Sunday, July 31, 2011

ZEN ASIAN FUSION - The Restaurant

Zen Asian Fusion & Lounge

At all times, I keep a list of MY top 3 restaurants that I MUST experience.  Last night I had the pleasure of eating at ZEN ASIAN FUSION in Charleston, SC.  WOW!  After a fabulous meal, I kept ruminating all through the night about the food, the choices, the sauces, my future choices, MY LEFTOVERS, etc.

After entering a very humble exterior, I was quite surprised by a rich warm interior.  The mood was set.  Choices were abundant.  Typically Charleston, dress is casual. 

I did choose appetizers and a dinner course.  The food was in abundance and in the future, I'll dine on appetizers and skip the main course ( I like the grazing nature of appetizers.)

Along with a fine house Cab, I sampled the Thai Calamari, a lightly battered fried calamari (one large sliced piece - not like the Jersey rings), served with mango salsa sauce and sweet Thai chili sauce.  FABULOUS!  My second selection was one of Zen's signature rolls, the Paradise.  This roll consisted of the spicy lobster salad, shrimp tempura and banana tempura wrapped in soybean paper and Yuzu Mango Sauce.  GEEZZEE, I can't get this one out of my mind.  I literally could go back there today and do it all again! 

For my entree I chose another Chef's Signature dish, Thai Cashew Sauce,  comprised of celery, zucchini, asparagus, sweet peas and cashew nuts, with a choice of chicken, beef, shrimp or all three.  I love the flexibility of the chef.  I requested tofu for my protein of choice, which presented to be no problem AT ALL.  Nice!  I also love being given the choice between white and brown rice. 

Topping off the evening was a very tasty and very eloquently presented Red Bean Ice Cream.  To date this is my favorite restaurant located outside of Charleston's downtown.  Apparently others have discovered this gem; in the short 14 mo. that this restaurant has existed, ZEN ASIAN FUSION was voted the BEST ASIAN RESTAURANT of 2011.  I definitely know why!  This restaurant has it all.

Take a look at their complete menu:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


My OKRA plants are finally starting to produce...more than one at a time.  Today I had about 10 OKRA to work with and decided on Italian Okra and Tomatoes, capitalizing on the fresh oregano from the garden.

the start of the saute process
beautiful fresh okra and oregano

here's what I did:


10 pieces of OKRA, trim ends and slice
1 can of diced tomatoes with basil and garlic (or use your fresh tomatoes, parboil and peel)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 red wine
3 cloves garlic, peel and slice
4 sprigs of fresh oregano, just drop in the whole sprigs (remove when serving)
salt and pepper, to taste


Put all of the above ingredients into the saucepan.  Bring to a boil and quickly reduce to a simmer, cooking with the lid on.  Cook about 20 to 25 minutes. 

shown here served with penne with green tomato sauce (see prior blog)


I had a lot of green tomatoes AFTER I ripped out every single tomato plant from my new Southern garden ...THE WILT.   OH don't even ask!  Hmmmm just hated the thought of wasting all that product.  Even the varmints don't want the green ones. 

After searching the internet I found several very interesting recipes, including green tomato ketchup and green tomato casserole.  I settled on making Green Tomato Pasta Sauce and served it on whole wheat pasta.  This is an easy, low budget and tasty treat AND the sauce can be frozen for future use.
cut into 1/8 s


3 Tbsp good quality olive oil
3 medium cloves of garlic, chopped
3 medium (bigger than a tennis ball, smaller than a soft ball) green tomatoes, cut into eights
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in a large pot over medium low heat.
Add garlic and cook about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes and increase heat to medium.

Saute, stirring for a couple of minutes.
Add water and dried basil, cook covered about 30 minutes
Check to make sure the tomatoes are soft.
Transfer contents to a food processor or blender and add the cheese.  Puree
Transfer to a saucepan and season to taste. 
Reheat and serve over hot pasta of choice.
Use fresh, chopped basil as a garnish OR I serve it with a dollop of my basil pesto.
Serve over whole wheat pasta with grated Parmesan.

the finished green tomato sauce

penne pasta with green tomato sauce and a dollop of pesto
served with Italian okra and tomatoes (recipe to follow)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


great served with the Barbecue Lentils with Eggplant


1/2 tsp salt
1 cup instant polenta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (I use Vegan Parm)
4 Tbsp butter (I use Earth Balance)


Bring 3 cups of water and the salt to a boil in a saucepan.  Stirring constantly, add in the polenta. 

Cook, still stirring constantly, until the polenta thickens, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir in the Parmesan and butter.

Cover and set aside until the butter melts, about 2 minutes.

Stir again before serving.


lentils simmer while veggies are cooking

In this dish, meaty chunks of eggplant are simmered in a smoky tomato sauce with the sweet-and-sour overtones of lemon and agave.  It's hearty! 


1/8 cup olive oil
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup finely chopped diced tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp finely ground pepper

1 Tbsp tamari
1/2 cup favorite barbecue sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
1 cup dried lentils, prepared as stated below OR 1 can of lentils
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
salt to taste


Cook the lentils in 3 cups of water or Vegetable stock. (about 25 - 30 min.)

In a heavy-bottom pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the eggplant for 10 minutes, sprinkling with a bit of water if needed to prevent sticking.

Add the onion, tomatoes, oregano, garlic, and pepper to the eggplant, and continue to saute for 5 minutes.

Add the tamari, and stir thoroughly.  Add the barbecue sauce, lemon juice, and honey, stirring thoroughly to evenly coat all the vegetables.  This will form a sauce around the eggplant. 

Add the lentils with their liquid to the pot, and simmer for about 30 minutes, adding a bit of water if the sauce looks thick.  Add the parsley.  Season with salt.

I love this dish served over my Creamy Parmesan Polenta. (recipe next blog)

warm hearty comfort food

Monday, July 25, 2011


Seven months ago, my realtor took me to lunch and I must confess, I had a very good meal.  On Saturday, I finally revisited The Bear E Patch in West Ashley.  I had high hopes this time as well.

their menu:

I arrived to a line of about 10 people.  Hmmm, curious, there were about 8 vacant tables.  A hostess finally showed us to a table.  The plastic cloth was soaking wet from the wiping down.  We cleaned it off. 

All I wanted was a simple lunch.  I ordered a cup of the Seafood Chowder, large and flavorful but oh so runny and devoid of ingredients.  I also had the small Greek Salad.  The components sounded oh so right, the olives, the feta, etc.  This salad was OH SO WRONG for so many reasons.  Unfortunately, we were able to watch the line cook make this one with his bare hands, not so pretty!  The dressing, not anywhere near Greek, was squeezed onto the already plated salad.  The lettuce was ALL wrong and cut into unmanageable chunks.  All and all, a disaster. 

Later I ran into friends that told me that they serve a hell of a good breakfast.  Well we shall see.  One day I just might have the nerve to go back.  Until then, I'm eating at home from MY GARDEN.


This one comes from the Vegetarian Times Vegetarian Entertaining cookbook that was given to me many many years ago from my good Ohio friend.

2 medium (about 2 lbs), pierce with fork
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp. black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
Place the eggplant on a lightly greased baking pan.  Bake until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Set aside until the eggplants are ready.
When eggplants have cooled, scoop out the flesh and chop; discard the outer skin.  Add the eggplant pulp to the tahini mixture and blend thoroughly.  Mash the mixture with the back of a spoon.  Refrigerate the dip until ready to serve.
simple look, bold flavor
Serve the dip with pita bread and/or crudites.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


These pics remind me of the Creative Foods class at Marlboro.  Check these out. version

Cousin Bea inspired this dish when she wrote and told me about her crockpot full of onions and garlic.  I added a few more of my garden harvest and the result was a very good Ratatouille, of sorts.  The first night I served this with brown rice as a side dish.  Leftovers was the combo of the two mixed together and heated in the oven.  Better than ever!

a good start: cut an X in the bottom of the tomatoes and cut out off the top; parboil the tomatoes in boiling water for about 1 to 2 minutes OR until the skin starts to curl.  Cool off in ice water.  Remove the skin from the tomatoes.

fresh ingredients from the garden

the eggplant is peel and cut into chunks.  sprinkle with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes.


5 small eggplant, prepared as shown above
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 sweet Italian peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
1 yellow, red or orange pepper, cut in cubes
3 tomatoes, prepared as shown above
6-8 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
8-10 fresh basil leaves, rough chop
fresh ground black pepper


Put all ingredients into the crockpot.

before cooking

Cover and cook on high for about 45 minutes.  Lower temperature to low and continue to cook for 6 hours.

the finished product; serve with brown rice or any other whole grain


start with Suzie's Flatbreads, multi-grain & flax and multi-seeds


flatbreads (found at Costco)
topped with sun-dried tomato pesto and a sauteed mixture of onion, pepper and eggplant, topped with vegan Parmesan "cheese"

topped with basil pesto and a sauteed mixture of onions, peppers and eggplant AND sausage! 
(vegetarian sausage, of course)

great for lunch OR as an appetizers

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


OK, so no one here sells Rawtella.  Too new!  Who knew?  Read my previous blog about the disaster I created.  BUT being frugal as I am, I mixed a good bit of MY version of the Rawtella into about a third of a jar of almond butter.  Hmmm not too bad. 

I especially like this for breakfast spread over CARR's Wholewheat crackers (found in the red box - delicious and personally, I think they'd make a great dessert crust, an upcoming experiment).  Next squeeze a bit of agave nectar on top.  Good with that morning cup of java.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I've been serving this one in a bowl as a side dish, nice and simple BUT it would be excellent served over a brown rice or quinoa.

throw the chopped fresh veggies + garlic into a sauce pan


fresh garden veggies, I use sweet Italian peppers, cut into chunks
green peppers, cut in chunks
okra, trim ends and slice
4-5 tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, sliced
dried ginger slices (Penzeys OR use fresh or powder)
tamari,  several generous shakes
sesame oil, several generous shakes
salt and pepper


Place all of the cut veggies into a saucepan. 

Add salt, pepper, garlic, ginger (cook with this and then discard - very very woody), tamari, sesame oil, salt and pepper. 

Cover and steam on low till fork tender.  The liquid will mostly come from the tomatoes.  NO need to add any water.
steamed veggies with a delightfully flavored broth

Sunday, July 17, 2011


today's bounty

In Asia, steaming eggplant is widely used and loved.  It's simple, takes advantage of the great flavor of eggplant, doesn't add a lot of fat, and produces an extremely tender texture.  All you need is a steamer basket and some smaller eggplants.  Great recipe for your summer gardens! 


4 to 6 small, eggplant (about 1 1/2 lb)  (IF small, leave the skin on)
1 red bell pepper, halved and cored
Soy and Sesame Dipping Sauce - recipe below


Set up a steamer.  Trim the eggplant and halve lengthwise.  Arrange in the steamer with the pepper and sprinkle with a little salt. 

Steam until the eggplant is very tender, about 15 minutes.  Cool until you can handle it (you can set it aside for an hour or so if you're not ready to eat).

Shred the eggplant with your fingers or a knife; thinly slice the pepper.  Toss with enough of the dipping sauce to flavor and moisten, then taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with the extra sauce on the side.

steaming eggplant


1/2 cup tamari
1/4 cup mirin
2 Tbsp dark sesame oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 large cloves garlic, minced or grated
pinch of hot red pepper flakes (opt)
the finished product


As everyone knows, I'm on the hunt for the healthy version of Nutella = RAWTELLA.  Good luck America.  Frustrated here in the south. ;(  Not even Earth Fare or Whole Foods sells this product. (I guess it doesn't go well with fried foods?)

SOOOOO I figured I'd check the internet for alternatives.  Net Surfers BEWARE!  A site that shall remain nameless posted a recipe for their version of RAWTELLA.  Hey, sounded good, looked even better.  The dark chocolate luscious creamy mixture was flowing from the spoon.  Damn, I had to have some.  I did pause with some doubt; how could those 3 ingredients yield this amazing product?   that color?  that apparent texture?  Despite all my pause and hesitation, I took the plunge, invested quite a bit of money on:
raw hazelnuts, raw cocoa nibs AND coconut sugar! 

expensive ingredients assembled and I'm OH SO hopeful

this blogger says this is what HER product looked like with the 3 ingredients named above

soaked hazelnuts ready to be turned into one amazing product

here's the mess I actually got with the posted recipe
                                                             UGH UGH, double UGH!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Since I developed this one on the run, the amounts are approximates.  Change it up, you can't go wrong.  IF you can't get the mentioned grain mixture, use your own.


4 green peppers OR assorted colors, cut in half, seed and parboil for 3 minutes, drain and set aside
2 pkg. Organic (Seeds of Change) Uyuni (quinoa & whole grain brown rice) found at Costco
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large red onion
6 small eggplants, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen corn
garlic paste
Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
1/4 Vegan Parmesan cheese
1 jar marinara sauce
1/4 cup red wine


Parboil the peppers, drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a saute pan.
Saute the onion with a little salt.  Add the garlic paste and cont.
Add the eggplant and cont. cooking until tender.  Add the corn and cont. to cook covered with the lid.
Add the remaining seasonings, stir.  Add the vegan "cheese". 
Put a little sauce from the jar on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Add the wine to the remaining sauce and shake to mix.
Place 8 pepper halves on the sauce, fill each with the stuffing mixture.  Spoon the remaining sauce generously over each pepper.
Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees.  Uncover towards the end.  Baking time is about 40 minutes.


Pinch the top leaves off your basil plant so it won't flower: When basil flowers, it stops producing leaves.

Put a vase of basil on your bedside table to help ward off mosquitoes - it's a natural bug repellent. 

Make vat of pesto today to use throughout the week: see my previous blogs.  Pesto is great served on veggie burgers, whole wheat pasta, pizza topping, grilled fresh veggies, etc

Use basil leaves when you're juicing.

Store your basil bounty for later: Puree 2 cups basil with 1/2 cup olive oil; freeze into cubes, then bag.

cheap trays from the Dollar General (3 for $2)
sprayed with PAM olive oil

frozen cubes ready for future use, stored in freezer bag

Friday, July 15, 2011


Sorry, this one went so quick, I didn't get any pictures.  :(    Years ago I snagged this recipe from one of my many students.  We were working on a nutrition unit and learning to eat by colors (5 specifically).  We were working on green colored foods.  This one was a favorite of her family.


3 cups chopped broccoli
1 cup fresh parsley
6 scallion sticks, green part only
1 Haas avocado
2 Tbsp flax seeds
2 Tbsp baked and chopped almonds
2 fresh sliced carrots
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 whole lemons (juiced)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix all together and enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


originally I made this Burgundy sauce for London Broil, now I get my fix
by eating it atop a black bean burger


1/2 tsp accent
1 cup tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp Adolph's meat tenderizer
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1 - 2 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp. W-shire sauce
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp parsley
3/4 Burgundy wine


Mix all together and simmer until it becomes thicker.  SERVE

MEAT EATERS:  If using london broil; cook it on the grill/oven.  When finished, slice it on the diagonal and serve this sauce on the side.  A great company dish!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

MESIR WAT (a red lentil dish)

start with onions, red lentils and some seasonings for this very versatile recipe


1/2 cup red lentils
2 large onions
1/2 cup oil
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp paprika, sweet or hot
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
3 cups water


Sort the lentils and soak in tap water for 30 minutes.  Rinse in running water and drain.
Peel and finely chop the onions.  Peel and mash the garlic ( I just grate it)
Heat the oil in large pan and saute the onion until golden.
Add tomato paste and paprika and mix.
Add half the water and the garlic, ginger, pepper and salt.
Stir well and then add the rest of the water, stir again, cover and bring to a boil.
When the water boils, add the lentils, lower the flame and cook 30-30 minutes, until the lentils soften OR till you achieve the desired consistency.  Serve hot.

with a spoonful of CHIA SEEDS

This lentil dish is quite versatile.  It's a good thick soup, the base of a piece of fish, etc.  When cooked up thicker, I've served it as a dip and even had it for breakfast. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


on the grill: corn and okra

I combined several recipes to come with this one:


corn on the cob, husked and scrubbed, break into halves
PAM cooking spray
1/2 cup Earth Balance (butter), room temperature
1 lg. garlic clove
2 tsp. dried cilantro
1/2 to 1 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper


Preheat a grill to medium high. 
Mix the soft butter with garlic, cilantro, cumin, salt & pepper and cheese.  Mix and set aside.

Coat corn lightly with cooking spray.
Grill the corn, covered with grill lid, turning occasionally, until nicely charred, 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve with the flavored butter, use generously. (I like to put the butter on the plate and top it with the corn/ then roll)

grilled corn, cumin parm butter and cottage salad


 Recently while reading one of my many vegetarian magazines, I came across an ad for raw CHIA SEEDS.  These are being promoted as an Aztec Superfood.  After much searching and reading via the internet, my interest was piqued.  My mission was to BUY them!  Today I finally traveled to a Whole Foods and was delighted to find them at the checkout counter.  (8 oz. for $7.99)

The manufacturer advertises Raw Chia Seeds as "being a power food for the modern excellent source of omega fatty acids, easily digestible form of protein and full of minerals, vitamins and soluble fiber...more natural antioxidants than flax seed and an excellent source of dietary fiber."

Then I began to wonder IF they really were a superfood?  What is considered a superfood?  Are all of these claims in the ad true?  Check out this article:

The company, NAVITAS also has an excellent website with many other products.  They feature a myriad of recipes for all of their products.  Check it out for some great Chia Seed use ideas.

these tiny raw organic seeds contain only 70 calories per 2 Tbsp.
suggested uses:  smoothies, salads, stir fries

Monday, July 11, 2011


I wonder IF my brothers remember this one?  Mom always had chives growing in the yard; perfect to grow, come back every year.  I NEVER found cottage cheese very palatable BUT the chives change everything.  I made this with dinner last night, using home-grown tomatoes and chives and it was better than ever.  Company definitely agreed.

Chop up lots and lots of chives.  Mix into the cottage cheese.  Surround with tomato wedges.  Don't let the simplicity of this recipe fool you.  It is so refreshing in the summer months and oh so delicious.


a good SIMPLE HEALTHY dessert last night

This is so simple and so delicious.  For dessert:

Heat grill to medium temperature.

In a small bowl, mix some agave nectar with a good quality cinnamon.
                      (Penzeys - I LOVE the Indonesia Korintje)
Meanwhile cut the peaches into halves and remove the pits.
Baste the cut sides of the peaches and grill that side for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on YOUR grill.
Baste the skin side and turn those over to the grill side.  Continue grilling for an additional 5 minutes. 
The peaches will be softened but not mushy.  Serve warm.

These could also be served with lemon tofu cream (recipe posted soon).

NOTE:  I made these wonderful fresh grilled Georgia peaches AGAIN this am.  I finished them off with a small amount of almond butter in the center.  Nice flavor combination!