Thursday, January 28, 2010

Repurposing ingredients

Here's how you can repurpose ingredients e.g. char siu marinade can be just as great on salmon! Or repurpose dinner leftovers for lunch. I'll also share my experiments for quick, weeknight dinners (often cooked in my cast iron wok!)

I can't resist taking photos of every meal I eat, so do check back frequently.

Most weeknights, I practice what I preach:

Use what's in my fridge and put a simple meal together.

Jan. 25 Lunch: Tempeh marinaded with San-J tamari and Huy Fong chili sauce grilled and put on top of field greens. I often pickle tomatoes, chayote and onions so they don't spoil. I'll add them to my salad and top with salad dressing like Le Sandwicherie's delicious Vinaigrette. Also had toast with fried egg for extra protein.

Jan.25 Dinner: Grilled Salmon slathered with leftover Char Siu marinade. Just because it's usually used on pork, it doesn't mean you can't use it on fish like salmon. The marinade had honey, tamari, 5 spice powder and chili garlic sauce giving it a nice, crispy texture and keeping it very moist inside.

I stir fried Shanghai bok choy, snow peas, red bell peppers, scallions, cilantro. Also added leftover stir fried baby portobello mushrooms with dash of tamari, lime juice on top of the best fettucine (tasted like fresh, meaty and chewy, yummy!) I will provide brand when I next visit Wholefoods, definitely worth a try if you like pasta.

Jan.28 Lunch: I repurposed leftover Cuban bread from my breakfast when I attended the Entrepreneur Magazine's Growth Conference 2.0. (I didn't realize they were providing breakfast.) If you own your own business, this online and magazine is a 'must read', very inspiring entrepreneurs. I hope to be featured in this magazine when I'm ready. I'm a subscriber and keep all the issues for useful resources and reference. I'll be posting about this conference soon - all the speakers provided tons of information you can apply instantly.

I grilled the bread and topped with bacon and crumbled goat cheese. I always have a crunchy salad, used up pickled tomatoes, chayote and onions with more Le Sandwicherie's vinaigrette and topped with more tempeh.

Jan.28 Dinner: I defrosted a slab of Costco's flap beef steak marinaded with lime juice, tamari and chili garlic sauce. This is a lovely cut for wok stir frys, very tender and delicious. I'll grill this and have with the last bit of field greens and huge beefsteak tomatoes and sweet onions from Laurenzo's Market. Photo later tonight.

Well, this is what being a Wok Star is all about! I changed my mind about serving salad because my husband likes hot food for dinner, he's so Asian. See what I mean about using the same ingredients(tomatoes and onions) to make marinara sauce instead and wholewheat penne. Many would be horrified cooking marinara sauce in their cast iron wok because it's acidic. It does dry it out a bit but you just have to wash out with hot water and oil it a bit with paper towel. The minute you start cooking in it, your patina will build up immediately, so not to panic.

I had to turn a baking tray upside down so the flap steak and pineapple had closer contact to the heat in the grill! You need high heat to give your steak a good sear.

I added the juice from the grilled pineapple and steak into the marinara sauce and heated up again, you can see the change of color in the sauce.

Flap steak with penne, marinara sauce and grilled pineapple.

Jan.29 Lunch: Quinoa salad with field greens, tomatoes, Redlands big head onion, goat cheese with Le Sandwicherie's vinaigrette. I made lunch for Johnson & Wales culinary graduate who's assisting me.

Omelet with tamari and squirt of canola oil makes it fluffy and soft.
Choice of Lingham's chili sauce or salsa verde or both!

Forgot to add crumbled bacon from yesterday. Also had leftover tempeh if I wanted. If you always have a variety of proteins and veggies in your fridge, you'll have options to make something with them.

Chicken Soup and burnt garlic bread, oops

Feb.4: This dinner is the best example of "repurposing ingredients" i.e. using ingredients in a different way. I had defrosted skinned, deboned chicken thighs and planned on making soup to clear my head cold. I found potatoes, carrots, kale and scallions in my fridge, so that was the basis of my soup. I wanted to bulk it up a little, so I rehydrated some dried Chinese mushrooms. Once I started with the Asian ingredients, I decided to add more "dried" ingredients, so rehydrated Goji berries, lilly stems and fungi.

That's the brilliance of having dried veggies always in stock - great as backup. I think my mom would cringe at the idea of mixing potatoes in this mostly Asian soup. But, I think that's the beauty of being a creative cook plus also "repurposing ingredients". Do whatever you want that makes you happy. I can hear Top Chef judges saying things like, 'there's a disconnect with your ingredients". Phooey, I don't care, they worked for me and that's what matters.

I love this square spoon from CB2 (Crate and Barrel) but have to say it's a bit awkward drinking soup with it. I'm sure they were not for drinking but I just wanted to try it. I got 2 for a friend's birthday recently and he was so "tickled" when he opened his present. He loves sushi, so I'm interested to see how he'll use them. I'll be posting that soon.

Last minute, I decided to make my version of garlic bread. I didn't want to melt butter with garlic, so I just diced the garlic and sprinkled on top. I love my Russell Dexter Chinese Chef Knife, it's just the perfect feel and weight for all the chopping I do. I even use the base of the wood handle to thwack my ginger chunks for making soups (not necessary to peel or slice) and see how I transport my diced garlic to my bread?

Wow, grilling is so FAST, I was adding in kale to the soup and next thing I know, garlic smells were drifting up and poof my poor garlic bread got burnt but still good. My husband loves this kind of dinner.

Love to hear any strange East meets West ingredients you've used in one dish...


  1. I have your cast iron wok and am "workin' the wok". How about doing the steak in the wok? Heating it up well, sear the thing, flip it, sear it and your done? I thought about "ringing" the upper part of the wok with pineapple slices just before the steak is done to sear it and get the juices into the meat. Would that work? Would the sugar in the pineapple cause an issue with the wonderful patina that I have lovingly built up?

    I use this wok probably 4 nights a week. It sits on my counter along with the butane stove. Instead of flowers! I happen to think wok and stove are more beautiful.

    Cape Cod Momma

  2. Hi Wok Star Marilyn(Cape Cod Mamma)...Nice you checked in and to hear you've got your wok + stove conveniently on your counter, you can also have flowers, it's not either or(photos of flowers in my kitchen soon)!

    Steak fried in wok - ABSOLUTELY, gives it nice sear, also burgers. I just didn't want more oil, so grilling is alternative. Yes, pineapple can caramelize and result in 'fond' (hard layer). BUT, as mentioned re: acidity from tomatoes, your patina will build back up immediately when you use it.

    Can you say what dishes you have NOT used your wok for? Also, do you have kids cooking with you? Fascinated. Thx again for dropping by.

  3. I don't use my wok for anything with cheese. First of all I don't eat much of it, second of all I'm worried about it sticking, 3rd and most important.....not much cheese in authentic Chinese dishes.
    I cook with grand children and my grown son. My husband is my veggie chopper. My granddaughters think woking is cool and "get it" when it comes to food. My son lives 2 hours away but we wok together over the phone! Lots of fun and hootin' and laughing! For his birthday I think I will get him one of your woks since his is not the greatest and he has to re-season it often. He makes a mean curry.

    I do want to try lobster in it though. I'm trying to work that one out in my head since I really don't want to boil water (or can I?) in this wok and expect it to keep its patina. My son-in-law and daughter own a seafood restaurant and I can get my hands on as much seafood as I want. Unfortunately, they are only open 9 months a year and they are closed now. But, the lobster thing is something I'm thinking about. I guess I could steam it, but I'd like to jazz it up a bit.

    Any suggestions?

  4. Marilyn, thnx for sharing your cooking stories with family, very thrilled you have them participate. I know from personal experience these are the precious childhood memories I treasure.

    You can use your wok for steaming, soups, stews, curries, I've done all, click on One Dish Wok Meals in side bar.

    Lobster or any seafood is delicious stir fried like you did the shrimp and asparagus dish with either black or brown bean sauce and the Huy Fong chili garlic sauce. I'm salivating thinking about this.

    Plse send me photos of you cooking with your grandkids, I want to post you as Wok Star on site. Also photos of lobster dish when you get round to cooking it.

  5. Cast iron wok must be so heavy. I am using a stainless steel one now.

  6. Hi Tigerfish, thnx for dropping by. My cast iron wok is a thin walled one from China, only weighs 3 lbs! You'll love it. I checked out your S'pore vs Hong Kong post. Very interesting blog.

  7. Finally got the chance to read this post. This is very helpful as most people don't have the time to follow a recipe. But your examples of dishes are very helpful. I do have a stainless steel wok but couldn't find a cast-iron wok yet. If I'm going to have one, I might have the one same as yours. I might as well get the whole kit!

  8. You are a serious Wok Star! Love this idea... I think it is a great exercise for all home cooks - to see just how much they can repurpose.

  9. Divina - providing technique and why of something gives me the structure to make variations. So, I hope this helps others to do same.

    Averagebetty - just want people to know you it's so easy to use the same ingredient in different ways. Like what you're doing too. Thnx for visit.


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