Meatless Monday – Leek, Potato & Cabbage Soup with Turmeric

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Do you love rich and creamy soups but wish they didn’t have all the heavy cream (read extra calories)?  I am not usually a calorie counter but in general, this is one area where ‘more is not better’.  Fear not, there are simple ways to eat deliciously and nutritiously without adding unwanted calories which seem to go directly to the hips without passing GO!  This recipe employs a cooking technique that tricks your tastebuds into thinking that the delicible flavors crossing the tongue include creamy deliciousness while in reality it’s vegan, just veggies and broth.  Leeks and cabbage are sauteed until soft and then simmered with potatoes in broth and herbs until potatoes are almost falling apart.  Then half the soup is blended into a fine puree in a food processor or blender and added back into the soup, which yields a surprisingly creamy consistency without adding any cream, flour or other thickeners. Brilliant!  I have used this technique in the past with equal success, particularly in the yummy White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup which is from Gwyneth Paltrow’s book, “It’s All Good”.

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My Dad is always asking me where I get the ideas for my recipes.  All I can say is that if you are truly interested in a topic, say food, the ideas naturally just come to you.  I get cooking inspiration everywhere I go.  It helps that I love to read cooking magazines and I own dozens of great cookbooks.  I even peruse the local newspapers for recipes.  Often, I don’t use the recipe that has caught my eye.  Rather it might remind me I better make something with the squash or eggplant sitting on my counter or that I have roasted beets in the refrigerator and I am off onto the next idea. If I use a recipe created by someone else, I give them full credit and a link back to them, if possible.  Otherwise, it’s trial and error, and trust me, I have plenty of kitchen fails…  This particular recipe was prompted by this week’s  Farm Fresh To You CSA box, which, even a month or so later, every Tuesday still feels like a gift from a secret admirer even though I ordered and paid for it. (I know, I’m easily pleased fooled).  I opened the box, and pulled out a head of green cabbage, large leek and four bintje potatoes.  Hmmm, just what could I do with these?  Well, spoiler alert, I already ruined the surprise by posting the photo of this tasty soup.

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What, might you ask, are Bintje Potatoes? I had never heard of them before this so had to look them up.  They are a large oval-shaped tuber with pale yellow skin and yellow flesh. They are good for  boiling, baking, and are particularly good for making french fries and potato chips, although I haven’t tried those yet.  Since they are yellower in color than a russet potato, they will make soup that is not as white, especially when adding turmeric and cumin.  Any kind of potato will work in this recipe though, so use whatever you have available.

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Cabbage may seem like a strange ingredient to put in soup but in reality cabbage becomes sweet when cooked and adds a nice texture in combination with the potatoes.  Cabbage is also loaded with fiber and vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, K and vitamin B6 and beneficial phytonutrients. Throw in superstar turmeric and you have a really-good-for-you-soup.  Since this recipe only calls for a half head of cabbage, if you are looking for something to do with the other half, or if you are just a cabbage lover, check out the recipe for Roasted Cabbage ‘Steaks’

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TIPS:  If you like your soup extra smooth and creamy, just puree it all in 2 or 3 batches, clean out the pot and return the puree to the clean pot to reheat.  This soup can be eaten plain or topped with various garnishes.  My favorites are toasted pepitos (shelled pumpkin seeds), shredded or flaked parmesan and sprigs of fresh thyme.  Plain yogurt is also a good topping, especially if you sprinkle it with a bit of cumin.  If you have raw shelled pumpkin seeds, you can toast them in a dry pan for several minutes until they are golden and aromatic.

I really liked this soup but don’t take my word for it!  I brought a preview of the Leek, Potato and Cabbage Soup, along with a few other goodies, to my amazing friend, Lis, a breast cancer survivor who just finished her first week as Patient #1 in a clinical trial at UCSF.  Below is a photo Lis sent to me along with her lovely comment:  “Thank you for the absolutely delicious and hearty soup!  It fed all of us lunch today.  The toasty pumpkin seeds added a nice crunch and the shredded Parmesan gave it a little decadent cheesiness!” – Lis

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LEEK, POTATO & CABBAGE SOUP WITH TURMERIC

6 Tbsn coconut oil, olive oil or butter
2 medium or 1 large leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 head green cabbage
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Optional toppings:  parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt, fresh sprigs of thyme

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  • Trim ends of leeks, saving only white and light green part.  Slice in half lengthwise and run under water to clean each layer by fanning like a deck of cards.  Slice each half horizontally into thin strips.

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  • Saute the leeks in the oil/butter and cook until soft and golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.

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  • Thinly slice or shred cabbage

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  • Add the cabbage and garlic to the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

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  • Peel and dice potatoes and add them to the vegetable mixture along with broth, 4 cups water and spices except for salt. Bring soup to a simmer and cook, partly covered, until potatoes are very soft, 45 to 50 minutes. Add more water, as needed.

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  • Check for seasoning and add salt and more spices to taste.  You can serve chunky like this or process half the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth for a creamier consistency (highly recommended)

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  • Serve plain or  topped with parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt and fresh thyme.

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Leek, Potato & Cabbage Soup with Turmeric

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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6 Tbsn coconut oil, olive oil or butter
2 medium or 1 large leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 head green cabbage
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Optional toppings:  parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt, fresh sprigs of thyme

  • Trim ends of leeks, saving only white and light green part.  Slice in half lengthwise and run under water to clean each layer by fanning like a deck of cards.  Slice each half horizontally into thin strips.
  • Saute the leeks in the oil/butter and cook until soft and golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Thinly slice or shred cabbage
  • Add the cabbage and garlic to the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  • Peel and dice potatoes and add them to the vegetable mixture along with broth, 4 cups water and spices except for salt. Bring soup to a simmer and cook, partly covered, until potatoes are very soft, 45 to 50 minutes. Add more water, as needed.
  • Check for seasoning and add salt and more spices to taste.  You can serve chunky like this or process half the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth for a creamier consistency (highly recommended)
  • Serve plain or  topped with parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt and fresh thyme.

 

Meatless Monday – Savory Lentil and Brown Rice Pilaf

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Savory Lentils and Brown Rice Pilaf was born out of pure laziness, coupled with my love for lentils and savory/spicy food.  It was raining and I didn’t want to battle the Christmas shoppers for parking or stand in line to purchase ingredients which I would then have to lug home and turn into dinner. If you find the ‘dinner question’ to be an ordeal every day, how about an easy alternative?  Look no further than your pantry for commonly stocked items like, rice and lentils.  throw in a few dried spices and dinner is on the table.  Easy peasy!  Your pantry not very well stocked?  Well there is a simple solution to that; Stock it!  Your world becomes a lot easier if you can make dinner without having to do that last minute grocery store run, especially in the winter when gardens are not as prolific and fresh produce is harder to find.

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If you’re not sure what to stock in your pantry, consider the non perishable foods that you eat regularly; pasta, beans, olive oil, vinegar, tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, rice and other grains, broth or boullion. I like to throw in some specialty items like canned hearts of palm or artichoke hearts which help transcend an otherwise boring salad into something special.  If you bake at all, include flour, sugar, salt, your favorite spices, and cooking oil. You will also want to keep ingredients that you use frequently on hand that are perishable but can last days or weeks on your counter like fresh onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and other root vegetables. Don’t forget to use your freezer as an extension of your pantry (and not just for ice cream).  Mine is stocked with nuts and frozen vegetables.  Your pantry should reflect the kinds of foods you like to eat. If you like Italian food, you should have a supply of pasta, tomatoes and Italian herbs like basil and oregano.  If you like Mediterranean food, stock your pantry with grains and legumes plus spices like cumin, ginger and allspice.  If are a list person or just beginning to stock a kitchen pantry, check out this List of Basic Pantry Ingredients from Basic Cooking to get yourself started.

Otherwise start shopping in your own pantry!  Perhaps you want to start with this yummy but healthy ‘one pot’ recipe…

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TIPS:  Lentils are a wonderful addition to any meal.  You can add to salads, soups or stews.  Red and yellow lentils are softer and best for soups and stews.  If you want the lentil to hold it’s shape, use the firmer green or black lentils.  The regular brown lentils will work too but will cook faster (get soft and split), so I would add those in after 10 minutes or so.  I have listed the spices as 1 or 2 teaspoons, depending on how much spice you like.  The kind of broth you use will also determine how much additional salt and spice you need.  I would recommend adding 1 teaspoon of the spices when you add the broth, stir to combine and taste.  Then add salt and more spice to your taste.

SAVORY LENTIL AND BROWN RICE  PILAF

1 Tbsn sesame oil (or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup long grained brown rice
1 cup lentils (preferably green or black firm lentils)
1-2 tsp allspice
1-2 tsp curry powder
1-2 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp ginger powder
1/2-1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
6 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled (optional)
1/2 cup raisins, purple or golden (optional)

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  • Saute onion and garlic in  a heavy, wide pan until slightly soft.  Add rice and stir until aromatic. Add lentils and stir to coat.

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  • Add water and the smaller amount of spices. Taste the broth, then add salt and additional spices as needed. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

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  • Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

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  • Stir in peas, and fluff with a fork. Top with raisins and pistachios if desired.

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Savory Lentil and Brown Rice Pilaf

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 Tbsn sesame oil (or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup long grained brown rice
1 cup lentils (preferably green or black firm lentils)
1-2 tsp allspice
1-2 tsp curry powder
1-2 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp ginger powder
1/2-1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
6 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled (optional)
1/2 cup raisins, purple or golden (optional)

  • Saute onion and garlic in  a heavy, wide pan until slightly soft.  Add rice and stir until aromatic.
  • Add lentils and stir to coat.
  • Add water and spices. Taste the broth, then add salt and additional spices as needed. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Stir in peas, and fluff with a fork. Top with raisins and pistachios if desired.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Carrot, Sweet Potato Soup with Turmeric

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Waiter, there’s turmeric in my soup!  I love soup!  It’s a meal in a bowl – easy preparation, easy clean up. One or two days with a tiny drizzle is enough incentive for me to drag out my big soup pot. There is nothing quite like a big pot of soup bubbling away to make your kitchen feel cozy and smell heavenly.   I have made carrot soup before, Carrot Coconut Soup, which I loved but I ran across a recipe for Roasted Carrot Turmeric Soup from Love and Lemons and was intrigued by the use of turmeric, that wildly popular spice touted to be the cure for whatever ails you.  I mean it’s even in my daily vitamin! So what’s the real skinny on Turmeric?

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Turmeric is in the ginger family and comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. It’s spicy ginger-like flavor is the main ingredient in curry powder and is common in South Asian foods. Turmeric has been used for a very long time in Asia (primarily in China and India), not only for its distinctive flavor but also for it’s powerful healing properties.   We may be slow to the party but the Western World has recently ‘discovered’ the many benefits of turmeric. Why is turmeric considered so great? Can it really prevent Alzheimers, cancer and depression (among other claims) or is it all a bunch of hype? Well, turmeric might just be all that.  According to the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Turmeric contains a wide range of antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also loaded with many healthy nutrients such as protein, dietary fiber, niacin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. These properties are believed to help treat a variety of conditions.  Here are 10 Health Benefits of Turmeric including prevention of cancer, liver disease and Alzheimers, controlling diabetes and relieving arthritis and more… The list is quite impressive.

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Did you know a sweet potato is not really a potato?  Shocking, I know.  It’s actually the elongated root of a vine in the morning glory family.  Who knew? Turmeric is not the only goodie in this soup.  Carrots and sweet potatoes (and other foods in the orange/yellow food group) are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients.  I think I’ll have another bowl of soup!

TIPS:  Try to resist the urge to peel the carrots if at all possible, since most of the nutrients are right under the skin and are lost in the peeling process.  Use a scrub brush or sponge instead and dry with a paper towel.  All veggies can be cut roughly since they will be pureed with a food processor or blender once they are soft so size doesn’t matter.  Turmeric has a beautiful bright yellow/orange color which is used in dying textiles, however, it will also dye your cutting board or food processor (or anything porous it touches), so add the turmeric and curry powder after the vegetables have been pureed.  I would recommend adding 1 teaspoon of each, taste for spiciness and then add more to taste.  This original recipe called for all vegetables to be chopped, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or so before pureeing which may give the soup a richer flavor, so try that if you have the time and inclination.  I was a bit short on time so opted to make this a one pot meal, easy preparation and easy cleanup, plus great results!

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CARROT SWEET POTATO SOUP WITH TURMERIC

6-8 large carrots
1 large sweet potato, or 2 small
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons turmeric, ground
1-2 teaspoons madras curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger (or ginger paste)
4 cups vegetable stock
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

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  • Scrub carrots instead of peeling. Roughly chop carrots and onion.

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  • Saute the onions, carrots, garlic and ginger in olive oil until the onions are translucent

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  • Peel and coarsely chop the sweet potato.  Add to the onions and carrots.

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  • Add vegetable stock, reduce heat and simmer covered for about 20 minutes.

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  • When the vegetables are fork tender, let cool slightly and process in a food processor or blender in batches until silky smooth.
  • Rinse out soup pot and return vegetable puree.  Add one or two cusp of water if needed.  Add 1 teaspoon each of turmeric and curry powder, pinch of cayenne and 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.  Taste and add more if desired.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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  • To serve top with plain or spiced yogurt or sour cream (recipe below)

 

SPICED YOGURT (optional)

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1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
a  squeeze of lemon & a bit of zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or Chinese Five Spice
pinch of salt

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Spicy Carrot Sweet Potato Soup with Turmeric

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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6-8 large carrots
1 large sweet potato, or 2 small
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons turmeric, ground
1-2 teaspoons madras curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger (or ginger paste)
4 cups vegetable stock
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  •  Scrub carrots instead of peeling. Roughly chop carrots and onion.
  • Saute the onions, carrots, garlic and ginger in olive oil until the onions are translucent
  • Peel and coarsely chop the sweet potato.  Add to the onions and carrots.
  • When the vegetables are fork tender, let cool slightly and process in a food processor or blender in batches until silky smooth.
  • Rinse out soup pot and return vegetable puree.  Add one or two cups of water if needed.  Add 1 teaspoon each of turmeric and curry powder, pinch of cayenne and 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.  Taste and add more if desired.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • To serve top with plain or spiced yogurt or sour cream (recipe below)

SPICED YOGURT (optional)

1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
a  squeeze of lemon & a bit of zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or Chinese Five Spice
pinch of salt

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.


Turmeric Photo Credit:  http://www.sweetartichoke.com

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Shrimp Lettuce Wraps with Coconut Rice & Bok Choy

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They’re Back! ( in sing song voice) With graduations and summer approaching, we have gone from being empty nesters to having a full house again. One of the biggest adjustments this time has been for the ‘kids’ because of my meatless diet.  They are more likely to cater to my diet now, which is a complete switch from when I used to plan meals around them. Back in the day I had to make many allowances for my picky eaters.    Even when my boys were young and ate only five or six things in the world, there was always the odd food, like flying fish roe sushi, that they would eat along with their plain pasta with butter and cucumber circles.  I lived in fear that they would figure out what flying fish roe was and then even that would be out.  Luckily for me, as they grew older their tastes expanded in the same proportion as their desire for ‘plain food with no sauce, nothing on the plate touching’ diminished.  Some of you still may be there but don’t worry, they do eventually grow up and eat real food.   I knew we were there when the last one crossed over into  the light ‘salads’.  My life was so much easier once I no longer had to hide veggies somewhere on their plates and could just serve them right out in the open, no secret dips or funny mashed potatoes.  Whew!

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My boys (young men now) still have an affinity for Asian food, and although they still eat flying fish roe sushi, their tastes for the exotic have also expanded.  One of our favorite appetizers is Miang Kam (literally meaning Tasty Leaf Wrapped Tidbits) in which several ingredients, usually coconut, ginger, lemon, dried shrimp, peanuts and green onions, among many other interesting bits of food, are hand assembled in a leaf, topped with a yummy sauce, folded over and popped in the mouth where the ingredients combine for a burst of flavor.  These Shrimp Lettuce Wraps are loosely inspired by Miang Kam, although I took many liberties with the selection of ingredients.  The wraps themselves are reminiscent of the Thai dish with the garnishes of ginger, red chili pepper, toasted coconut, scallion and sliced lemon which provide an explosion of flavor.  I added Sriracha to mine since I love spicy but a plum or sweet ginger sauce would be tasty too.

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No meal is complete in my book without some kind of veggies, so I sliced up fresh bok choy and sautéed it with a bit of garlic and ginger and added mung bean sprouts, which were in my refrigerator, for good measure.  I also made  Coconut Rice with brown Jasmine rice, ginger, turmeric and cumin which came out a deliciously lovely yellow (thanks to the Turmeric, which I’m sure you’ve heard is the new wonder spice that provides antioxidants and health benefits to your food along with it’s unique flavor).  Both side dishes are great as a base for the shrimp in the lettuce wraps or can be simply served on the side.

Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
1 head Butter or Boston lettuce (whole leaves)
1 lb raw shrimp (shelled, tail removed)
4  Tbsn olive or avocado oil (divided)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced (divided)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp chili powder
3-4 heads bok choy
1 cup bean sprouts(optional)
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GARNISHES:

1/3 cup dried unsweetened coconut
1 fresh red chili pepper, minced
1 thumb-size piece of ginger, minced
3 green onions, minced
1 lime cut into small wedges
Sriracha Sauce, Plum Sauce or Sesame Chili Oil (Optional)

 

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  • If you are using peeled and deveined shrimp, rinse them in cold water and pat them dry.  If your shrimp still have the shells, remove the legs, shell and tail or watch this video for instructions on peeling shrimp.
  • Dry toast coconut into a pan (preferably cast iron) on medium high heat until golden brown. (1-2 minutes). Remove from pan and let cool
  • Wash and dry lettuce leaves and arrange on a platter with toppings.

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  • Reheat pan and saute bok choy on medium heat in half the oil and garlic for several minutes.  Add the bean sprouts, if using, and heat another minute or so.  Remove from heat and place in a serving bowl.

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  • Reheat pan on medium high and add the remaining oil, garlic, chili powder and red pepper flakes.  Sautee the shrimp until it turns pink, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.  Serve in hot pan or place in a serving bowl.
  • Assemble lettuce wraps with coconut rice (see recipe below), bok choy and shrimp topped with your preferred condiments.  Or serve rice and bok choy on the side.

 

Coconut Jasmine Rice

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 

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Coconut Jasmine Rice

1 cup brown or white jasmine rice
1 can coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
pinch of saffron threads (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry shredded or flaked coconut, unsweetened

  • Heat coconut milk and stock to boil.  Add rice and spices and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the water has evaporated.  Remove from heat and let sit covered.
  • Dry toast the coconut in a pan on medium high heat for one or two minutes until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Fluff the rice with a fork.  Serve topped with toasted coconut.