Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce

I don’t know about anyone out there, but this household loves all types of Asian cuisine. Chinese, Japanese, Thai, you name it and we’re there. The problem is most of our favorite dishes are loaded with garlic, onions, scallions, etc… And if you live with someone who has an intolerance to all things Allium, then eating your favorite Asian dishes isn’t an option.

However, I have a solution for you that will make cooking your favorite dishes at home absolutely delicious. It’s my version of a spicy sweet and sour sauce. It’s similar to Sambal Oelek or any other of the spice sauces you can buy in the Asian section of your supermarket, but none of the nasty garlic or onions. It’s simple to make, and best of all it keeps in the refrigerator for months.

You’ll never miss what’s missing.

1 tablespoon of Red Pepper Flakes (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)

1/4 cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar

1/3 cup Honey (Please buy the good stuff, none of the crap in little plastic bears)

3/4 cup water + 2 tablespoons

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon of Cornstarch.

Add all ingredients (except cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water) to a saucepan. Boil over med-high heat for 1 minute stirring constantly.

Mix cornstarch and water and add to the sauce stirring over medium heat until thickened about 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool then transfer to a container and store in the refrigerator.



Massaman Curry Paste

One of my all-time favorite dishes is curry. Whether it’s green, yellow, Panang, or red. There is something warm and soothing about the blend of spices. But when I think of curry, I think of Massaman curry. It’s known as a Thai dish, but many of the spices were originally from Persia and India. In my opinion, it’s the mildest of the curries, with little heat but a mouth full of wonderfully bright and aromatic flavors.

It’s difficult to find Massaman curry paste in the supermarkets, but if you do run across it, and are sensitive to garlic or onions, beware. These store-bought cans are loaded with the stuff. My love of Massaman curry has taken me on a quest to create a homemade paste that rivals anything you can get at a Thai restaurant and I’m sharing that very special recipe here with you today.

6 dried Thai bird chiles

3 lemongrass stalks (I used the canned variety that’s in a water brine)

1 one-inch piece of ginger sliced thin

1 tablespoon of canola oil

1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

2 tablespoons of ground cloves

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

2 1/2 tablespoons of ground coriander

2 ½ teaspoons of ground cumin

1/3 cup of dry roasted peanuts

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon of salt

Place all the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until a smooth paste forms. You will have to add water (1 tablespoon at a time) to get the smooth paste.

The paste can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 month or 6 months in the freezer.

Charred Salsa Verde

I don’t know about you, but salsa is like my first love. I could eat it every day of the week. There are so many varieties, heat levels, and flavor combinations the options are unlimited. This charred Salsa Verde is my go-to when I’m craving a Mexican fix. It works with just about anything you can imagine. Tacos, quesadillas, grilled chicken, roasted fish, enchiladas you name it, and this salsa will please the taste buds every time.

The problem with restaurant and store-bought salsa is that they are loaded with garlic and onions and for those who chose not to eat garlic and onions (me), or those who can’t, due to intolerance or other dietary concerns (my partner) this is a magical elixir.

Trust me with the abundance of fresh flavors in this salsa, you’ll never miss what’s missing. You may not eat anything else.

3 poblano peppers

2 dried ancho peppers

1 pound tomatillos*

½ bunch fresh cilantro

1 head romaine lettuce

3 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock for vegetarians)

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

*A note about tomatillos for those not used to buying them. They are usually near the tomatoes but are in no way like green tomatoes. They come in thin paper husks that should be rather tight around the fruit inside. If the tomatillo is too large it will burst the husk. These tend to be a bit on the tart side, so try to avoid these. I also try to buy 3-4 tomatillos over the 1 pound in this recipe as on occasion you might find one bruised or damaged once the husk is removed.

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Use parchment paper or aluminum foil to line a large, rimmed baking sheet.

Place the 2 dried ancho chiles in boiling water for 5-10 minutes to rehydrate.

Remove the husks under warm running water and quickly rinse the tomatillos. There is a sticky film on the tomatillo from the husk. Cut the tomatillos in half and place them on the baking sheet along with the 3 poblano peppers. Leave them whole for the roasting. Place in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the peppers and tomatillos you want a nice black char on all the skins (especially the peppers).

While roasting, roughly chop the romaine lettuce, cilantro, and the rehydrated ancho chiles.

Remove the peppers and tomatillos from the oven and place them in a food processor along with all the other ingredients. Pulse several times until you have a very chunky mixture.

Pour the contents of the food processor into a large skillet. Bring to a very quick boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the broth is reduced by about 1/3. Doesn’t have to be exact. As it’s simmering add some salt and pepper to your taste. White pepper will bring out a bit more heat than standard black pepper.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then return everything to the food processor and blend until a fine salsa. Or to your desired consistency. Pour into a serving bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Sicilian Cauliflower Steaks

This dish has everything going for it. It’s hearty enough to be the main meal. It’s rich and buttery with notes of pepper from the capers and the sweetness of the cauliflower shines after being roasted. It is one of our go-to meals regardless of the season. It comes from the Sicilian region of Italy and pairs wonderfully with a crisp white wine. One of my favorite wines for this dish is Grillo, a drier wine with notes of flowers and citrus. 

Times are approximate: Prep: 10-15 minutes            Cook: 20 minutes        Serves: 4

1 large head cauliflower, stem end trimmed, but leave the stem intact.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

8 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley (chopped)

¼ cup capers, drained

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

1 lemon, quartered

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Use parchment paper to line a rimmed baking sheet.

Place the cauliflower, stem side down, on a cutting board and cut into 3/4-inch slices. Don’t worry if pieces fall off. It’s part of the cauliflowers, charm. Place the slices and any pieces on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the cauliflower with 1 Tbs. of olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast until the cauliflower is soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

While roasting, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, swirling the pan, until the butter foams and begins to brown, timing is difficult due to differences in heat, just be careful not to burn the butter. Add the pine nuts then remove the pan from the heat. Cover pan to keep warm.

Once the cauliflower is caramelized and roasted transfer slices to a large platter. Drizzle the brown butter and pine nuts over the “steaks” and sprinkle the parsley and capers on top.

Place platter on the table and let people serve themselves, squeezing a little lemon over their plate.

Like most recipes, I modify them to remove anything in the Allium family. The original recipe comes from William Sonoma.

From my table to yours. Happy eating.