Okayu is a Japanese porridge renowned for its ability to cure anything from garden-variety stomach ailments to hangovers. Healing properties aside, I just love it as a savory breakfast.

okayu

To make okayu, you use a larger volume of liquid than is typically used to make rice and you cook it for a fairly long time: you want the result to be “soupy”.

There are many ways to make okayu, but often it is quite plain: with white rice, water, and maybe a little poached chicken. Here I’ve used more nutritious brown rice and added some flavorful stock, vegetables, and garnishes.

The idea for the matcha salt isn’t mine; it’s from Eric Gower. To make it, mix 1/4 cup course sea salt with 1 teaspoon of powdered matcha green tea. Use as a finishing salt for the okayu.

Recipe for Okayu
serves 4

Ingredients:

* 1 cup short grain brown rice, rinsed
* 4 cups homemade vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
* 2-4 cups water
* 1/2 cup dried mushrooms (I used porcinis; feel free to use another variety such as shiitakes)
* 1 cup shelled edamame (young green soybeans available in the freezer section of most large supermarkets)
* 4 tablespoons minced green onions- for serving
* 4 tablespoons minced all-natural pickled ginger (sushi ginger)- for serving
* matcha salt- for serving (see above)
*a drizzle of toasted sesame oil for serving- optional

Directions:

Place brown rice and 4 cups of the stock or water in a large pot on the stove. Add 2 more cups of water and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes- 1 hour. Add the additional 2 cups of water only if too much water is getting absorbed; remember that you want the end result to be “soupy”.

Add the edamame and the dried mushrooms and cook for another 30-45 minutes, again adding additional water if necessary.

When it has finished cooking, scoop the okayu into individual serving dishes and top each one tablespoon each of the minced green onion and the pickled ginger. Add a drizzle of the optional sesame oil and a generous sprinkling of the matcha salt before serving; I also love this with an egg cooked in organic coconut oil served on top!

This is a luscious vegan curry, inspired by the delicious Tomato and Coconut Fish Curry recipe in Monica Bhide’s lovely book, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen. As an aside, I was thrilled to meet Monica in person this weekend at the Roger Smith Food Writer’s Conference.

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The chutney is optional, but is super easy to make. Monica does have a mint-cilantro chutney recipe in the book, but I improvised the one here.

If you aren’t vegan, I think this is really nice alongside Amreen’s Biryani recipe that’s available on Food52. This curry also works well over any cooked grain and/or with warm Naan or another Indian-style bread.

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Vegetarian Coconut Curry Recipe

adapted from Modern Spice by Monica Bhide
Serves 4

Ingredients:

* 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil or ghee
* 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
* 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
* 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
* 1 Serrano chile pepper, seeded and minced
* 1 globe eggplant
* 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into cubes
* one 14 oz. can organic whole coconut milk
* 1 zucchini, chopped into cubes
* 1 green pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
* 2 cups chopped collard greens
* 1 tomato, chopped
* 1 teaspoon tumeric
* 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder or other red chile powder
* 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
* fresh mint for the chutney- optional
* fresh cilantro for the chutney- optional
* fresh lime juice for the chutney- optional
* organic sugar for the chutney- optional

Directions:

1. Cut the eggplant cross-wise into 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Sprinkle them all over with salt and allow to drain in a colander over the sink for 20-30 minutes. Rinse well to remove all the salt and chop into bite-sized pieces.

2. In a large skillet or wok, melt the coconut oil or ghee over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook for a minute or two until they "pop", then add the ginger, garlic, and chili pepper. Stir everything around for a minute or so.

3. Add the chopped eggplant and sweet potato to the pan along with the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if the liquid seems too thick.

4. Add the zucchini, green pepper, collard greens and tomato, and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender, again adding a little water if necessary.

5. Mix in the spices and salt. Cook for one minute more. Taste and adjust the spices, if necessary. Add a little more red chile powder and/or salt, if you like.

6. To make the simple mint-cilantro chutney, mix equal parts chopped mint and cilantro with fresh lime and a little organic sugar. Taste and adjust the lime and sugar to your liking. I used about 1/2 cup each of the herbs, the juice of 1/2 lime and 1 tsp. of sugar. You can make a little or a lot of this, but just know that it doesn't keep very well, so don't plan to refrigerate it longer than a day or two.

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This post is linked to Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday!

The 2010 February Daring Cook’s Challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

My Mezze for the Daring Cooks Challenge

Mezze for the Daring Cooks Challenge

Mezze (aka meze) is a selection of small plates typical of Middle Eastern cuisine…an assortment of appetizers, so to speak. Warm pitas and hummus are classic mezze items, and making these was the mandatory part of the challenge. A mezze also usually includes fresh salads and dips with bold and often spicy flavors.

I stayed pretty traditional and served my pitas and hummus with homemade preserved lemons, a bowl of olives, a tomato and cucumber salad enhanced with fresh mint, and leftovers of this chickpea salad with fiery harissa.

Note that I made my pitas with spelt flour and I didn’t knead the dough as much the recipe suggests. Also, I refrigerated it for a few days before making the pitas (these are techniques I learned from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking). Other than that, I stuck to the challenge recipes as given.

Pita Bread Recipe
adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons dry yeast
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (I used spelt flour)
1 Tb. salt
2 Tb. olive oil

Directions:

In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.

Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir.

Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick.

pitadoughonsheet

Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.

Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry. It should still taste delicious.

finishedpita

Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Hummus Recipe
adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

Ingredients:

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking)
2-2 1/2 lemons, juiced
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

Directions:

Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Purée the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Homemade hummus

Homemade hummus

Preserved lemons I made last summer

Preserved lemons I made last summer

Tomato, cucumber and mint salad

Tomato, cucumber and mint salad

I enjoy every Daring Cooks’ challenge, but I really appreciated the simple and delicious food of this mezze…Thanks to Michele for this wonderful idea!

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