So, have you ever had Chinese broccoli??
If not…. we need to talk. Because you’re missing out.
Chinese broccoli, also known as gai lan, is simply fabulous.
It looks like this:
And you can find it at your local farmers market or nearby Chinese market.
I particularly love this vegetable because it has nice toothsome stems, but at the same time, tender leaves and florets.
It tastes very similar to broccoli raab, with a slightly bitter edge, especially in the stems.
It stir fries quickly, and is perfect on its own with just a little oyster sauce, or added to more complex dishes, like this one 🙂
This dish was partially inspired by the dan dan noodles served at Lukshon here in LA (thanks Sang Yoon!).
Real dan dan noodles are smothered in a spicy Szechuan oil that is tongue-burningly hot. My version gets its spice from a combination of Sriracha, red pepper flakes, and hot sesame oil.
You simple stir fry up some Chinese broccoli, whisk together a quick sauce, brown some pork, & then toss everything all together.
The result: a warm spicy pot of noodles that far surpasses any takeout.
I hope you enjoy.
Spicy Pork Noodles with Chinese Broccoli
- 1 inch bunch Chinese broccoli, chopped into 1 pieces
- 4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
- 1 ¼ cup chicken broth, divided
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, divided
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
- 1 lb ground pork
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons black bean sauce
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 10 oz dried lo mein noodles
- 1 cup chopped green onion
- generous drizzle of hot sesame oil
Heat two tablespoons of peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet until shimmering. Add the Chinese broccoli and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the stems are crisp-tender, roughly 10 to 15 minutes. When the broccoli is crisp tender, remove from the pan into a bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together ½ cup chicken broth, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon Sriracha, and 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce. Whisk until combined, and set aside.
Add two more tablespoons peanut oil to the pan & set over medium-high heat. Add the ground pork and sauté, breaking up with a spatula into tiny bits. Cook for roughly 10 minutes until browned.
Add the garlic and shallots and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
Add the ground black pepper, black bean sauce, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, ¾ cup chicken broth, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar. Stir to combine, and cook for a few more minutes until evaporated. Turn off the heat & let the pork rest in the pan until the noodles are ready.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and add the noodles. Cook for 5 minutes (or according to package directions) until tender, & drain.
Add the noodles to the pan with the pork. Add the reserved sauce from earlier, & cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
Add the Chinese broccoli & green onion and toss to combine. Drizzle liberally with hot sesame oil & serve.
Have you ever tried fennel fronds?
There are a zillion recipes out there using fennel bulbs, but very few that use the stalks and fennel fronds.
But they ARE edible. Even delicious!
They have that anise flavor, but are significantly less pungent than the bulb. And just like the bulb, that licorice-y taste diminishes as you cook it. Since the fronds especially are so thin and delicate, they are perfect after just a slight saute.
So here we go. A recipe using fennel fonds 🙂
You can just rip the fronds off the stalks of fennel from the store, OR if you are lucky enough to live in California and are feeling adventurous, there is plenty of wild fennel around, just ripe for the picking.
Case in point: Wild fennel seen during a hike in Livermore.
Please note: Wild fennel is different than the kind you get in the store. There is no bulb! So don’t try to dig it up (I learned this the hard way…). Just pluck off the fennel fronds and be on your merry way. Just be sure to wash them very very well before you use them!
This is a really simple recipe. Follow the picture steps and see the full recipe and health tip below!
First, pluck off all the fennel fronds from 2 large fennel stalks or gather a bunch from the wild:
Then chop them all up.
Next, prep the sausage. Slit them down the center with a sharp knife to cut through the casing:
Then remove the casing and crumble into your pan (the smaller the better so you don’t have to do as much breaking up with your spatula while cooking).
After browning, add the garlic and fennel fronds.
Then cook for a couple minutes.
Then add the pasta, some pasta water to create a sauce, and some yummy cheese. Season with pepper and enjoy!
Health Tip: The compound in fennel responsible for that classic licorice flavor is called anethole. A study conducted out of the University of Texas in the year 2000 showed that anethole is able to block many TNF (tumor necrosis factor) cellular pathways that can increase inflammation. Anethole has been suggested to work as an anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compound. (source here)
Pasta with Sausage and Fennel Fronds
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or safflower oil for low salicylates)
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage, crumbled
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup finely chopped fennel fronds
- 1 lb bowtie pasta
- 1/4 cup pasta cooking water
- 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan-romano cheese blend
- ground pepper to taste (omit if salicylate sensitive)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add the olive oil and sausage to a large nonstick skillet. Heat over medium-high heat and cook for 8-10 minutes until browned. Take care to break up the sausage into small pieces with your spatula.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions, usually about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and fennel fronds to the sausage and cook for 3-5 minutes more until garlic is fragrant. Then reduce the heat to low.
Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water and drain the rest of the pasta.
Add the cooking water and pasta to the skillet and stir to combine. Sprinkle on the cheese and toss again to combine.
Season with pepper and serve (with additional cheese if desired).
When was the last time you enjoyed a garden fresh summer tomato?
Not the mealy, pale, flavorless grocery store tomatoes, but a juicy, vibrant, dribble down your chin, REAL tomato?
Cause that’s what this recipe is all about. TOMATO TOMATO TOMATO!
It uses 3 delectable types:
- fresh tomatoes
- sundried tomatoes
- tomato paste
These 3 ingredients marry into a rich, tangy sauce that you’ll go gaga over.
And even better? There’s no cooking required! Yep, this entire pasta sauce is made in a blender. Perfect for hot summer nights.
Serve it with a simple side salad & maybe some herbed garlic bread, and you’ve got Italy right in your living room 😉 So get your butt to the farmers market for some fresh tomatoes & try this recipe!
Pasta with No-Cook Tomato Sauce
- 1 lb torchiette or other tubular or spiral pasta
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt & ground black pepper, to taste
- Grated parmesan cheese or fresh ricotta, for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, add the fresh tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, garlic, olive oil, and a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper to a blender. Cover & blend for 1 minute, or until smooth. If sauce is too thick, add more olive oil to thin. Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
When pasta is done cooking, drain, return to pot, and toss with pasta sauce. Serve immediately, with your choice of cheese on top.