Turning disappointing restaurant ramen into something delicious!

ramen 001

Yesterday The Boyfriend and I went to H-Mart  in Cambridge. I love this store so much, at least the grocery part of it. The restaurant area? Not so much. I have been there on two occasions; the first time I ordered the vegetarian sushi roll. I think it was stuffed with tempura veggies?  I don’t even remember because it was that bland and boring. I remember thinking that it was a HUGE  waste of calories.  I told myself the next time, I would only order the pre-made veggie/avocado sushi because that is pretty hard to screw up and I am OK with how bland it is,  but I ended up getting sucked in by the Vegetarian Ramen Bowl. Veggies and tofu? Yes please!

Here it is:

hmart ramenAs you can see, it is noodles and broth topped with cabbage, Chinese broccoli and tofu.

THATS IT!

The broth was subtle and nicely flavored, I will give them that, but it was so boring and I am so sick and tired of getting bland, boring, vegetarian and vegan food. I see the meat ramen they serve. I smell it and it looks and smells delicious because it is full of flavor. I think a vegetarian or vegan dish should be packed full of even MORE flavors! I want sweet, salty, bitter, astringent and sour in my dish. I like it when each bite is a slightly different experience.

I ate the tofu and some of the veggies/noodles and decided that I would take the rest home and transform it into WHAT I WOULD MAKE IF I WERE SERVING VEGETARIAN RAMEN!

I do give them credit for making a lovely base broth. I’m pretty sure they used kombu. It reminded me of a clear, less flavored kombu infused miso soup.

So, the first thing I did was dry-fry tofu: tofu prep 007When it was done, I added brine from some Korean Daikon Pickles I made a couple weeks ago to give it acid, salt and depth of flavor. The tofu went into a bowl to soak up the briny goodness. . Next, I used about 1 tsp. of spicy sesame oil and 1/2 of a small onion and fried it up over medium-high heat. I added a pinch of 5-spice powder and salt. Finally, I added the leftover restaurant ramen. While it was heating up, I added two pressed cloves of garlic and around 1 tbsp. of minced, fresh ginger. I finished the dish with Thai bird chilies, Korean chilies, black sesame seeds, sesame leaves, and pepper. Now THIS is what I’m talking about!

ramen 014

Please understand restaurants, that vegetarians and vegans crave and appreciate flavorful food. It is not that hard to create; I know this, because I have been a Vegetarian/Vegan Chef in restaurants! Please step up to the plate.

Advertisements

Roasted Garlic Marinara

marinara2

OK, so I am cheating here. I am not using real roasted garlic, because who has an hour of time to spare and if you do, do you want to turn your oven on for an hour *just* to roast garlic?

This simple marinara is rich with the taste of roasted garlic. The key is to start with COLD olive oil.  This recipe makes enough for around 2 quarts of sauce. You can freeze half of it, or keep it in the fridge for 2 weeks.

paasta 014Roasted Garlic Marinara

  • 12 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like it spicy, more if you want it spicier.)
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes and their liquid
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt/Pepper to taste (this will definitely vary depending on the brand of canned tomatoes.)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil or parsley

Method:

  1. In a heavy bottomed 3 (or larger) qt. saucepan, add the garlic and oil, along with the dried spices and a pinch of salt to a cold pan.
  2. Turn the heat to medium low and wait until the garlic is sizzling and brown (this will take around 15 minutes.) Turn the garlic over a couple of times.
  3. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir, then add the canned tomatoes and a couple pinches of salt.
  4. Cover and increase heat to medium; cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Turn heat off, add the salt/pepper to taste and stir in fresh herbs. Let the sauce sit for 1o minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings again if needed.

This is one of my “Master Sauces” I keep on hand at all times. Master Sauces allow me to create 30 minute meals that taste like they have been cooking all day long. Stay tuned for more information!

Spicy Tomato Onion Chutney

spicy tomato onion chutneyIt’s no secret that I love spicy food, and Indian is definitely one of my favorites. This chutney is a great staple to have on hand. The recipe makes around 3-4 cups and it will keep for around 2-3 weeks in the fridge. I like to store mine in glass mason jars. If you store it in plastic, the plastic will take on not only the flavor but the color of the chutney. For a mild version, omit or reduce the Serrano peppers depending on your taste preference. Make sure you remove the seeds and stems if you don’t like heat!

I know that many of the ingredients here are not available at a local supermarket. I am fortunate to live with 30 minutes of two great Indian grocers. If you love Indian food and want to start cooking it, you can easily order these ingredients online. A little of each goes a long way.

Spicy Onion Chutney

Indian Feast! Mutter Paneer, Coconut Basmati Rice, Veggie and Chickpea Curry, Home-made Chapati, Cilantro-Mint Sauce, and Tomato-Onion Chutney.
Indian Feast! Mattar Tofu, Coconut Basmati Rice, Eggplant Curry, Home-made Chapati, Cilantro-Mint Sauce, and Tomato-Onion Chutney.
  • 2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp asafetida
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 Serrano chilies, diced (omit or reduce for a milder chutney)
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained; reserve liquid
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
  • 1 large onion, diced (around 3 cups)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 3 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp salt (more or less depending on your personal taste.)

Method

  1. Heat ghee in a very hot skillet; add the mustard seeds and curry leaves.
  2. When the seeds pop, add the rest of the spices along with the tomato and tamarind.  Bring to strong simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes
  3. In a glass or ceramic bowl, place the raw onion, raw ginger, cilantro, onion and garlic along with the salt, mix well and pour the HOT (this means temperature and it is very important that it is hot!)  mixture over the onion mixture.
  4. Take the reserved liquid, and reduce by half in a saucepan (this is an optional step, but gives the chutney a much better depth of flavor, if you don’t do this please reserve the liquid and use it in place of some of the water when you cook rice.)
  5. Pour reduced tomato mixture into the hot onion mix, let cool completely and season to taste with salt and pepper if desired.

This chutney lends a beautiful, authentic taste to your Indian feast! You can also use it in place of salsa if you want to give fusion food a try! I love to mix Mexican and Indian flavors!

Vegan 5 Spice Sesame-Orange Fritters

vegan frittersI do not deep fry very often, but when I do, I make it count! These fritters are very similar to donut holes. They are yeast risen, but really easy to make. So many people are nervous about yeast dough, but if I can do it, so can you! You can make a double batch of dough, or freeze half the dough for later if desired. If you freeze the dough, do it after rising, then let it come to room temperature before frying.

Toasting the sesame seeds may seem like an unneeded step, but it gives these fritters a depth of flavor that can’t be duplicated. Just make sure your sesame seeds are not rancid! (Store them in the fridge or freezer.)

5 Spice Sesame Orange Fritters

  • 1/2 c warm water
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1  tsp five spice powder
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar
  • 3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 1/2 -2 c all purpose flour
  • heaping 1/4 t salt
  • 2 c vegetable oil

Method:

  1. Place water, yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl. Let yeast bloom for 10 minutes
  2. Add spices, olive oil, vinegar, sesame seeds, zest, flour and salt
  3. Stir well until it resembles a very thick batter/dough. It will be too sticky to knead
  4. Cover and let rise for an hour
  5. Heat oil to 375 in at least a 3 qt pan
  6. Drop by heaping tablespoons and fry for several minutes ( until golden brown on all sides )
  7. Toss in sugar mixture directly from the oil (as long as your oil is hot enough, they will not be very greasy at all )

Serve warm.

This is definitely a special occasion treat, but they are so good. If you want to be extra decadent, drizzle chocolate sauce over them. (Melted coconut oil, cocoa powder and powdered sugar mixed together and drizzled warm.)

Chipotle Hummus (with peanut butter option)

melomeals chipotle hummusHummus, plus the smoky heat of chipotle equals something quite amazing! I created this recipe years ago after tasting a commercial brand and it was definitely one the most popular recipes on Melomeals.

I use home cooked chickpeas and reserve the cooking liquid. I usually pressure cook the beans which creates an amazing, buttery texture. I like to make the hummus with the hot beans and hot liquid, but if you use canned beans, you can heat up the beans and their liquid. If you use a 29 oz. can of chickpeas, you will have some left over for another use. If you don’t want to heat everything up, that’s OK, but the flavors won’t be quite as deep.

Chipotle Hummuscollardwraphummus

  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 t Tony’s creole seasoning
  • 1/2  t cumin
  • 1/2 t coriander
  • 2 c HOT chickpeas (reserve ½ c cooking liquid)
  • 1-2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 4 T tahini or peanut butter
  • 2-4 T chickpea cooking liquid as needed or Olive Oil if you aren’t watching  your calories
  • Juice of 2 limes ( around 3 T )
  • ¼ c chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  1. Pulse garlic and Tony’s in food processor until garlic paste is formed
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until totally smooth
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add more lime juice if needed.

If you add a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast, this hummus takes on a nice, cheesy flavor and works well in burritos or enchiladas. I like using it in place of salad dressing, as spread on burgers, stuffed in a collard with avocado and sprouts; the possibilities are endless. It has been a crowd pleaser at parties and is all around a great staple to have on hand. It will keep for 1 week providing you NEVER double dip or use a spoon that has been used in something else. It also freezes well, so you can make a double batch and pop it in the freezer. Cook once, eat twice, or more!

How To Build A Raw Kale Salad

rawkalesalad2014

I have made A LOT of Raw(ish) Kale/Collard Salads in my days!  Having worked in two restaurants that were inside of health food stores, I had access to a lot of produce all of the time, so depending on my mood and ingredients on hand, I have sort of a template, which I would like to share with you.  Most of my recipes are really just templates I color with this spice or that grain, etc.

Basic Raw* Slaw

  • 4 cups sturdy leafy greens (kale, mustard, chard, collards, spinach, escarole)
  • 2 cups red or green cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar or citrus juice
  • 1 tablespoon oil (olive, sesame, flax, coconut)

Massage together for 5 minutes or until the veggies start to break down

You are essentially ‘cooking’ the greens here and not paying attention to flavor. The carrots/onions add a nice dimension to the greens as they break down, creating a vegetable broth.

The greens are super juicy now and I take advantage of that juice and don’t drain it. If you want a cleaner flavor, just strain for 5 minutes before proceeding.  I like to add some of these ingredients that soak up the juice and create a delicious dressing without a lot of extra oil (add around 1/4 cup each or 1 cup all together)

  • toasted sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  •  toasted dried coconut
  • nutritional yeast
  • sun dried tomatoes
  • dried mushrooms
  • raisins
  • dried cranberries
  • apricots
  • toasted walnuts
  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • crystalized ginger
  • chopped apples or pears (Dried would be great too)

Spices:

NO matter what I’m doing, I always add a small pinch of nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds.

You can add 1/2 teaspoon of these:

  • Basil, marjoram and rosemary for an Italian Salad (great with sun dried tomatoes, walnuts and nutritional yeast)
  • Lemon Pepper, Coriander and Curry for Indian Slaw (great with coconut, and raisinis)
  •  1/4 teaspoon Cardamom,  1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (with pumpkin seeds and crystalized ginger, apples and raisins)

Other ad ins:

  • 2 cups seasonal fruit
  • avocado (this creates an amazing creamy yummy dressing!)
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Herbs  (basil, cilantro, mint, parsley or whatever you have on  hand)
  • Various Raw Veggies  (Broccoli, peppers, celery, sprouts, lentil sprouts, anything you have that needs to be used)

Finally, taste and add to taste:

  • Soy sauce/tamari/braggs or
  • Seasoning Salts
  • Pepper
  • Acid (vinegars, citrus juices, tamarind umeboshi)
  • Your favorite spices
  • More nutritional yeast
  • Your favorite oils (I add more oils last… and usually the best quality oils I have..)
  • Hummus or your favorite bean based spreads

You basically want to get a nice balance of savory, acidic, sweet, crunchy..

*rawish because not all the ad ins are raw

  • Make sure your hands are VERY clean before making this salad
  • This will keep (as long as you NEVER double dip or use the same tasting spoon) for up to 4 days in the fridge.

I hope you play around with what you have on hand.  That is how the BEST creations are made.

Do you have a favorite Raw Kale Salad?