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Wednesday, August 31, 2005 

It's A Wrap - Ingredients

It's a wrap - ingredients: middle and right, green onion stems; middle, red bell pepper strips; left and right, nem nuoung bbq pork sausage; left, oyster mushrooms. Posted by Picasa


It's A Wrap, Two Ways

It's a wrap, two ways. At left, ingredients wrapped in a stuffed flatbread (potato, peas). At right and middle, two halves of a pocket pita wrapping the same ingredients. Posted by Picasa


It's A Wrap - Combining Flavours From Multiple Cultures

Flatbreads are a part of many cultures, and come in many forms. I am particularly fond of stuffed flatbreads as well as pita breads. In this recipe, I've taken Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, East Indian and Greek/Middle Eastern tastes and successfully combined them in two versions of a mouth-watering wrap. For reference, see the pictures posted after this recipe (and thus appearing more recently in this blog).

  • 1-2 tbsp cooking oil (preferably vegetable/canola).
  • 1 red bell pepper. Find a long one and cut into very thin, long strips.
  • 1 pint (about 2 cups) oyster mushrooms, cut into thick strips.
  • 3 nem nuoung (Vietnamese bbq pork sausage), cut into very thin, long strips. You can also substitute with some other sausage or frankfurter.
  • 6 stalks green onion, trimmed, and with the green part removed (save for some other dish), cut in half (not lengthwise or they'll come apart).
  • Dash of Italian seasoning (or any mix of dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil).
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional).
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 3 soft pitas or stuffed flatbreads.

  • Add oil to a skillet and heat to med high.
  • Add bell pepper and toss for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add mushrooms and toss for a 2-3 minutes. You can also add a tbsp of butter at this point, if you like, and toss everything for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Warm flatbread in the oven or microwave before finishing the dish.
  • To the skillet, add nem nuoung or other cooked sausage and toss for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle Italian seasoning, red pepper flake, salt and pepper. Toss to distribute.
  • Turn off the heat.

  • Portion out the mixture onto the warm flatbreads, roll up and cut on a bias. Serve immediately. Serves 3.
  • Serve with soup or with spiced tomato juice.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,


Bite Size 8 - Who's That Chef Running Around Your Store?

When I worked in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 5 summers ago, I always found it amusing that of the three Chinese restaurants I went to near Smyrna, Georgia, nearly all the cooks were Latino-Americans. What's odder still, in an Indian restaurant next door to one of these Chinese restaurants, there was an Oriental cook there. People often think Americans are closed-minded, but I find that at least when it comes to restaurants and their staff, Canada (or at least the province of Ontario) is closed-minded. You won't find several members of one cultural group cooking in a restaurant of a different cuisine.

Over the past 4 calendar years, I worked in a number of fusion cuisine restaurants in Ontario and found it difficult to be considered at some of them for anything more than dishwashing or appetizers, even though I knew how to cook most of the dishes. It's as if the owners were afraid of offending patrons. Now that said, I did work in a Vietnamese restaurant for a while. In fact, two Vietnamese restaurant owners had offered to sell their business to me. As a big fan of Vietnamese food, had I had the money, I would have bought both places. And probably hired French chefs :)

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Monday, August 29, 2005 

Modular Sandwich: Artichoke, Cucumber and Ham on French Baguette

Artichokes are usually a love'em or hate'em kind of ingredient, especially marinated chokes. But if you do like'em, try this simple, subtle, but tasty sandwich. Surprisingly, there's something about the subtle flavour of this sandwich that suggests it might go well with a crisp beer. I'm not a beer drinker because I don't like the bitter taste, but I actually had a craving for beer on two consecutive days when I tested this sandwich, both with ham slices and with Hungarian frankfurter. I opted for a crisp ginger ale instead. The reason for the crisp drink is that you want to contrast the soft ingredients of the sandwich.

  • 1 large French baguette or any wide, flat, long European baguette-like bread.
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 small jar of marinated artichokes (usually in olive or some other oil).
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 slices of ham, any slightly salty type. This is actually optional; the sandwich tastes fine without it.

  • Split the baguette in half lengthwise without breaking the two halves apart.
  • Wash the cucumber and cut off a bit of each end. (I generally prefer not to peel English cucumber; it's skin is more tender than the waxed style, and it's edible and vitamin-rich.) Slice it very thinly along the length so that each piece is nearly the length of the cucumber. Do not make the slices paper thin as that makes the taste watery. Layer the cucumber across one half of the baguette so that the slices are a bit overlapping. Dust a very small amount of salt and pepper on top of the cuke layer. (Artichokes are already seasoned.)
  • Drain all of the marinating liquid (usually oil) from the artichokes. Do not rinse the choke pieces. Shake off any excess marinade. Spread the chokes over the cucumber slices, breaking apart any large, chunky pieces first.
  • Layer the ham slices, if using, in an overlapping manner down the length of the baguette, then roll them into a single tube. As a reference point, when you close the sandwich, only the tube of ham slices will be visible between the two halves.
  • Close the sandwich and cut into quarters.

  • Anything else you add, such as mustard or roasted red peppers, is a personal choice. If you are using a fresh baguette, the sandwich's texture is a bit on the soft side, so add items with texture. One good choice is pickled Chinese white radish sticks, or fresh carrot sticks, both of which add a nice crunch.
  • Serves 4 as a snack or light meal.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,

Sunday, August 28, 2005 

Bitesize 7 - Are You Eating That? Battling Anorexia

Back in my punk days of the mid- to late-1980s in party town Toronto, Canada, I threw a lot of dinner parties for friends, mishmashing East Indian, Chinese and Italian flavours, for the most part. Back then, that's pretty much all I could make. But my weird cross-cuisine was a hit anyway. Except with one roommate that was an international model and exhibited the classic symptoms of anorexia. She just didn't take care of herself and had no interest in trying anything I made.

In the half year or so that she lived at the same place, I never saw her eat a full meal. In fact, I don't know if she really ate at all. All I ever saw were half-eaten, dried up bowls of corn kernels. She did the same with cereal and milk. I don't remember her eating anything else, certainly not a balanced meal. She would never finish a full bowl of anything, as if to convince herself that she wasn't overeating. It was really quite sad seeing her do that. She was a sweet girl that just didn't take care of herself. If you saw her before she put on her daily makeup, you'd probably wonder how it was that she was a model. She looked a like trainwreck with her ultra-pale face matched against messy blonde hair, and her undernourished body was way too skinny.

Her situation reminds me of a Matt Dillon movie (the name escapes me) where his character was dating an anorexic supermodel. He was fed up with her high-maintenance, neurotic behaviour. A classic line from the film, spoken by his character, goes something like this: "For God's sake, why don't you eat something," which summed up his frustration with her not taking care of herself. Whenever I see that movie, it makes me think of my old roommate. Tess, I hope you're taking care of yourself. When it comes down to it, in life, all we really have is our health.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,


Bitesize 6 - Food Fetishes and the New Dancing Diet To Weight Loss

No sure if someone's done a study somewhere, but back in my mid- to late-20s, when I lived in the mighty metropolis of Toronto, Canada, a lot of my wild friends reported to me that if they ate Chinese noodles (particularly Sam Sea Chow Mein) after sex, they lost weight. Okay, I'm lying. That was me. I don't know why, but I could consume an entire order of Sam Sea Chow Mein Noodles (enough for 2-3 people) after a little lovin' and actually feel like I'd lost weight, maintaining my then 31" waist. Sure, you burn a significant number of calories after sex. But wouldn't logic suggest that eating a large portion of meat and noodles cause you to gain weight? Ah, the mysteries of Oriental cuisine. Of course, it may also have had something to do with working hard, partying harder, and dancing nearly every day of the week.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,


Bitesize 5 - Opening Soon? Starting Your Own Restaurant

Not sure if countries other than Canada have it, but there's a TV show on Food Network Canada called "Opening Soon". If you're a foodie, you probably already know about it. It gives a very thorough rundown of many aspects of opening a new restaurant, from contractor problems to city licenses to waitstaff and promotion.

It's an incredibly scary show in that it's extremely thorough in presenting what can and often does go wrong when opening a restaurant. Despite this, after 2-3 years of watching, I want to open my own restaurant even more than I did, say, 15 years ago. I watch it religiously, even viewing repeat episodes up to 4 or 5 times. I'm one of those poor deluded souls that, if he could, would take on a mortgage to open my own fusion cuisine restaurant, but without the arrogance and snobbery that seems to inhabit many such establishments. Anyone else? What kind of restaurant would you open, if you could? Would you cook, run the place, or just sit back and rake in the profits? Let me know and I'll post some of the responses here. My email's rdash001-at-yahoo-dot-ca [secret-coded to avoid evil spambots]. Include a link to your food-related blog, if you have one.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,


Bitesize 4 - Cookbook Fetish

What is it about cookbooks with photos that are so alluring? It's been said in the publishing biz that most cookbooks end up in the remainder bins unless the author has some sort of high profile. But honestly, I never met a cookbook with pics that I didn't like, be they 28-page booklets or full-blown cookbooks. If it has pics, I'm there. While I couldn't possibly afford to pay full price on all my cookbooks, I do buy many on sale, before they enter the remainder bins. I've got a growing collection, a habit that my mother also has. Anyone else fallen prey to the allure of food photos?

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Friday, August 26, 2005 

Bitesize 3 - Step Right Up And Get Your Grilled Cheese Deals

A short while ago, I got a nice chuckle out of a Google AdSense ad that popped up on this site after I posted my Grilled Cheese Deluxe with Roasted Red Peppers recipe. The ad was a link to eBay and the text said something like "Deals on Grilled Cheese at eBay". But as silly as it sounds, some of you may recall that last year, a grilled cheese sandwich that appeared to have an image of The Madonna (not the singer) on it sold for $28,000 (source) to the online casino Thank you very much, but I'm holding out for a peanut butter and banana sandwich with an image of Elvis Presley, The King.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,


Bitesize 2 - Wine Headaches - Its All In Your Head

Over the years, I've cooked for a lot of people, both in restaurants and at private dinner parties. Being a social butterfly for the most part, I like to collect food lore and food preferences from those I cook for privately. One bit of info I've collected is that wine seems to give some women headaches. Most particularly, red wine. I've had a few women tell me it's because red wine reminds them of their period, during which time they get migraines. I've also had the odd handful of men tell me that white wine gives them a headache - I'm one such guy.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,


Bitesize 1 - Garlic and Ginger Tidbits

In some branches of Buddhism, monks and nuns abstain from any "spices" except for ginger and salt, so as not to offend the higher spirits with bad breath while chanting. In India, some widows abstain from both meat and dairy, certain spices, and items such as garlic, which some consider to be a type of meat.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Wednesday, August 24, 2005 

French Toast with Brie and Figs

This is one of those simple delicacies that's so easy to come up with on your own and just hits the spot for a mid-afternoon snack. For a bit of decadence, serve with Sunset Vodka Ice Tea.

  • 2 eggs or 1 egg and 1/4 cup milk
  • italian seasoning (or mix dried rosemary, thyme, oregano)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • red pepper flakes [optional]
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil and/or butter
  • Brie cheese or other quick-melting cheese (sliced swiss). If you are using brie, only remove the rind if it is hard.
  • 1 fig, not quite fully ripe, thinly sliced
  • pancake syrup [optional]

  • Break egg(s) into a small mixing bowl, add milk [if using], italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Beat until the mixture is slightly fluffy.
  • Pour mixture into a shallow, wide dish or cake pan.
  • Dip both slices of bread into the mixture, flip slices over, then leave for a couple of minutes until entire mixture has soaked into the bread. While waiting, put cooking oil or butter in a wide frying pan (non-stick is less fuss) and set stove to medium high. (Keep in mind that butter burns very fast. It's best to use a combination of oil and butter.)
  • When the pan is hot, about 1 minute, rotate the pan so that the oil/butter spreads out.
  • Gently place each slice into the pan. It takes about 2-3 minutes for the bottom sides to brown and form a light crust.
  • Now flip each slice over. Place the brie or swiss immediately on top of one of the slices while it is still hot.
  • When the bottom sides of the bread are browned, turn off the heat.
  • Place the sliced fig on top of the cheese, then cover with the other slice.

Cut the sandwich in quarters and serve with a drink.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,


Sunset Vodka Ice Tea

Feeling a bit decadent? This drink goes great with Fench Toast with Brie and Figs sandwich.

  • 2-3 ice cubes for cooling
  • 4 oz orange juice
  • 2 oz ice tea
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 2-3 ice cubes for serving
  • 1-2 tbsp grenadine
  • 1-2 mint leaves [optional]

  • In a drink shaker, place all ingredients except the extra ice cubes for serving.
  • Shake and then strain into a serving glass over remaining ice cubes. If you don't have a shaker, use a large glass or small pitcher and stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon or chopstick.

  • Serves 1
  • Drizzle the grenadine into the serving glass.
  • Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,

Friday, August 19, 2005 

Chinese BBQ Pork + East Indian Lentil Soup

This tasty, hearty soup/stew is great for a cool fall day or in the winter. It combines Oriental ingredients with a traditional East Indian lentil soup (aka Dal). Note there are many types of lentils. Some have a sharper taste than others. Some also take much longer to cook than others. My recommendation is "Moong Dal" lentils. They are small and oval in shape and are the same lentils used to grow bean sprouts.

For the BBQ pork, if you cannot find an Oriental market nearby, you can use pretty much any pre-cooked BBQ meat sliced into thin medallions, then julienned. You can also oven roast a piece of pork loin, then slice and julienne it. However, loin meats are usually expensive.

  • 1 cup moong or other lentils. Lentils can be found in the International section of most grocers. Or try to find an East Indian or Pakistani store. If you cannot find any lentils, you can substitute yellow split peas. (These cook quicker than lentils.) Do not mix lentils because of their different cooking times.
  • 1/4 cup diced onion [optional]
  • 6-10 medallions of BBQ pork (about 1/2 cup), julienned.
  • 10-12 button mushrooms, halved unless they are small.
  • 1 small potato, skin on and scrubbed/cleaned, small diced.
  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil, vegetable or canola. Avoid sunflower or safflower oil as they have a low smoke point and thus burn very fast. If you want, you can mix sunflower, safflower, peanut, or olive oil with canola/vegetable oil, to reduce the smoke point (i.e., burn temperature).
  • 1 tbsp curry powder. Buy it or make your own (see Make Your Own Curry Powder).
  • 2-3 tbsp of haldi (turmeric powder)
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp Vietnamese beef paste (used for pho/noodle soup). If you cannot find this at an Oriental market, you could substitute it with 2 tbsp tomato paste and 1 tbsp soya sauce. This is not at all the same taste, but it is an acceptable substitute.
  • 4-6 cups of water.
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • 3-4 stalks green onions, trimmed and cut into 1/2-1" pieces.

  • Rinse the lentils at least 3 times in a large, shallow bowl to get rid of any impurities. This is very important, else you will very likely have a gritty result. Once washed, soak the lentils in clean water for at least 15 minutes. Prepare other ingredients in the meantime.
  • Warning: Do not do this step until you have prepared all the ingredients and have them ready to go. Curry powder burns very quickly. Heat 2-3 tbsp of cooking oil in a large stock pot. Add the curry and turmeric powders and the bay leaves. Stir with a large spoon, preferably wooden, for 1 minute, then remove the bay leaves and reduce heat to medium.
  • Add the Vietnamese beef paste (or acceptable substitute) and the diced potatoes. Stir for 2 minutes maximum.
  • If you are using onion, add them now. Drain the soaked lentils and them to the cookpot. Stir for 1 minute.
  • Add mushrooms, pork (or sub), and at least 4 cups of water. Lentils absorb a lot of water. If you do not like thick lentil soup, add 4 cups first, then add more later. [Note: Do not add salt yet.]
  • Reduce heat to med high and stir regularly every 3-5 minutes, keeping the pot at a rolling boil for 20-25 minutes. If you are leaving the pot unattended, cover it, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 40-45 minutes. Make sure that you still stir the contents once in a while to prevent burning. Lentils are very high protein and stink your place up if burnt.
  • [If you are serving this dish with toast or grilled flatbread points, you can skip this step.] If you are serving over rice, add 2 cups of water to the cookpot, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for another 20 minutes. Stir frequently. If the soup is getting thicker than you want, add another 1 cup of water and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. At this point, do not leave the soup unattended.
  • Taste the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in. Turn off heat, add green onions, stir again, and serve immediately.

Serve either over rice or with toast or grilled flatbread points for dipping.

  • I prefer to cook the lentils on low heat for a long time so that they dissolve almost completely. Keep in mind that split peas, if you use them instead of lentils, cook faster, so adjust the timing instructions accordingly.
  • You may like to add other vegetables to the soup, such as diced carrot or even okra/ ladyfingers/ gumbo.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 

Meatball Rotini Soup

When you thingk of "fusion cooking", do you associate it with hoity-toity fanciness and world-class arrogance? Difficult to make? It can be all of that or none, depending on the person doing the cooking. Personally, I associate "fusion cooking" with simply mixing ingredients that are popular in different cultures. This can be as simple as using Chinese or Japanese mushrooms instead of regular white mushrooms, adding a dash of curry powder to a soup, or replacing Oriental pasta with Italian pasta in an Oriental soup. And that's just what I've done for this Meatball Rotini Soup. I love meatballs and I try coming up with new dishes with them. This Meatball Rotini Soup is simply a variation on other soups that I've tried.

[NOTE: In this recipe and others, I do not distinguish between parsley and cilantro as I like them both. However, I know people who like one but not the other. So I'll let you decide which one you want to use.]

  • Water for the meatballs, pasta, and final soup
  • 1-2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp salt for soup
  • 1/2 lb ground chicken, turkey or pork, fresh or thawed from frozen. If you can, use "free-range" meats. They are hormone-free, taste great, and don't have all manner of additives.
  • 1/4 cup parsley/cilantro, chopped fine (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 stalks chives, chopped fine (or dried) [optional]
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • Salt + pepper to taste for meatballs
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup of dry rotini noodles
  • 1 can or 1/2 cup of chicken stock.
  • 1/2 can of shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp of white cooking vinegar [optional]
  • Chinese crunchy egg noodles [optional]
  • 2-3 stalks green onion, chopped finely [optional]
  • 1/4 cup parsley/cilantro, chopped roughly for garnish [optional]

  • Put 4-6 cups of water for soup in a cookpot and set heat on high. When water starts to steam, add 1 tsp salt and 1-2 tbsp of sesame oil. Work on other ingredients until water is boiling.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add ground meat, parsley, chives, breadcrumbs and salt + pepper. Break in the egg and mix the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Form meatballs to a preferred to size (1-1 1/2" diameter) and set aside on a plate or an oven tray (cookie sheet).
  • When water is boiling, add meatballs and poach for 6-8 minutes.
  • Remove the meatballs to a bowl with a slotted spoon but reserve the water. Keeping the cookpot on high heat, add enough water for boiling the rotini pasta. (Use the instructions on the package, or guess, if you've made Italian pasta before.)
  • When the water is once again boiling, add 1-2 tbsp of cooking oil (vegetable, canola, sunflower, sesame), several dashes of salt, and the rotini noodles. Cook for at least 6-7 minutes. Make sure that the pasta is not quite al dente, as it will be fully cooked in the soup base in the next step. [Most Italian pasta needs about 12 minutes, but we are cooking the rotini in two steps.]
  • Strain the pasta of its boiling water, reserving a 1/2 cup of the liquid. Dump out the rest of the liquid from the cookpot (it'll be too starchy). Rinse the cookpot, replace it on the stove. Add the chicken stock, making sure to strain off any fat if you use canned stock. Now add the 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid, another 3 cups of water, the pasta, meatballs, and sliced shiitakes. Set heat at medium high, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the 1 tbsp of white cooking vinegar and simmer for another 2-5 minutes, or until pasta is al dente.
  • Turn off heat and serve immediately.

Serve soup in large bowls and garnish individually with any or all of the following: Chinese crunchy egg noodles, green onions, or chopped parsley/cilantro. Serve with bruschetta or garlic bread. Serves 4-6.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,

Thursday, August 11, 2005 

Grilled Cheese Deluxe with Roasted Red Peppers

I love taking traditional faves and making healthy substitutions. What's better is when the result is actually palatable. Too many North Americans associate healthy eating with tastelessness. After several years of having to at least try healthy alternatives, I've started to find a bit of a groove. So, I was thrilled to come up with a yummy variation of a grilled cheese sandwich.

  • Bread - 2 slices of 7-grain or multigrain.
  • Butter or margarine (butter's healthier), softened at room temperature.
  • Cheese - Swiss or Mozarella - sliced to fit two layers of cheese on the bread.
  • Onion, diced or slivered - 1-2 tbsps [optional]. You can use a regular onion or substitute red onion. Best results for fine slivers rather than dice.
  • Roasted red peppers - one piece (bottle or can). Slice the pepper open so that it is flat. Cut in half lengthwise if necesary to fit on the bread later. Shake off any excess liquid.
  • Cucumber or pickled dills - 1 or 2 very thin slices [optional]. If using pickle slices, shake off any excess liquid.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Onion chip dip [optional].

  • Set to heat med high. Heat up a skillet, griddle, or some large cast iron pan. (Try to avoid aluminum and non-stick pans. Non-stick doesn't grill as well, and excess alumninum consumption has been shown to either cause or aggravate Alzheimer's.)
  • Spread butter or margarine on the outside of both slices of bread (like you would with a regular grill cheese). Place both slices butter side down on the hot skillet.
  • Within 30 sec - 1 min, layer the cheese on one slice, as for a regular grill cheese sandwich, then cover with the other slice.
  • When the bottom slice of bread has crisped and is brown, flip the stack over. If you prefer the onions [optional] to be a bit cooked, pull open the sandwich now, loosely spread the onions on the cheese, and close the sandwich.
  • When both sides are brown, turn off the heat and pull open the two slices. If you haven't already done so, loosely spread the onion slivers, if desired. Layer the roasted red pepper (and cucumber, if using).
  • Shake salt and pepper on, then top with the final slice.
  • Cut sandwich in half or quarters and serve.
  • Variations: Feel free to place tomato slices on the sandwich. However, in my experience, placing too many "wet" items on a grilled cheese sandwich ruins its taste.

Serve with a hot or cold soup. If serving by itself, add a dollop of onion chip dip to the plate for dipping the sandwich in.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,

Friday, August 05, 2005 

Multigrain Veg Sandwich

Looking for a light to medium snack, or an accompaniment to soup? This simple but tasty sandwich might be it.

  • Multigrain bread - two slices
  • Butter
  • Mayo
  • Cucumber - field or English, sliced long, wide, and thin - 4 slices. Use a vegetable peeler instead of a knife, if necessary. (I will try to post a picture at some later date.)
  • Tomato - Beefsteak or regular tomatoes, sliced into 4 thin disks
  • Cheese - [optional] 2 large thin slices of Mozarella or Swiss, about 3 x 4 inches
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Toast the slices of bread (in oven or toaster over, if possible)
  • Spread butter one slice of toast, mayo on the other.
  • Layer the cucumber, tomato, and cheese to stack the sandwich.
  • Shake salt and pepper on the tomato slices, then top with the final slice.
  • Cut in half on a bias and serve.
  • Alternately, do not pre-toast the bread. Arrange the sandwich as just described, then place in a preheated (325) oven or toaster oven for 3-5 minutes, until toasted. (This oven-melt version is great for a Fall or Winter day.)

Serve with a hot or cold soup, such as Mushroom, Asparagus + Wild Rice Soup

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,


Mushroom, Asparagus + Wild Rice Soup

If you're like me, you love a hearty soup that can be served pretty much any time of year. This delicious vegetarian offering tastes as good cold in the summer as it does warm in the winter. Note that wild rice, which is actually a grass, takes a very long time to cook. You should either pre-cook as per the package's instructions, or use another healthy grain such as brown rice.

  • Water - 4 cups, cold
  • +Water or stock - 4 cups. If you are using water, add 3 bouillon cubes (chicken or vegetable; beef is too strong for this soup).
  • Sesame oil - 2-3 tbsps
  • Wild rice - pre-cooked, if necessary, to produce 1 1/2 cups. Wild rice is usually available in health food stores, if you cannot find it at your grocer. Or replace with brown rice.
  • Barley - 1/2 cup [optional]
  • Shiitake mushrooms - 7 caps, soaked in 4 cups of boiling water for about 1/2 hr. Reserve the liquid. Any kind of woodsy/wild mushroom will work, but shiitakes are reputed by Asian cultures to have medicinal qualities. If you prefer, used canned shiitakes. (Both are available in the international section of your grocer, or in Asian groceries. If you cannot find shiitakes, ask for "chinese mushrooms" at non-Japanese groceries. Or use some other "wild" mushroom.) Slice the mushrooms and set aside.
  • Wood ear/black fungus mushrooms [optional: available in Asian markets]. Soak in hot water for a 1/2 hour, then julienne.
  • Carrots - 1/4 cup julienned (thin strips of about 1-2 inches).
  • Mushrooms - 4-6 regular or porcini, cleaned and thickly sliced. (Use canned, sliced if you prefer.)
  • Asparagus - 8-12 spears. If you can get fresh, locally grown asparagus instead of frozen, do it. You'll taste the difference. Use "baby" asparagus if possible (or select the thinnest spears you can find). Trim off the bottom inch of each spear and peel a bit of the next inch. cut the spears into 1.5-2 inch pieces. Blanch them in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes maximum, then shock in a bowl of iced water and remove immediately after 10 seconds. Set aside in a bowl.
  • Green onions (aka spring onions) - 4-6 stalks, cut on a bias (diagonal) into 0.5-1 inch pieces.
  • Rice vinegar - 1/4 cup. If you cannot find this in the international section of your grocer, or at an Asian market, use 1 tbsp of white cooking vinegar.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Assuming that you have prepared the ingredients as instructed above, you are ready to make the soup.
  • Strain the reserved mushroom liquid into a large cookpot and add 4 cups of cold water. Set stove to high heat.
  • Add the sesame oil and bouillon cubes (if using), soaked shiitakes and wood ear, pre-cooked wild rice, and barley (if using).
  • When the soup is boiling, reduce heat to med high. Add carrots and sliced mushroms, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add asparagus and green onions and simmer for 1-2 minutes max.
  • Turn off the heat and add the rice vinegar. Stir and taste. Add more vinegar if it suits you, and salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve hot or cold with a multigrain sandwich. Garnish with parsley/cilantro and, if desired, diced, cooked spicy sausage.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,

About me

  • I'm blogslinger
  • From Canada
  • Writer, author, former magazine editor and publisher, amateur photog, amateur composer, online writer/ blogger, online publisher, freelancer

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