Korean banchan (bean sprouts and spinach)

We eat out in Korean restaurants pretty often, and we love the side dishes or banchan that is served before or with our meal.  Among my favorites are the kimchi, the mung bean sprouts and the blanched spinach.  And since I made Korean beef stew tonight, I couldn’t serve that by itself…I like to have little side dishes or vegetables with every meal.  I’ve never made kimchi (next on my list) but the bean sprouts and spinach are delicious, healthy, and take less than 15 minutes to make, tops!  It’s so quick since the “dressing” for these side dishes are almost exactly the same.

First, I washed and picked out the dark bean sprouts from the pack I bought, then I boiled them in salted water for exactly 5 minutes.  Set your timer since soggy sprouts are no good!  Drain and set them aside.

Chop your spinach and take out the roots and hard parts.  Blanch them in salted water for 30 seconds, then rinse them quickly in cool water.  They should be bright green, if they’ve turned dull green they’ve been overcooked.

There are a ton of recipes online for the dressing for this, but all the ingredients are pretty similar.  From some trial and error and a lot of tasting, I came up with this ratio which incorporates the main ingredients that make up these side dishes:

  • Half a stalk of green onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil (I use the toasted sesame oil from Healthy Options)
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (I like soy sauce in my spinach but not in my beansprouts, you can use whatever you like of course)
  • Salt to taste
I made around 3 portions of this dressing since we love beansprouts and I had a lot.

Mix it into the vegetables with your hands and adjust your seasoning with salt as you go along.  I prepared the beansprouts first then added a little soy sauce to the basic mixture before i prepared the spinach.  These were quick, perfect complements to the Korean beef stew.  🙂

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Cucumber mint raita

I made my butter chicken a little spicier than I can handle (although it got rave reviews from my husband who loves all things spicy), so I decided to make a really quick, simple cucumber mint raita to cool things down a bit.  Raita is the Indian equivalent of the Greek tzatziki, which I also love!  There are recipes all over the internet for raita like this one from BBC food. this one from the food network, and this one from an Indian food website.  I usually look at recipes and just adapt them based on what I have on hand and the taste that I like, this method has always worked out for me so far.  🙂

I used around half a cup of  low fat Greek yogurt from Rizal dairy farms (I usually have a tub of Lemnos greek yogurt in the fridge but S&R has been out of this last few times we were there), a teaspoon of finely chopped mint leaves, and a quarter of a large cucumber.

I grated the cucumber with my coarse Microplane grater.  I love Microplane graters and zesters!!!

I stirred this into my yogurt, added a couple of squeezes of fresh lemon and some ground cumin to taste, and I had a really fresh, bright raita in less than 10 minutes.  🙂

Parker House Rolls

You know how people always say to avoid bread baskets since you eat a gazillion calories even before your meal starts?  Yeah, well, i can’t do that.  Hehehe.  I love freshly baked bread with a passion!

Recently, while visiting one of my favorite blogs, Market Manila, I came across this recipe for Colicchio & Sons’ Parker House Rolls.  They looked so good, and the ingredients were so basic, that I decided to make them along with some baked pasta for our dinner tonight.  Oh but I substituted honey for the barley malt syrup, I didn’t have that, but I always have several types of honey in the house.  🙂

Here is the dough before the first rising…

And right after the final proofing before shaping.

I made 12 rolls instead of 14 and arranged them (okay, haphazardly arranged them) in my Lodge pan:

And here they are brushed with some unsalted butter, waiting to get into the oven.  I didn’t have any clarified butter on hand or the time to make any, so I used regular unsalted.  🙂

I followed Market Man’s suggestion to put the rolls in the upper third of the oven and I increased the temperature to around 375 degrees for the last 10 minutes.  I was going for 400 but my oven was a little slow.  🙂  Anyway, after exactly 21 minutes, we had freshly baked rolls to go with our dinner tonight!  They were yummy with salted butter, piping hot!  Mmmmmmmmm.

I rushed the final proofing a bit since we were hungry and only let the dough rise for an hour and 30 minutes.  I think they would be much fluffier/softer if I went for the whole 2 hours.  Next time I will follow the recipe to the letter, but they were pretty good nonetheless.  🙂

Bread Salad

To go with the roasted chicken, I made two side dishes, roasted potatoes and a yummy bread salad, inspired by the Zuni Cafe recipe for bread salad.  I didn’t have most of the things in the recipe on hand, so this is a very loosely adapted recipe that came out great!

Bread salad with arugula, walnuts and grapes

To serve 2 hungry people, I used 3 slices of thick cut rye bread, cut out the crusts, and tore it up into chunks (you can use whatever bread you like, the recipe just says not to use sourdough).  I tossed them with some good olive oil and baked them for around 5-10 minutes while I was preheating the oven for the chicken.  I put them in when the oven was at around 400 degrees, they crisped up pretty quickly.

Combine 1/3 cup olive oil with 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  I used sherry vinegar since that’s what i had on hand.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I ended up adding around half a tablespoon more vinegar since I like my vinaigrettes quite tart.  Toss two-thirds of your vinaigrette with the bread and taste again.  Adjust your seasonings to your liking.

Put your bread mixture in the oven for 10 minutes along with a little chicken stock or water (since I was roasting a chicken I added a spoonful of pan juices).  It will come out stuffing-like and delicious – of course I had to have another taste!

To assemble:

Tear up your arugula and toss with the bread.  Add walnuts (I toasted them first) and some grapes.  I love the way the sweetness of the grapes plays off the peppery arugula and the tart vinaigrette.  This was delicious with the roast chicken!