flavored with a souring agent. The most commonly used is tamarind. For those unfamiliar with this dish it is comparable to the Thai dish Tom Yum soup.

I have posted a recipe for fish sinigang earlier this year. I wanted to re-create this dish after reading much about it on the internet. You can get corned beef at most grocery stores specially now because of St Patrick’s Day. I usually make corned beef and cabbage this time of the year and I serve it the traditional way.

This time around I am preparing my corned beef the with a Filipino twist. I took a slab of corned beef, rinsed it and place it in a big stock pot and covered it with water. When the water comes to a boil. Take out the meat and throw away the water (I do this to make sure that the meat is not too salty when done). Rinse your pot and add fresh water and your meat and let it cook for about 1.5 to 2 hours until meat is tender.

DSC08276

Meanwhile prepare your vegetables. Chop one medium size onion and 2 plum tomatoes. Wash a bundle of spinach and cut into portions if necessary. Rinse and cut your yard beans into 2 inch lengths, wash and peel 1 small asian radish and cut into rounds. Do the same with your asian eggplant. Last rinse and cut off the tips of your okra and set aside.

DSC08204

DSC08214

To make the broth, I thawed and washed my tamarind and placed it in a saucepan with just enough water to cover it. I let it come to a boil and smashed it with the back of the spoon to release its juices and pulp. Strain the liquid and extract as much juice from it as possible. Set aside.

DSC08283

DSC08284

DSC08210

DSC08216

Take another pot and place about 4-5 cups of water, then add your tomatoes and onion. Once it comes to a boil add your tamarind extract. I found that the tamarind juice was not enough to make my broth sour and flavorful probably because it was frozen, so I added a packet of tamarind mix. Add your cooked sliced corned beef and vegetables starting with the longest to cook . Season with fish sauce if desired. Do not overcook the vegetables. Serve with steamed rice.

DSC08292

DSC08302

DSC08299_2

Salted Duck Eggs

When I saw that H-mart carries fresh duck eggs in their store, I knew I had to make “Itlog na maalat” (salted duck eggs). I rarely buy pre-made made ones since I am wary of buying food products that are made in China, with the food safety violations and controversy you hear in the news lately it is wise to be cautious.

DSC07768

Salted duck eggs and tomato salad are usually served as an accompaniment to fried or grilled meat/fish in the Philippines. It is available in almost any grocery store as it is a popular food item. It is also used as a topping for local delicacies like puto and bibingka (rice cakes). The Chinese on the other hand eat salted duck eggs with congee (rice porridge) and use it as a filling for mooncakes and steamed buns.

It is also great just to eat with rice, sometimes the simplest of food are the best. I would say this is one of my favorite comfort food.

To make, place 5 cups water and 1 cup salt in a saucepan and heat over medium to low heat until salt dissolves. Let the mixture cool. In a container, arrange your duck eggs and pour the brine over it. To ensure that the eggs are submerged in the liquid place a weight such as a cup or ziplock bag filled with water. Cover the container and keep in a cool dry place for 21 days.

DSC07787

When 21 days are up, remove eggs from the brine and rinse with cold water. Boil the eggs for 20 minutes or until cooked, these take longer to cook than regular eggs. Keep or store in the refrigerator until use.

I served this by chopping some roma tomatoes and adding the diced salted duck eggs as an accompaniment to grilled pork chops.

DSC08255

DSC08263

DSC08269

Green Mangoes and Bagoong

This deserves a post of it’s own. I was at H-Mart today and was thrilled to see Green Mangoes on display. It was the first time I’ve seen these in store shelves in my 15 years of living in the East coast. When we were at Southern California last week for vacation, my cousin served us green mangoes and bagoong. The taste brought me back home. I can’t even remember the last time I had those. I tried to get some to bring back here in NJ, but sadly those left in the store were badly bruised and ripening already. So I came home empty handed.

Imagine how happy I was for snagging these today at the Asian store. Green mangoes are usually used in salads, appetizers and condiments in Philippine cooking. They are also made into shakes or smoothies which became popular I believe in the late 80’s or early 90’s.

DSC07727

This is considered a Filipino street food and is best eaten, sliced and served with bagoong (sautéed shrimp paste). Though some like to dip it in salt. The combination of sour and salty sweet is something that is irresistible to many Pinoys. I’m sure this is an acquired taste for non-Filipinos as I am guessing only people living in Southeast Asia can really appreciate eating sour fruits. Countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam do like to pair their sour or unripe fruits with something salty and tangy too. The Thais for example would eat sour guava with sugar and chili or plum powder and green manages with fish sauce or shrimp paste too.

DSC07737

DSC07743

DSC07746

I prefer to eat green mangoes chilled, sliced and served with bagoong.

DSC07750

DSC07764