Tag Archive: veggies


Ah, noodles. Who doesn’t love noodles? No-one in my house, that’s for sure.

Aviva, especially, is a noodle fanatic. She craves them, asks for them – udon, lo mein, soba, spaghetti, pad si ew. She rejoices when we get take out, knowing that she’ll get a good carb fix when the food arrives.

Her favorite noodle dish is Chinese lo mein. The only problem is that Chinese food isn’t exactly my favorite. I grew up in a small town full of pizza places, donut shops, and churches. We had to drive to the nearest city, Providence RI, for halfway decent Chinese food, so I rarely ate it growing up. When a Chinese restaurant did eventually open in my town, it was mediocre at best and very Americanized. They served bread on the table and all of the main dishes tasted exactly the same – salty and over-sauced. Plus, a few of my friends worked there during high school and, well, the more you know about the inner workings of a restaurant, the less you want to eat there.

By the time I tasted somewhat authentic Chinese food, I was an adult, a mother, a wife. I liked it, but I not as much as I’d already grown to love Thai and Japanese cuisines. It’s OK, though. I’ll play along with the occasional dinner in Chinatown or dim sum brunch, but it will never, ever be my first choice.

Aviva, on the other hand, would eat Chinese food everyday if she could. So, when I came across fresh lo mein noodles at my favorite local market, I bought a few bags, figuring I could make my own take-out and make Aviva really happy at the same time. While I was there, I also grabbed some yummy Chinese broccoli and shiitakes. That’s the best thing about cooking meals that you’d normally get from a restaurant – you can use as much of your favorite ingredients as you want!

When I got home, it dawned on me that I’d only ever made lo mein once before. I was 17 and had a boyfriend who could eat an entire order of it straight out of the take-out carton! So, I found a “lo mein style” pasta recipe from one of my mom’s many cookbooks and decided to surprise him by making it for dinner (instead of just ordering our usual pizza). He seemed to enjoy it, but he was 17 and growing. He probably would have eaten just about anything and liked it. It was the early 90s, too, so things like fresh ginger, rice wine, and hoisin sauce were not readily available in my small suburban supermarket. Consequently, I remember that lo mein tasting exactly like what it was – spaghetti with soy sauce, sesame, scallions, and mushrooms. Not terribly awful, but not really lo mein either.

So, with fresh ingredients waiting in the fridge, I went scavenging for recipes online, hoping to update my lo-mein-making skills. I ended up finding a few promising recipes and combining them to make my own version, an effort that proved to be much more satisfying and delicious than my first lo-mein-making experience. It’s a snap to make: just assemble your mis en place, heat the wok, and go! Taste-wise, it’s pretty close¬† to the lo mein you’d order at your favorite Chinese restaurant. It’s fresh and light, but the hoisin, soy, sesame, and shiitakes pack enough of an umami punch to satisfy that lo mein craving you have right now.

Grab your wok and get to it.

Lo Mein with Chinese Broccoli and Shiitakes

  • 1 pound of chicken breasts (you could also use flank steak, pork tenderloin, shrimp, or tofu), cut into bite-sized strips
  • 1 pound lo mein noodles or spaghetti, fresh or dried, prepared to package directions, drained, and set aside (do not rinse after draining!)
  • 1 pound Chinese broccoli or broccolini, washed, dried, and julienned
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms – wiped clean, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • vegetable or peanut oil

Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Sauce

  • 1 cup chicken stock, homemade or store-bought (if using store-bought, use the low sodium kind)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • a couple pinches of red chile flakes (optional)

Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients and add the chicken. Toss to coat. Set aside. Allow to marinate for 15-20 minutes.

Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, stir-frying until cooked through. Place it on a separate plate and set aside. Wipe the skillet or wok clean.

Add another tablespoon or two of oil to the wok/skillet and place back on the heat. Add the Chinese broccoli, shiitakes, garlic, and ginger. Stir-fry until the broccoli is wilted, but still crisp-tender.

Add the sauce and noodles. Let cook for a minute or two so that the noodles can absorb the sauce, then fold in the chicken. Enjoy!

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Roasted Eggplant Dip

“Hey Mom, what smells so good?”, chirped Lilah as she jumped down the stairs. The smells of roasting eggplant, sauteed onion, garlic, and smoked paprika had made their way up to her room and she was jonesing for a taste. “Oooh, are those olives? Can I have one?”, the question was a formality, asked as she plucked a large, green olive out of the jar.

“I’m making eggplant dip and, yes, you can have an olive.”, I said. “Wanna help?”

Her answer was yes, of course, so I put her to work measuring pantry items and peeling the cooled eggplants. Then, once all of the ingredients were assembled, I let her push the button on the food processor and watch her hard work come together. After everything was mixed into the eggplant, her reward was the first taste on a freshly toasted pita chip. The verdict? “It tastes as good as it smells.”

I love this dip, too, and not just because it tastes great, but also because it’s the product of a very forgiving and endlessly adjustable recipe. You can truly make it suit your own taste.

Some ideas: Puree the eggplant with the tomato paste and simply fold in the other ingredients for a chunkier dip. Puree everything together for a smooth dip. Trade the paprika with a some sriracha or chile flakes for a spicier dip. Swap the green olives with pitted kalamata olives if you like more brininess. Replace the red wine vinegar with balsamic for more sweetness and depth. Add an anchovy, pine nuts, or some oregano if the mood strikes. You could even replace the eggplant with pureed white beans for a jacked-up Mediterranean hummus.

The possibilities are endless, but here’s the version I prefer:

Roasted Eggplant Dip

(adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 2 medium or 3 small eggplants
  • Good olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh or jarred roasted red peppers (about 2 roasted peppers), diced
  • 1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Place the whole eggplants on the pan, pierce with them a fork in several places, and rub with olive oil. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a knife. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and lightly browned – about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika, cook for 1 minute, then set the mixture aside.

Halve the eggplant, peel, and discard the skin. Place the eggplant, onion mixture, peppers, and olives in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until well-combined, but not completely pureed. Pour into a mixing bowl.

Add the parsley, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop. Taste for seasonings and serve at room temperature with toasted pita triangles and veggies.

This would also be a wonderful accompaniment to grilled chicken, shrimp, fish, or pasta.