When I first encountered banh pho dried rice noodles -- the noodles often sold as pad Thai noodles, or rice vermicelli -- I thought they were, well... astonishing. After a brief soak in a bowl of warm water, these brittle, opaque noodles got tossed directly into a wok -- no boiling, can you imagine? -- where the heat softened them to chewy perfection in just a minute or two. Wow. Everything, sauce and noodles, cooked in the same pot, and that made a believer out of me. The noodles have no real flavor of their own, and happily soak up any sauce and spices that surround them. This recipe is a template for all kinds of rice noodle stir-fry dishes. Swap turkey, chicken or pork for the beef; add snow peas or bok choy, or any vegetables you have on hand. Banh pho keeps in the pantry cupboard for a year or more, and offers a easy, inexpensive, gluten-free alternative to wheat noodles.
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After a day cooking stuffed cabbage rolls, I had everything left over: cooked rice, tomato juice, mirepoix vegetables (carrots, onions and celery), and some ground beef. Immediately I reached for the soup pot and began tossing in the odds and ends. With a tweak in proportions, and the addition of lemon and brown sugar, the stuffed cabbage ingredients rematerialized as a hearty sweet and sour beef cabbage soup. My husband Ted instantly proclaimed it "Blogworthy!", which is how we categorize recipes good enough to share with you. This is a forgiving soup; if you don't have tomato juice, use beef broth. If you're out of green cabbage, try red, or Savoy, or bok choy. Swap in ground turkey or chicken for the beef, or chop up some leftover rotisserie chicken. Add barley instead of rice. The soup freezes well, which makes it perfect for Soup Swap.
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Being of Polish heritage, I have golabki in my soul. Pronounced gaw-WUMP-key, the name means little pigeons, though what that has to do with stuffed cabbage is a mystery to me, especially since the cabbage rolls are so substantial they'd sooner sink than fly. I'm trying to eat more cooked cabbage dishes this year, because cabbage is full of the fiber that helps lower cholesterol and has other health benefits. Stuffed cabbage rolls -- filled with meat (beef or turkey) and rice (or barley) -- are a healthy main dish to make ahead and freeze. You can tweak the filling with herbs and spices, and change up the braising liquid; I like to use V-8 juice, which adds a bit of extra zing to the sauce.
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A couple of weeks ago, I dreamt about a good old-fashioned pot roast with brown gravy, roast potatoes and carrots, the kind of dish we got in the school cafeteria when I was a kid. To satisfy my adult craving, the taste had to be rich, meaty, and traditional. No hot sauce, no random Asian ingredients thrown in for fun: I wanted the pot roast I remembered from childhood. I can't explain why; as cravings go, this one was quite specific. Of course, nothing prevented me from using really good ingredients, and improving on my taste memory with a terrific rendition of pot roast. I loved it all the more because I made it in the slow cooker, which perfumed the house with lovely aromas while I went about the other work I'd planned for the day. Except for a nice piece of beef chuck, everything for this recipe came directly from my well-stocked pantry.
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