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Dinner Inspirations: April 2021

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

Shown above, store bought vegetable raviolis served over three sauces: Pureed carrot miso, Spinach and pea, and a tangy puree of those little marinated Peruvian mini/drop peppers that you find on olive bars.

This dish looks much more complicated than it is. I cooked a couple of carrots in the Instant Pot (two minutes, high), tossed 'em into the food processor with some Mirin, Shio Koji condiment, onion powder and sweet white miso. Puree to a smooth consistency, adding more Mirin and liquid Shio Koji to get you there.

The green sauce is simply nuked/thawed frozen, chopped spinach and peas, that I pureed in the food processor with cilantro, onion powder, Mirin and Shio Koji condiment.

The red sauce (that is sadly not completely visible for those big ravioli!) is just those tiny marinated red Peruvian drop peppers that I get from the local Whole Foods olive bar. Whiz 'em up in the food processor with a bit of tomato paste. I keep a jar of this in the fridge all the time to drizzle over vegetables, or put on a sandwich.

Cook your raviolis according to package instructions, and when done, lay them carefully over the sauces that have been artfully smeared on the plate. This is just taking a big spoonful of the sauce and smearing it in an arch. Add the next sauce, and do same. You get it. I warmed up the sauces before 'plating', and made sure the plates were hot, too. Garnish with some julienned fresh basil, parsley leaves, some sliced cherry tomatoes and red pepper flakes.

This is one of the dishes I first learned to cook - oh, almost 60 years ago. My dad loved yellow summer squash in a white wine sauce. I've expanded on his idea by adding leeks and some sweet red bell pepper, and then serving it over some toothsome, al dente pasta.

I used one yellow summer squash - halved, with the seeds scooped out - then sliced into bite-sized pieces. One big fat leek. Cut the dark green parts off and save that in your freezer for a fast stock. Slice the white and light green part down the middle - long ways - and then slice horizontally. Take one half of a large sweet red pepper, and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

You'll be doing a wet-sauté/braise using about 1-1/2 cups of any combination of water/stock/white wine. I also added about 1/2 tsp of granulated garlic and a couple teaspoons of my favorite herb blend for vegetables: Summer Garden Salt Free Herb Blend, from the Spice House.

Start your pasta, and while it's cooking, sauté the vegetables over medium high heat, drizzling enough liquid in to keep food from sticking. As the vegetables reach al denté, pour in the rest of the liquid and reduce it slightly. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Add some salt and freshly ground pepper.

Take the heat down to a simmer, cover and hold while your pasta finishes. Drain the pasta, and spoon the vegetables and sauce over. Serve.

If you haven't tried Butler's Soy Curls, then you should. I keep a few bags in the pantry at all times. These little unassuming wonders are so flexible, they can go in any dish, any cuisine, in just minutes.

All they need is a ten minute soak in hot tap water, and then a quick drain in a colander while you prep the other vegetables. What other vegetables? The choice is yours! This night, I had: asparagus, a half of an onion, a few broccoli stems and some of those mini peppers. Oh, and there was some leftover red Thai rice. I always have 'leftover' grains. That's the beauty of batch cooking. You have extra for those spur of the moment meals.

As you can see, I sautéed the soy curls first, until they just began to color, then set them aside, while I started the vegetables. Wet sauté with a splash of stock for a couple minutes until the pan is beginning to dry out. Splash in some more stock, turn of the heat a bit and cover, for another couple minutes. Uncover. Stir. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Until the vegetables are almost al denté. Add the soy curls back in. Adjust seasonings. Pour in the remaining stock and reduce it for a couple more minutes. Reduce heat to simmer.

The magic of this dish? The stock. It's a rough combination of salt free vegetable stock, Japanese sake, Mirin, a splash of soy sauce and a splash of Shiso Koji condiment. For seasoning? I used the Argyle Street Seasoning from the Spice House. Don't spend a lot on sake for cooking. Keep it under $10 for a large bottle.

This seasoning is subtle and nuanced. It can move deftly from Japan to Southeast Asia to China. It can be your favorite 'go to' seasoning for any Asian dish.

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