Three Twenty-Minute Meals: Roasted Poblano Quesadillas, Korean "Steak" Sandwiches and Sichuan Beef with Broccoli

 I: Poblano and Tomato Quesadillas

So this couldn't be simpler: just rub a few poblano peppers lightly with olive oil and salt and remove the stems. Make a long slit in each pepper and then place them, in a single layer, on a baking sheet. Broil for about 4 minutes per side. The skins will blacken in spots and begin to crack. Remove the peppers from the oven and after cooling slightly, peel away most of the skin. Don't worry if a few pieces don't come off. Now, with your fingers, pry open the soft peppers and scrape out the seeds and central stem. Rinse with water, apt dry and cut into thin slices. Any peppers you don't use in the quesadillas can be stored in the fridge for 5 days and added to soups, sandwiches or tacos.

Heat 1-2 T. vegetable or coconut oil in the widest non-stick or iron skillet you have. Keep the flame at medium, and when the oil is hot but not smoking, add 3 or 4 small corn tortillas. Sprinkle each with 3 T. grated Monterry Jack cheese. Place on top 2 thin slices of tomato, a few strips of the poblano peppers and some chopped cilantro. Sprinkle all with chili powder and black pepper. When the cheese has melted, flip one side of the tortilla over to form a half circle. Flip and cook each quesadilla on the other side for 1 minute, adding a few more drops of oil if needed.

You can enjoy the quesadillas hot from the pan as a standing snack but be careful - that cheese is hot! At Cafe Drake HRV we plated our poblano quesadillas with stewed pinto beans, green leaf lettuce and sprigs of papalo ( a Central American herb found in many Latin markets and easily grown in most gardens).

 II. Portobello "Steak" Sandwiches with Kimchi

The chili-garlic-ginger paste used to create kimchi can be whipped up in minutes in a blender.

Chinese cabbage ready to be "kimchi-fied." Also called Napa cabbage, this veggie should be available in every supermarket but you could also use bok choy instead if you have that around.

Portobello "Steak" Sandwich on a roll with kimchi and sesame mayonnaise. A simple salad and oven-baked steak fries round out a perfect meal made in minutes.

Before we begin, note that this supper-worthy sandwich requires kimchi as a major component. Obviously you can use any store-bought brand you like or employ homemade if you have it. But you will need it so proceed only after you've scored.

An Aside: We really didn't believe mind-blowing great kimchi could be made in 30 minutes until we tried, with a dubious frown, this recipe. People, it works! And the kimchi gets even better after a few days refrigerated. Please please please give this a try; vegetarians/vegans should swap tamari or soy sauce for the fish sauce. Here's the link to the recipe on the fabulous Beyond Kimchi blog.

Back to the sandwiches now. Remove the stems from 4 large portobello mushrooms and discard. Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp towel if very dirty, otherwise just move to the next step of placing the mushrooms in a shallow, wide container and rubbing very well with 1 T. olive oil, 1 t. sesame oil and 2 T. tamari or soy sauce. Once everything is mixed up toss the mushrooms to coat evenly and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While the mushrooms are resting in their marinade, split into halves and toast 4 sandwich rolls (any type you like) and then set aside. Place the mushrooms (gill-side down) and any marinade that hasn't been absorbed on a baking sheet. Broil for 4-6 minutes. No need to flip the 'shrooms. Once the portobellos are dark and softened, transfer to one side of your rolls. Spread the other side of the roll with vegan mayonnaise. Sprinkle one or two drops of sesame oil over the mayo. Top the mushrooms with around 1/4 cup of kimchi and assemble the sandwich. That's it.

 III. Sichuan-Style "Beef with Broccoli"

We prefer to make our own seitan - or "wheat meat as it's often dubbed on Chinese menus - but of course using seitan from the store is a blessed shortcut. Then again IF you decide to make a batch know 1) it's waaay more cost effective 2) 90% of the cooking time and prep is hands-off 3) leftover seitan freezes gloriously with no loss of texture or flavor.

Prior to simmering in a rich stock, our seitan is cut into three large pieces.

Some variety of shao shing wine is ideal for this recipe but perfectly acceptable substitutes include sake or dry sherry.

Thin sliced seitan is first marinated, for 5 minutes only, in a light mixture of cornstarch and cooking wine.

No substitutes allowed for Sichuan peppercorns! Lucky for us all they're available in the spice aisle of all supermarkets. If not at yours, shop somewhere else down the street.

Our "Beef" with Broccoli is up there on the plate at 12 o'clock, along with kimchi, roasted tomatoes and green chilies and turmeric brown rice.

We'll begin with 1 lb. or so of seitan. Pat dry and cut into thin, longish slices. In a small mixing bowl stir together 2 T. cornstarch, 1 T. water, 1 T. Shao Shing cooking wine or dry sherry or sake, 2 cloves minced garlic and 3/4 t. white pepper. Add the sliced seitan to the bowl, toss well to coat and let marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Heat 2 T. coconut or vegetable oil over high heat in a large non-stick skillet or wok. When the oil is very hot, add the seitan and any unabsorbed marinade. Stir frantically for 1-2 minutes; try if possible to get a "char" on some pieces of the seitan. Remove the seitan to a bowl and add another tablespoon of cooking oil to the pan. Toss in 3-4 cups of broccoli florets (smaller florets work better) and 1 cup of thinly sliced onion. Stir fry for 5 minutes.

Now return the seitan to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Quickly, stopping to stir the skillet contents now and then, mix together in a small bowl 1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce, 2 T. brown sugar and 1 t. ground ginger powder. Pour this in the skillet and continue stir-frying until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 t. coarsely ground Sichian peppercorns. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, stir one final time and serve hot with rice.


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