Steamed Whole Fish with Ginger and Black Bean Sauce

Happy Lunar New Year! I celebrated my Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese heritage with a customary whole steamed fish whose head and tail was kept intact, even when served. While dining, the dish is presented with the head of the fish directed at the guest of honor. The flesh is removed and served at the table without disturbing he head or tail. At the end of the meal, you are left with an impressive fish skeleton. It’s almost like a cartoon, where a character puts a whole fish in the mouth, head first, then and pulls out only the bones.

This dish is ridiculously easy to cook and done in 8-10 minutes depending on the size of the fish. Steaming also allows for a margin for error. You are almost guaranteed a moist and flaky fish even if you overcook it. I unintentionally tested this out. I do recommend not overcooking the fish.

This is a Chinese style recipe. The Thai style uses fish sauce in place of soy sauce, lime juice and palm sugar instead of rice wine, adds lemongrass, and of course, a generous amount of Thai bird chili peppers. Although there are a few different ways to prepare the Chinese style, there are typically only 3 basic ingredients (other than the fish itself): fresh ginger, scallion (green onion) and a salty sweetish sauce made of either fermented black bean paste, soy sauce with sugar, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce or some other similar sauce that is salty and slightly sweet.

I selected a combination of light soy sauce and fermented black bean paste as the base for my sauce. Since the black bean paste I used was already sweetened with brown sugar and pineapple juice, I did not add any additional sugar. As we all know, sugar is not good for us and unless it is imperative to what I’m cooking, I avoid adding it. To add a bit more tang, I included a Thai bird chili pepper with the seeds removed for a gentle heat along with white pepper, garlic and rice wine.

Some recipes do not include pouring hot oil over the fish as the final step. I included this step because the hot oil infuses the fish with the flavors of the herbs and spices laid on top of the fish. Some recipes have a larger quantity of sauce poured over the fish. My version offers a smaller amount of sauce poured around the fish. This way, you can enjoy the delicate flavor of the fish with some sauce on the side to compliment it. For me the star of this dish is the delicate fish, infused with ginger, scallions, coriander (cilantro) and a hint of Thai bird chili pepper. The co-star is the black bean sauce.

NOTES:
Any mild whole white fish can be used. A flatter fish steams better. For this recipe, I found a nice barramundi, also called Asian sea bass. Take a moment to inspect the fish before you purchase it. Fresh fish should not smell too fishy. Also, the skin, should be shiny, the flesh should be firm, the gills should be red and the eyes should appear clear. Ask your fish monger to scale and gut the fish.

** Fermented black bean paste is made of dried soybeans that have been fermented with salt and spices such as chili peppers and/or wine and possibly ginger. The brand I used is made with ginger, pineapple juice and tamari. You could use just the fermented black beans, (called Douchi) and take a few additional, but simple steps to rinse the beans, then make your own paste by mashing them with garlic, spices and a little brown sugar or pineapple juice.

*** Chinese rice wine or Shaoxing is not the same as rice wine vinegar so be careful when reading the label. The Japanese rice wine is called mirin and is sweeter. 

Serving size: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound whole mild white fish*, scaled and gutted, (barramundi, striped bass, flounder, red snapper or branzino), scaled and gutted. (If using a larger whole fish, score** both sides of the fish.)
  • 3 inch nub of ginger, 1/3 julienned and 2/3 cut into large  ¼ inch thick slices (you do not need to remove the skin off of the piece that is julienned)
  • 5 stalks of scallion (green onion), 1/3 julienned and 2/3 cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 – 2 fresh Thai bird chili pepper, julienned (this can be omitted or the seeds can be removed for a milder taste)
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing)*** or pale dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon good quality low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons waterhandful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, plucked from the stems
  • couple pinches of Kosher salt or sea salt
  • couple pinches of white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Rinse the fish well, both inside and out. If the fish is large (e.g., 2 pounds or more), score it at an angle all the way to the bone on both sides. Remember to score it in the opposite direction on the other side. This will help a larger size fish cook faster and more evenly.
  2. Season with Kosher salt or sea salt and white pepper on both sides and inside of the cavity.
  3. Smash a couple 2-inch stalks of scallions with the side of a knife to release it’s flavor. Place the smash scallions along with a couple large slices of ginger in the cavity of the fish.
  4. Place the remaining 2-inch stalks of scallions and remaining large slices of ginger on the bottom of a steamer basket/insert.
  5. Lay the fish on top of the scallions and ginger. This is important to do if you are steaming the fish on a plate because the ginger helps to elevate the fish, allowing the steam to reach the bottom side of the fish.
  6. Arrange the julienned ginger on top of the fish. Steam for 8-10 minutes for a 1 – 1/2 pound fish.
  7. Increase to 15-18 minutes for a large size fish. The fish is done when the flesh is no longer opaque, is flaky and lifts easily off the bone.
  8. While the fish steams, whisk together minced garlic, black bean paste, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil and water. Over medium heat, simmer in a small sauce pan with a lid on for 3-4 minutes then reduce the heat to low to keep it warm.
  9. Carefully remove the fish from the steamer basket and onto a serving plate. If using a plate, discard any liquid. It will not contribute good flavor and may even be bitter.
  10. Remove and discard the large pieces of ginger and scallion on the bottom side of the fish and inside the cavity but keep the julienned ginger on top of the fish.
  11. Top the fish with julienned scallions, Thai bird chili pepper and cilantro. Heat vegetable oil until hot and smoking. Pour the black bean sauce around the fish. If you prefer, pour the sauce directly over the fish. Some chefs recommend pouring the sauce around the fish so the sauce does not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fish.Pour the hot oil over the fish. The hot oil will infused the fish further with the flavors from the scallions, coriander and Thai bird chili pepper.
  12. Smash a couple 2-inch stalks of scallions with the side of a knife to release it’s oil. Place the smash scallions along with a couple large slices of ginger in the cavity of the fish.
  13. Place the remaining 2-inch stalks of scallions and remaining large slices of ginger on the bottom of a steamer basket. Lay the fish on top of the scallions and ginger. This is important to do if you are steaming the fish on a plate because the ginger helps to elevate the fish, allowing the steam to reach the bottom side of the fish.
  14. Arrange the julienned ginger on top of the fish.
  15. Steam for 8-10 minutes for a 1 – 1/2 pound fish. Increase to 15-18 minutes for a large size fish. The fish is done when the flesh is no longer opaque, is flaky and lifts easily off the bone.
  16. While the fish steams, whisk together minced garlic, black bean paste, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and water. Over medium-low heat, simmer in a small sauce pan with a lid for a couple minutes then reduce the heat to low to keep it warm.
  17. Carefully remove the fish from the steamer basket and onto a serving plate. If using a plate, discard any liquid. Remove and discard the large pieces of ginger and scallion on the bottom side of the fish and inside the cavity but keep the julienned ginger on top of the fish.
  18. Top the fish with julienned scallions, Thai bird chili pepper and cilantro.
  19. Heat vegetable oil until hot and smoking.
  20. Pour the black bean sauce around the fish. If you prefer, pour the sauce directly over the fish. Some chefs recommend pouring the sauce around the fish so the sauce does not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fish.
  21. Pour the hot oil over the fish. The hot oil will infused the fish further with the flavors from the scallions, cilantro and Thai bird chili pepper.
No need to scrape the skin off of the ginger for the larger slices. Those will be discarded after the fish is steamed, along with the larger cuts of scallions.
Placing the larger cutes of ginger and scallion under the fish is important when the fish is steamed on a plate. Elevating the fish allows the steam to circulate under the fish.

This guy just fits into the steamer basket. I initially placed the larger cuts of ginger on the top of the fish and then discarded it. Instead, place the julienned ginger on top and don’t discard it. Only discard the large pieces of ginger and scallion placed on the bottom and inside the cavity. The julienne ginger will serve as a nice garnish and tender for consumption.
Coriander (cilantro) is optional. Some people do not like the taste of it. This is genetic.
There’s tender cheeks left here. It may arguably be the best part. Shhh … don’t tell anyone.
Add some dumplings and rice with a side of vegetables. The result is an elegant, easy to prepare and healthy dinner, any time, not just on Lunar New Year.

Turkey Chili

Turkey Chili, loaded with vegetables is easy and nutritious main course, perfect for a crowd on Super Bowl Sunday or for the family, as a weeknight dinner. Serve it with tortilla chips, over a baked potato or with corn bread.

This recipe can be made in a large, heavy duty pot but I prefer using a slow cooker. Preparing the chili the night before, then letting it slow cook all day for 4-8 hours, allows all the flavors to develop. Who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to a steamy pot, all ready to be consumed? In the words of Marie Kondo, this sparks joy in my world. I mean, I’ve “kon-mari’d” dinner into one pot, right?

This recipe uses lean ground turkey and loads up on vegetables. Unsweetened cocoa is the secret ingredient that adds depth and a “meaty” flavor, mimicking a traditional beef chili. As you may know, cocoa marries well with spices. I use four different chili spices: green chilis, Ancho chili, chili powder and a fresh Thai bird chili. Each contributes their own flavor and heat. The Ancho chili adds a little smokiness while the Thai bird chili adds a lot of heat. Since you may not have the option to pluck only one or two Thai bird chili peppers off of a plant like I did, you can simply increase the amount of chili powder. Be aware though, that most chili powder sold in the spice aisle, also contain garlic, salt and other ingredients. That might change the flavor of your chili. I also find that the amount of heat can vary from plant to plant, and from spice jar to spice jar.

The beans can be substituted for another variety or you may opt to use more of the same type of bean. You could even replace the roasted corn with chopped celery. Is there a wrong way to make chili? I casually asked friends what their secret ingredients in chili were. Their answers included riced cauliflower, peas, roasted tomatoes, roasted Poblano peppers, chocolate, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. I like to play with adding Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce too. Some people prefer beer over chicken or beef stock. Basically sky’s the limit.

* Note: You can always add more heat so start with 1 Thai bird chili pepper and 1 tablespoon chili powder. I prefer 2 Thai bird chili peppers and 1 ½ tablespoons of chili powder. As mentioned, most chili powder sold in the spice aisle, also contain garlic, salt and other ingredients so I prefer increasing the amount of heat with a fresh Thai bird chili pepper. Take care to wash your hands when handling and you might want to remove the seeds. It can be very spicy.

Serving size: 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 pounds of lean light meat ground turkey
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste, preferably from a tube which has a more intense flavors
  • 1 – 2 fresh Thai bird chili pepper*
  • 1 – 2 tablespoon chili powder*
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 – 28 ounce good quality diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 – 4 ounce can of fired roasted green chiles
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (red, yellow, orange or green)
  • 2 cups roasted frozen corn (can substitute with fresh roasted corn and plain frozen corn)
  • 1 – 12 ounce can of kidney beans, with liquid
  • 1 – 12 ounce can of black beans, with liquid
  • 1 – 12 ounce can of garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 – 2 ½ cups of chicken stock (stock is richer than broth)
  • Optional ingredients: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onion, diced onion, chopped cilantro, sliced Jalapeno peppers, tortilla chips, corn bread or baked potato

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil and sauté diced onion, until translucent.
  2. Add ground turkey and sauté, breaking up the meat until just cooked through.
  3. Add the garlic, tomato paste and all the spices and sauté for a couple minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. In a nonstick pot of a slow cooker, add diced tomatoes, green chiles, bell peppers, frozen corn, beans and cocoa powder. Add the cooled and cooked turkey mixture. Then add the chicken stock and combine.
  6. Cover with the lid and refrigerate overnight, if preparing this the night before.
  7. Set slow cooker on low for 4 – 8 hours.
  8. Serve over baked potatoes, with a side of corn bread or topped with tortilla chips. Add shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onion, freshly diced onion, chopped cilantro or sliced Jalapeno pepper.
  9. To freeze, allow to cool to room temperature and freeze for up to 3 months.

Beef Fajitas with Poblano Peppers, Bell Peppers and Onions

Fast and healthy dinners for the family are no Poblano, especially when loading it with lots of nutritious bell peppers, Poblano peppers, and onions. You can bump the nutritional value of this meal even further by serving it with homemade guacamole, made from nutrient dense and heart-healthy avocadoes.

You may already know that bell peppers are high in vitamin C, but did you know that Poblano peppers are high in vitamins A, B6 and B2? Vitamin A, is an antioxidant that protects the body from oxidative stress and prevents macular degeneration, a condition which can lead to blindness as we age. Studies show that vitamin B6 affects memory and brain function, including our mood and concentration. This is because vitamin B6 is necessary for the production of norepinephrine and serotonin which controls our mood and concentration. A deficiency of B6 contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B2 helps to prevent and treat anemia.

Poblano pepper also contains capsaicin, which gives the pepper its heat, although it’s relatively mild, especially if you remove all the seeds. Capsaicin has many health benefits, including increased metabolism and appetite suppression, which contributes to a decrease in body weight.

Another compelling reason to include Poblano peppers in this recipe is that its mild heat and flavor contributes nicely to all the complex flavors in this dish.

What I also like about fajitas is that it stretches the quantity of protein. The proper portion of protein is about the size of a deck of cards. If your habit is to consume a larger portion of protein, you may feel unsatisfied. Loading up with veggies, guacamole and pico de gallo is a tasty way to fill the belly and create a new habit of protein portion control.

* NOTE:  What’s the difference between skirt, flank or flap steak? Check out https://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-flank-steak-and-skirt-steak-meat-basics-212263  for the lesson on skirt versus flank. As for flap steak, which is also called sirloin tip, this was recommended to me by the butcher because they didn’t have skirt steak when I tested this recipe. The flank steak they had seemed fatty and the butcher said he’d prefer to have a fajita made from flap steak anyways because it’s the cut below the sirloin and in his opinion, tastier. I took his word for it. If you are reading this, I’m curious if you have an opinion on skirt versus flank versus flap steak?

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1 1/4 pounds of skirt, flank or flap steak (also called sirloin tip)*
  • juice of 1 orange
  • juice of 1 lime
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup of olive oil + enough olive oil to coat peppers and onion
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2-3 bell peppers, depending on size (red, yellow and orange), sliced thinly
  • 2 Poblano peppers, seeds removed and sliced thinly
  • 1 small or ½ large yellow onion, sliced
  • flour or corn tortillas, warmed (we like to wrap our tortillas in foil and warm it in a preheated oven set at 250F)
  • pico de gallo or J’Wow’s Salsa (optional)
  • salsa (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
  • sliced Jalapeno peppers (optional)
  • homemade guacamole (optional)

Directions:

  1. Prepare the marinade by whisking together orange juice, lime juice, lime zest, garlic, olive oil, cilantro, cumin, chili, coriander, oregano and salt together. Place the steak in a ziplock bag and pour the marinade over the steak. Seal the bag and massage the marinade into the meat to ensure it’s evenly distributed. Marinade the beef in the refrigerator for at least an hour but longer is better.
  2. In a separate bowl, drizzle olive oil over the onions and peppers. Season with a pinch of Kosher salt.
  3. Allow the meat to come to room temperature before cooking.
  4. Heat a grill skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the grill with vegetable oil unless using a non-stick skillet. Cook the meat for about 4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. Then place the meat on a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
  5. While the meat rests, add the peppers and onions to the grill pan and cook until the veggies start to brown and soften. Alternatively, you can sauté the veggies in a cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets are a great way to add iron to your diet.
  6. Just before the vegetables are finished, slice the meat thinly, on an angle and against the grain.
  7. Serve with warm tortillas with your choice of pico de gallo, salsa, homemade guacamole, sour cream and Jalapeno peppers. We enjoyed our fajitas with pico de gallo and homemade guacamole.

Poblano peppers are relatively mild, especially if unripened (green) and de-seeded and de-veined. When allowed to ripen and turn red, then dried, it is called “Ancho” The green version adds a mild and interesting flavor to the fajitas.

Skirt, flank and flap cuts of beef can be chewy. Marinading in an acid, like orange and lime juices, helps to break down some of connective tissue and membrane. Cutting the meat after resting it for about 10 minutes, on an angle and against the grain tenderizes the meat. This is what it looks like to cut with the grain. The acid in the marinade did it’s job and tenderized the meat but it was definitely chewier than the piece of meat in the photo below.
Here is what it looks like to cut against the grain. Hmm, tender and juicy.

I often enjoy fajitas without the tortilla, which turns it into a low carb dinner.

Linguine with Mussels and Tomato Sauce

Mussels. Not the gun show in between my shoulder and elbow, although I really should start pumping iron during the off-season. I’m referring to the bivalve molluscs. And speaking of iron, they are nutrient dense with iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

I didn’t love mussels until I visited Les Halles in New York City over 20 years ago. Fans of Anthony Bourdain will know this restaurant was the backdrop to his infamous tell-all best seller, “Kitchen Confidential”. As I recall, Les Halles offered mussels prepared at least 6 different ways. They were served with the most delicious side of pommes frites (French fries). These were among the best fries I’ve ever had. Moules à la Normande was my favorite style. I highly recommend you buy a nice loaf of French bread and find this recipe in his cookbook. You’ll want to soak up all the sauce with the bread or slurp it with a spoon. Although you can search for the recipe on the web, I encourage you to buy the cookbook or borrow it from your local library. You’ll discover so many other recipes which made Les Halles and Tony famous.

Now that I’ve told you where to find one of my most favorite recipes, here’s what you can do with the other half of the ginormous bag of mussels you might have bought at Costco to make Moules à la Normande.

Linguine with Mussels with Tomato Sauce is a fast family meal and a great follow-up to Moules à la Normande.

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded and rinsed*
  • ¾ pound of linguini or spaghetti
  • 1 – 28 ounce can of good quality crushed, diced or whole tomatoes, (roughly crushed if not already crushed)
  • 4 slices of think bacon, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced crosswise
  • ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup of dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, freshly grated
  • Pinch of salt or sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. When the water comes to a boil, follow the package instructions for cooking the pasta.
  2. Using a wide skillet with lid over medium-high heat, sauté bacon until it starts to brown slightly and fat is rendered. Add shallot and continue stirring occasionally until bacon is almost fully cooked. Watch the shallots so they don’t get too brown. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir for about 30 seconds. Add white wine. Bring to a boil to cook off some of the alcohol and then add crushed tomatoes. Taste. If the sauce is too acidic, add a bit of sugar to taste. I prefer to avoid adding sugar but sometimes the canned tomatoes are a bit too acidic. You may also want to add salt however I typically find that no additional salt is necessary.
  3. Add mussels. Cover with lid and cook, giving the pan a good shake a couple of times over 2 to 4 minutes, until the mussels open up. Discard any mussels that do not open up.
  4. Place cooked and drained pasta in individual pasta bowls or one big platter/pasta serving bowl. Ladle the mussels and tomato sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with with lemon zest and chopped parsley before serving.

* NOTE: Mussels should be scrubbed well, de-bearded. Farm-raised mussels may already be filtered, scrubbed and de-bearded saving a lot of prep time. If the mussels need to be de-beared, start the cleaning process about an hour before cooking. Begin by creating a iced saline solution. Some sources recommended a 3% saline solution which is similar to the natural environment mussels live in. Apparently tap water can kills mussels.

In a large bowl with water and ice, stir in about 1/4 cup of Kosher salt per 3 cups of water, and 3-4 tablespoons (about 1/4 cup) of flour. The mussels will consume the flour and hopefully expel any sand, ensuring a more pleasant dining experience. Add ice to keep the water nicely chilled. Then add the mussels, tossing out any mussels with broken shells or remain open after you tap them. Sometimes I de-beard the mussels prior to placing them in the ice water solution. Sometimes I de-beard them just before I’m ready to cook because the process of de-bearding (removing the filament) can kill the mussel. It seems that you can get the mussels to release the filament without killing it by pulling the beard towards the “hinged” part of the shell.

Discard any mussels that remain open prior to cooking. A live mussel will close up when touched, then open up after cooking.rinsing the mussels.

If using whole canned tomatoes, crush them roughly with a potato masher.

Meditation

Concentration. Joy. Relaxation.

Scientific studies support dozens of health benefits from meditation: improved concentration and sleep, reduced stress and feelings of calm, compassion, peace, and joy. There’s a broad variety of practices and techniques for meditation making it accessible to everyone. Many of the techniques do not involve sitting. Walking, washing dishes, painting, Ti Chi and QiGong are all forms of moving meditation. As a triathlete, running on a trail, swimming and biking often is my vehicle for meditation.

Anyone who’s completed an Ironman or century ride knows what it’s like to be inside your own head for up to 8 hours on a bike. Sometimes my inner voice is preoccupied, solving something going on in my life; other times I’m simply talking myself through a tough workout. When I’m able to quiet the inner voice, remaining focused and achieve calmness, are the moments cycling becomes meditative for me.  I’m aware of my breath. I see the road or trails well. When I’m running on the trails I hear the water, my foot steps and the wind but without judgment. I simply notice. I don’t have negative thoughts about how much further I need to go. It’s the moment when a meticulously defined swim workout becomes blissful gliding through the water. It no longer feels like an agenda. It’s joyful and rejuvenating.

I had the pleasure of exploring and collecting  evidence-based research on the benefits of yoga and meditation with my fellow yogis in our teacher training with Jenn Prugh. If you’re new to meditation, the biggest take-away is that there is evidence that even a beginner can realize immediate benefits to practicing meditation.

 

Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole

My Egg, Vegetable and Croissant Breakfast Casserole is an easy to prepare breakfast for a crowd.  This recipe was inspired by my high school classmate Kai who gave me the idea to use croissants and Manchego cheese. These ingredients contributed a luxurious texture and flavor to the casserole. Kai’s version, which includes heavy cream, results in a rich and delicious egg custard. I’ve lightened Kai’s recipe up a bit by omitting the cream however the recipe still requires all 9 eggs. I attempted using fewer eggs but the croissants soaked up the egg mixture and begged for more.

While this casserole does require up to an hour to bake and about 10 minutes to set after, you can prepare much of this dish in advance and serve it to the family on a weekday morning. The onions, mushrooms and protein can be cooked, cooled and then stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the casserole. The eggs can be whisked with all of the wet and dry ingredient however I prefer to leave out the milk. Storing the egg mixture, without the milk, is easier than finding a container large enough for the eggs and 3 cups of milk. I cover the toasted croissants in the baking dish with aluminum foil and leave it on the counter overnight until I’m ready to assemble the casserole in the morning.  If you don’t have an hour to spare in the morning, you can also bake it the night before and reheat it.  This casserole makes a great leftover and heats up well either in the microwave or oven.

Serving size: 10-12

Ingredients:

  • 4 large or 6 small croissants, toasted
  • 4-6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, sliced very thin
  • 10 -12 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 9 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard (I prefer Colman’s Dry Mustard Powder)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces of vegetarian sausage links, browned (Of course you can substitute cooked chopped chicken apple sausage, chopped ham or cooked chopped bacon however I prefer the vegetarian sausages.)
  • 2 cups of chopped broccoli
  • ½ cup grated English cheddar & ½ cup grated Gruyere OR 1 cup grated Manchego cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F

In a sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the thinly sliced onion with about 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Check on the onion frequently and toss them occasionally until they are golden, fragrant and caramelized. This can take from 15 minutes to 25 minutes depending on how thinly the onions are sliced.  Once caramelized, remove the onion from the pan and allow to cool.

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While the onion is cooking, cut the croissants in half lengthwise and toast under a 400F broiler, cut side up. I recommend using a kitchen timer set for 5 minutes to start and check frequently.

Butter a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.

Tear up the croissants into large pieces and line the bottom of the baking dish. You will have a few pieces of croissant left over. Set the extra croissant pieces aside.

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Add another 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil to sauté pan used to caramelize the onions. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

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Steam the broccoli in a glass bowl filled with a 2-3 tablespoons of water in the microwave for about 1 minute. The broccoli should be slightly tender but still firm. Remove from excess water, rough chop and set aside to cool.  If you are using frozen broccoli, remove any extra moisture after microwaving.

Brown the vegetarian sausage. Chop and allow to cool.

Spread the browned vegetarian sausage slices over the layer of croissants. Next spread the cooled caramelized onion, broccoli, mushrooms and cheese. Top with any remaining croissant pieces.

In a medium size bowl, whisk 9 eggs together. Add nutmeg, dried mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, milk, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture over the croissant and vegetables.   Gently press down on all the ingredients with a spatula to ensure everything is moistened and mostly covered by the egg mixture.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven on the middle rack for about 50-60 minutes. The casserole is done when a knife inserted comes out clean and there is no liquid running. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with aluminum foil.

Remove from the oven, loosely cover with aluminum foil and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

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Many of the ingredients can be prepared the day before and assembled quickly in the morning before baking.
Many of the ingredients can be prepared the day before and assembled quickly in the morning before baking.

Pomegranate and Roasted Lemon Salad

Have you seen Fifty Shades of Grey yet?  Well if you have the urge to smack something with the back of a spoon, may I recommend a pomegranate?  You can then add the luscious pomegranate arils (seeds) to my Pomegranate and Roasted Lemon Salad.

Winter’s fruits, the pomegranates and lemon together in a salad create a burst of bright flavors with every bite.  The lemon contains as much vitamin C as an orange and is one of the most nutrient dense fruits.  The rind contains the most nutrition.  Blanching then roasting the lemon eliminates the bitterness.  The pomegranate contains anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and antioxidants. Studies suggest the pomegranate fruit may help prevent or alleviate heart disease and atherosclerosis; high cholesterol; prostate cancer; and Alzheimer’s disease.

Don’t be intimidated by the pomegranate.  Here’s how to remove it’s arils quickly and easily: http://greatist.com/eat/pomegranate-deseed-trick

Serving size: 4 side salads or 2 meal size salads

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups of mixed greens*
  • 2 large lemons (1 sliced lemon and juice of 1 lemon, about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup small assorted tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/3 cup of pomegranate arils (seeds)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt & pepper
  • grilled or poached chicken (optional)

* Try using roasted Brussels sprouts.  My original recipe uses Brussels sprouts instead of mixed greens.  The recipe is here: Roasted Brussels Sprout with Lemon and Pomegranate

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F

Wash the lemons well then slice one lemon into thin rounds. Place the lemon slices into a pot of boiling water. Blanch the lemon slices for 2 minutes. This will eliminate the bitterness from the rind. Remove the lemon slices from the boiling water and lay on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Coat the lemon slices in 1 tablespoon of olive oil then roast for about 10-15 minutes until they start to caramelize a little.

Allow the lemon slices to cool slightly, then cut the slices in half.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice of the remaining lemon (about 1/4 cup), balsamic vinegar, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, toss the mixed greens, tomatoes and red onion slices in the dressing. Transfer to a serving bowl.  Decorate the top of the salad with the lemon slices and pomegranate arils.  Add either grilled or poached chicken to make this a meal.  This salad also accompanies a big bowl of soup nicely.

Swap out the Brussels sprouts with mixed greens for a salad with brightness in every bite.
Swap out the Brussels sprouts with mixed greens for a salad with brightness in every bite.