Spicy Edamame

Spicy Edamame Beans Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

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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Spicy Edamame Recipe

serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound frozen edamame beans in their shells
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, 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.
  2. Heat up oil, garlic, liquid smoke, salt, sambal and red pepper flakes in a pan, then add the edamame beans and stir to coat.
  3. For more spiciness sprinkle more red pepper flakes on.

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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.

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

Chicken Lettuce Cups

Chicken Lettuce Cups

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

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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Chicken Lettuce Cups Recipe

serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

For the marinade:

  • 1 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 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 it).
  2. Meanwhile whisk vinegar, soy sauce, oil and cornstarch together in a bowl. 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 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).

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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.

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

Bruschetta with Basil-Infused Olive Oil

Bruschetta with Basil Infused Olive Oil

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

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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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.

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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? :)

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

Ginger Lime Cilantro Chicken Wings

Asian Chicken Wings Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Happy Thanksgiving week everyone! In case you need a break from anything turkey/pumpkin/ green bean casserole etc. related I’ve got this easy and delicious chicken wings recipe for you. There are more flavors than just ginger, lime and cilantro packed in here, I just didn’t want to stuff all of them into the title.

I marinated the wings in a mix of ginger, lime zest, cilantro, sesame, crushed red pepper flakes, honey, garlic, rice vinegar and soy sauce and they are exploding with great flavor. (The recipe is actually a spinoff from my Asian noodle salad and my chicken stir fry). I reserved some of the marinade, cooked it down to a syrup and glazed the wings with it towards the end of the baking time for extra yummi- and stickiness. Perfect snacking and party food! :)

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Ginger Lime Cilantro Chicken Wings Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 whole chicken wings
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • zest from 1 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Separate the wings into their three components. Discard the wing tips and keep only the drumettes and wingettes.
  2. Whisk soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, honey, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, lime zest and ginger together in a liquid measuring cup. Pour half of the mix into a bowl, cover the remaining mix and put in the fridge.
  3. Add the cilantro to the bowl, then place the chicken wings into the bowl, cover and marinate for 45 minutes in the fridge.
  4. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, place a wire rack on it and set the wings on the rack.
  6. Bake the wings for 35 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile pour the remaining sauce mix into a saucepan and simmer until reduced to a syrup (about 8 minutes).
  8. Brush the syrup on the chicken wings, then return them to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle the green onion over the wings and serve.

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Food Photography and Styling: To emphasize the pretty color of these wings I kept all props in the shot neutral and to bring out some shine I lit the wings from the back. (As usual I used my strobe to light the set). I didn’t have any fabrics that would have worked as a surface so I just used a plain black poster board. The napkin that’s sitting underneath the bowl was much lighter in color than what you see here so I darkened it a bit in Photoshop to make the colors fit.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/160 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing and Crispy Fried Shallots

Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing and Crispy Fried Shallots

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Ah, salads. If you’ve been coming here for a while you probably know that salads are not my thing. I think my body is just not used to all the healthiness of raw greens and the absence of butter and cream so whenever there is a salad on offer my automatic reaction is to skip it. This salad here, however, is an exception; it’s the kind you get as an appetizer at a sushi bar and I actually like it (gasp!).

The dressing is flavorful and creamy but the main attraction is a topping of crispy shallots. The shallots are deep fried and even though they are easy to make they do require your undivided attention. You’ve got to watch and stir them constantly to make sure that they brown evenly and you have to take them out when they turn a light caramel color, if you let them get too dark they will turn horrendously bitter. Other than that everything is straightforward. I suggest you serve this salad as an appetizer with a cup of hot sake or tea.

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Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing and Crispy Fried Shallots Recipe

serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds (more for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon soy sauce
  • lettuce greens, such as romaine or red leaf and shredded red cabbage

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oil until shimmering.
  2. Add the shallots to the oil and fry until they are light brown. Stir them constantly to ensure that they brown evenly. (Don’t let them get too dark or they’ll become very bitter).
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots onto a paper towel and set aside.
  4. Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a bowl.
  5. Toss the lettuce and cabbage with the dressing and sprinkle with the crispy shallots and sesame seeds.

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Food Photography and Styling: I found this purple napkin in my fabric box the other day and thought I could try it out as a surface for this shot. It’s a bit flashy maybe but overall I still actually liked it with all the black Asian props and the colors of the salad. I observed the rule of thirds (at least approximately) here and let the crease in the napkin run down ones of the lines that divides the frame into thirds. As usual, I lit this photo with my strobe.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Sweet and Sour Ginger Roasted Mushrooms

If you are as much a fan of the intense flavors of sweet and sour Asian dishes as I am then you’ll love these mushrooms. They are sweet, sour, ginger-y, and slightly spicy and make a fantastic appetizer.

Sweet and Sour Ginger Roasted Mushrooms

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Here’s how it works: you marinate oyster, beech and shiitake mushrooms (along with a smidgeon of sliced chili pepper) in a mix of rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and ginger and then roast them until they are nicely tender. Before serving be sure to sprinkle a bit of fresh green onion on to contrast the intense sweet and sour flavors. Bon appetit! :)

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Sweet and Sour Ginger Roasted Mushrooms Recipe

serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon thinly sliced fresh chili pepper
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps cut in half
  • 4 ounces Beech mushrooms, stems trimmed
  • 4 ounces oyster mushrooms, stems trimmed
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced (don’t skip, it’s not just for garnish, it’s required to contrast the sweet and sour flavors of the mushrooms)

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Whisk rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, honey and oil together in a bowl.
  3. Add the chili pepper and the mushrooms, stir around a few times to coat everything, then let the mix sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Spread the mushrooms out on a baking sheet and roast until tender (about 10 minutes).
  5. Sprinkle with green onion slices and serve.

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Food Photography and Styling: I used a wooden placemat that I bought years ago from Target as the surface in this shot. I don’t know why I don’t use it more often, it’s a good prop actually, the color is nicely muted and the mosaic pattern looks nicely interesting. The backdrop is a brown cork tile (another prop I should use more often…). Because I wanted to bring out the nice shiny glaze on the mushrooms I lit this photo from the back using my strobe.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/6.3, 1/125 sec., ISO 50. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

Roasted Mushrooms with Chive Garlic Butter

Roasted Mushrooms with Garlic Chive Butter Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

To me, one of the most fun things about a vegetable garden is figuring out how to make use of every little leaf it produces and let absolutely nothing die out there. So in that spirit I’ve started to take action on the enormous (by my gardening standards) chive bushes I have this year (see picture below).

This recipe is a (modest) start. Chive garlic butter. It’s delicious and goes well on seafood, steaks, potatoes, you name it. You don’t only have to put it on roasted mushrooms, but it is great on those too, of course. Serve the butter slightly softened for maximum flavor.

Chives

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Roasted Mushrooms with Chive Garlic Butter Recipe

serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon very, very thinly sliced chives
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 7 ounces oyster mushrooms
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 ounces Beech mushrooms
  • olive oil

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Season butter with salt and pepper to taste, then mix with the chives and the garlic.
  3. Spread the mushrooms onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.
  5. Roast the mushrooms until tender (10 – 15 minutes).
  6. Serve mushrooms with the butter.

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Food Photography and Styling: Well, I resorted to my trusty “bright food, dark shadows” lighting scheme here (using my strobe to the side of the set). I placed the chives on the plate to emphasize their importance in the recipe. The little bowl with the butter had actually a much more red color that clashed with the color of the plate so I brushed a warmer white balance on in Photoshop and that did the trick.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

Baked Brie with Ginger Cardamom Raspberry Jam

Baked Brie with Ginger Cardamom Raspberry Jam and Thyme

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

A while ago my blogging buddy Allie of Baking a Moment concocted an incredible Danish pastry recipe with a blackberry ginger filling and as soon as I saw that I put ginger berry jam on my to-do list. So for this baked brie here I made a ginger cardamom raspberry condiment that adds some great flavors to the creamy, oozy cheese and makes it a delicious and also somewhat fancy appetizer. The jam is fantastic all by itself, I kept eating it with a spoon throughout the photo shoot. I’m going to try it out on some sweet dishes as well and will be sure to post any noteworthy recipes I come up with. Meanwhile enjoy this brie!

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Baked Brie with Ginger Cardamom Raspberry Jam Recipe

serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

For the ginger cardamom raspberry jam:

  • 6 ounces frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

For the brie:

  • 1 brie
  • a few thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon toasted almonds (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the ginger cardamom raspberry jam:

  1. Add frozen raspberries, sugar and cornstarch to a saucepan and start to cook on medium heat, stirring until everything is combined.
  2. Once the raspberries have thawed add the ginger and the cardamom.
  3. Cook until the fruit is completely broken down and the jam thickened (about 10 minutes).
  4. Let cool.

For the brie:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Set the brie on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake until warm and melted (about 10 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle thyme leaves and almonds on the brie and serve with the jam.

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Food Photography and Styling: The surface I used here is actually the seat of a chair that I bought at the World Market a while ago and I used it here because I thought it worked well with the cheese board. It’s not my favorite background because of its intense and warm color that doesn’t photograph well (which is a shame because I love the texture). Anyway, I started by photographing just the open brie with the jar of jam on the side but the two items looked strangely disconnected so I spooned some jam on the brie and that tied the two together nicely. I lit the photo from the back with my strobe.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.