This week’s recipe was inspired by an Asian guest that we were hosting for lunch at our guest house. As a novice learning to cook, I was always taught by the Sisters to really think about the person that I was cooking for: What would they like to eat? What would bless them? Subtle subtext here: it’s not about what I like to cook, or what blesses ME! So a gluten-free, colorful Thai soup came to mind — a recipe that I squirreled away awhile ago in hopes that some time I would have the opportunity to make it. I made a few adaptions which resulted in the recipe below.
As I was chopping, I noticed that all of the ingredients were vibrant shades of green, so I dubbed them the liturgical ingredients of ‘ordinary time’. We rounded this lunch off with a delicate spinach and spring mix salad topped with avocado, fresh strawberries and candied almonds, and pita crisps. The dessert was a homemade Mango and Vanilla Panna Cotta — a recipe that I hope to share in future weeks!
** This recipe was adapted from Once Upon a Chef **
Thai Chicken, Spinach and Rice Noodle Soup
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup shallot(s) thinly sliced, from 1-2 large shallots or red onion
- 1 tbsp. ginger minced, fresh, about a 1" piece, peeled
- 2 tbsp. curry paste Thai green
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 can coconut milk (13.5 fl oz), unsweetened
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 4 packed tsp. brown sugar light or dark
- 2 tbsp. lime juice fresh, from 2 limes
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- For Serving
- 4 oz. rice noodles thin
- 2 cups chicken cooked, shredded, from a rotisserie or roast chicken
- 4 handfuls spinach baby, stems removed
- 1 handful cilantro fresh, chopped
- 3 scallion(s) thinly sliced
- Sriracha sauce
- Lime wedges
- Heat the oil in a medium soup pot over medium-low heat.
- Add the shallots and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the green curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more.
- Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and turmeric; bring to a gentle simmer. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. If not using immediately, let them sit in a bowl of cold water.
- When ready to serve, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.
- Gently reheat the noodles in the microwave, if necessary (remove from water first!).
- Place baby spinach in the bottom of the serving bowl, place the rice noodles and shredded chicken on top and ladle the hot broth over top and sprinkle with cilantro and scallions.
- Serve with a lime wedge for garnish.
The current revival of iconic American diners stirs my teenage memories, when I spent as much time as possible in my father’s restaurant which had its beginning as a small diner. A local landmark in our town, it grew into a large upscale dining establishment complete with banquet facilities, catering to many special events.
As a diner his menu consisted mainly of American favorites with a sprinkling of Greek and Mediterranean dishes. One of the most popular luncheon specials was a phyllo crusted meat,spinach,feta cheese pie similar to spanikopita, baked and served in an oblong dish. This is a revision of that dish which includes eggplant, fresh tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. The filling can be made and frozen in advance for a time when a quick emergency meal may be needed.
Meat and Spinach Pot Pies
For the filling
- Brown and crumble meat in olive oil. Add onions, eggplant, seasonings and cook till tender 12 to 15 min. Then add spinach, garlic, tomatoes and fresh herbs, simmer for 5 min. Pour in sauce, simmer until all ingredients are well blended.
For the puff pastry topper
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Flour a work surface and lightly roll out the puff pastry. Cut the size and shape of 1 large casserole or up to 6 individual bowls or large ramekins, using sharp paring knife. Place the dough on a nonstick baking sheet and wash with egg.
Place the hot filling into selected baking dishes sprinkle cheeses over all- top with crust and bake til golden...
Now that spring is definitely here to stay we want to turn to warmer weather needs—dishes that are fresher and lighter and require less cooking. Here’s where plump tender chicken breasts can be so accommodating—offering endless possibilities. Last week one of the sisters gave a “Birthday Gift” lunch to a young community girl who loves Asian food. The result was a delicious and attractive chicken salad. That inspired me to have something similar made for the convent lunch the next day. Both versions were a success, similar in some ways, yet each quite different in others. Here’s my Basic Asian Chicken Salad that you can alter to your liking—adding to or taking away any ingredients that do or don’t appeal to you.
- Chop or thinly slice grilled chicken; set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the spicy ginger dressing.
- Add the cabbage, chicken, carrots, spinach, tomato, mint and cilantro to the large bowl and toss gently.
- Top with mango slices and roasted peanuts. Garnish with scallions and roasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.
For almost ten years, a group of us met every Monday at 6:00 am to research, study, discuss, and plan the art work for our church. To make the early morning work more palatable, I prepared breakfast for the group. I loved doing it, they loved eating it, and showered me with compliments for the food. All around it was a most pleasant experience which we still refer to from time to time. I was particularly proud of my individual omelets which I felt I’d mastered the art of making. They were perfectly golden browned on the outside, while light and moist on the inside. Everyone raved about them including Tom, our widely traveled food connoisseur.
However, twice after serving them he asked me “Do you ever make frittatas”? Well no I hadn’t, nor had I ever had any desire to. For some reason I pictured them as a heavy baked egg dish which held no appeal to me, and I am ashamed to say that I let years go by before ever trying them. However, once I did, I immediately understood the reason for Tom’s question. Now I am an avid frittata fan, and I ask you, “Do you ever make frittatas”? If not, don’t wait as long as I did to try one. Start now. You’ll be glad you did. One secret: Don’t over bake!
- Heat toaster oven to 350 degrees F.
- Add the oil to a 2-quart casserole and transfer to oven for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper.
- Add the spinach, tomatoes, bacon, scallions and combine.
- Gently stir in the Feta.
- Remove the casserole from the oven.
- Pour the egg mixture into the casserole.
- Bake until the frittata is browned around the edges and slightly puffed and a knife comes out clean, 25 – 30 minutes.
I’m often amazed at the speed with which different foods become popular once they are introduced to the public. Growing up we always had homemade Greek yogurt available in our refrigerator for snacks, desserts, or general cooking. (This was before it was sold commercially). A cup of fine demitasse and a little dish of yogurt topped with a spoonful of homemade peach or cherry preserves was a typical dessert at our house. Often we had crumbled Feta cheese in our scrambled eggs for breakfast, and almost daily sprinkled it on our salad. None of my friends had it at their homes. Back then it literally was “foreign” to them. Today it’s very common. You can seldom make your way through a homemaker’s magazine without finding Feta cheese sprinkled somewhere on something! Here is a dish using both Feta cheese and yogurt that was once considered out of the ordinary and is now a familiar favorite of many. This is Spanakopita, Greek spinach pie… a healthy, flavorful, easy to make meatless meal.
Spanakopita (spinach pie)
Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Wash spinach, cut off stems, dry and chop.
- Brown scallions in 1/2 cup olive oil until tender.
- Combine spinach, mint, parsley, cheese, yogurt, lemon peel, lemon juice and add beaten eggs.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
- Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and begin by layering one phyllo sheet, brush with butter/olive oil mixture.
- Continue for 10 layers then spread with the spinach mixture.
- Top with remaining sheets each brushed with the butter/olive oil mixture.
- Score the top into diamonds.
- Bake 25-30 minutes until golden on top.