Spicy Edamame

spicy edamame beans appetizer
I had spicy edamame beans at a sushi restaurant for the first time a little while ago and I can tell you I have never been this surprised and impressed with a dish. Up until that dinner I had only ever had plain steamed and salted edamame and I always found those to be “meh” at best. Well, it turns out that spicy edamame are a completely different story! They are exciting and full of interesting flavors; a bit garlicky, a bit smoky, a bit salty and a bit spicy. You get all these flavors when you bite into the pod to squeeze out the actual beans. It’s a really addictive appetizer, we ate the entire plate barely taking a breath between bites.

Naturally I tried to replicate the recipe at home. Since it seems impossible to create the smokiness you get from a restaurant-quality wok and burner at home I resorted to liquid smoke and while that’s not exactly the same thing it does come close. In addition to that I added sambal, garlic, salt and dried red pepper flakes. The dish is easy to make, you just steam or boil the edamame beans, then heat the remaining ingredients in a bit of vegetable oil, toss the beans in the oil and voila, you’re done. If you’ve only ever had regular salted edamame I urge you to try this, it will change your view of the vegetable completely!

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Food Photography and Styling: I saw these old wood planks sitting in an alley behind a store here in town a few weeks ago and thought they might work well as a surface and it turns out they do! The store owner said he would love for me to take them off his hands so that just goes to show that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. The burlap is a really cute small bag that I got at a distillery a few months ago (the bottle of gin I bought was in it) and it worked perfectly as a placemat type-of-thing here. To reinforce the idea that these edamame are spicy I set a small jar with crushed red pepper flakes into the composition (and since the recipe says that you can sprinkle on flakes to taste that wasn’t too far fetched). As usual I used my strobe to light the set.

Camera Settings: Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

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little heart

Spicy Edamame Recipe

 
serves 2 as a large appetizer and 4 as a small appetizer

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound frozen edamame beans in their shells
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sambal
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicier)

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Steam or boil the edamame beans according to package instructions. Drain and let dry. (Do not skip the drying period, it’s important. You don’t want soggy edamame).
  2. In a large pan, heat oil, garlic, liquid smoke, salt, sambal and red pepper flakes all together until fragrant.
  3. Add the edamame beans, stir to coat and cook for another minute.
  4. Eat the edamame by biting into the pods and squeezing out the beans. Discard the empty pods.

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Chicken Lettuce Cups

chicken lettuce wraps food photography

Ah, lettuce cups – as crunchy and refreshing as a salad but with flavor! A brilliant invention. This here is a recipe I’ve been making for years and it’s an adaptation from America’s Test Kitchen. I love everything about it, it’s savory, a little bit spicy, very satisfying and takes little effort to put together. Plus, apart from the vegetables and the chicken breast, it’s made purely with very regular pantry ingredients. You can serve these as an appetizer but they are pretty filling so I find that they make a great main course.

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Food Photography and Styling: This is an old photo, I took it several years ago and had forgotten about it but when I made this recipe again recently I was reminded of it and thought “Why not post it?” I don’t remember all the details but I do recall that these are actually two lettuce leaves that I stitched together with a toothpick to make it look like a more or less round bowl. The white sake set fit well with the Asian theme and with the white square plate that the cup is sitting on. I used my strobe to light the set from the side.

Camera Settings: Nikon D300, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 200. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

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little heart

Chicken Lettuce Cups Recipe

 
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

For the marinade:

  • 1 large or 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 5 medium–large shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • lettuce
  • hoisin sauce (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the marinade:

  1. Put the chicken cubes in the freezer for about 10 minutes until they start to harden. (This will make it easier to process them).
  2. Meanwhile whisk vinegar, soy sauce, oil and cornstarch together in a bowl large enough to hold the processed chicken. Set aside.
  3. Grind the chicken in the food processor, then mix it into the marinade and put in the fridge for 10 minutes.

For the sauce:

  1. Whisk sake, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, oil, sesame seeds, cornstarch and pepper flakes together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat a bit of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan on high heat.
  3. Fry the chicken in the oil until cooked through. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Add more oil to the pan and fry mushrooms, green onions and celery until they start to soften.
  5. Add the chicken back into the pan, then add the sauce and cook until it thickens and turns translucent.
  6. Fill the lettuce leaves with the chicken mixture.
  7. Serve with hoisin sauce (optional).

Bruschetta with Basil-Infused Olive Oil

Bruschetta with Basil Infused Olive Oil

There’s a thick blanket of snow outside but I’ve been in the mood for something fresh and summery lately. Do you sometimes just pretend it’s summer when it’s winter? I do that a lot. So I made these bruschetta and while they are a summer food they are of course tasty year-round. What makes them extra basil-y is the fact that I brushed the baguette slices liberally with basil-infused olive oil on both sides before putting the tomato and fresh basil topping on. That not only adds additional basil flavor but also helps the baguette bake up really crispy and juicy (nothing worse than dry bruschetta). As a matter of fact, if you’re out of tomatoes the baked, basil oil baguette slices are mighty good by themselves.

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Food Photography and Styling: I played around with different color combinations in this photo and finally settled on the brown tones and the glass of red wine (actually sparkling cider that we still had open in the fridge). The background is a piece of faux suede fabric that I had so far only ever used as a surface (it’s the fabric under the apple tart in this photo) and I really liked its texture as a background so I’ll probably use it more often in the future. And, yes, I used my strobe to light the set. You knew that, right? :)

Camera Settings: Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 125. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

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Bruschetta with Basil-Infused Olive Oil Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

For the basil-infused olive oil:

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For the bruschetta:

  • 1 demi baguette, sliced
  • ~ 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
  • 5 large basil leaves, chopped

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the basil-infused olive oil:

  1. Puree basil and olive oil in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Pour the mix into a saucepan and heat on high for 1 minute.
  3. Strain through a sieve, then let the oil cool. (You can mix a garlic clove and a bit of salt into the basil puree you have in the strainer and spread it on a piece of toast for a quick snack).

For the bruschetta:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Brush each baguette slice liberally with the basil oil on both sides, then set on a baking sheet.
  3. Top each slice with tomato and chopped basil.
  4. Drizzle a bit of basil oil over the tomatoes, then sprinkle with a bit of salt and bake until the bread turns golden brown and the basil starts to wilt.