Start the Year of the Dragon off with a bang with something fiery and inspired.
“Kung Pao Sweet Potatoes” certainly isn’t traditional fare for the Lunar New Year, which starts on Saturday. But the dish certainly makes for an exciting and enticing new addition to the celebratory feast. Plus, it’s perfect for vegetarians, vegans, and anyone who enjoys twists on the classics.
This fun recipe is from “Veg-Table” (Chronicle Books, 2023), of which I received a review copy. It’s the newest cookbook by Los Angeles-based Nik Sharma, a former molecular biologist turned James Beard Award-winning, best-selling cookbook author, photographer, and recipe developer.
He brings his scientific background, precision for recipes, and love of big, bold flavors to bear on this collection of vegetable-focused recipes. It’s not a strictly vegetarian cookbook, but even when animal proteins are included, they play a more supporting rather than starring role.
The cookbook features more than 50 types of vegetables with recipes organized by plant family, including such temptations as “Kimchi Creamed Corn,” “Crispy Salmon with Green Curry Spinach,” “Cauliflower Bolognese,” and “Carrot, Apple, and Harissa Soup.”
San Francisco Chef Sylvan Mishima Brackett fondly remembers his mother cooking up a pan of chicken drumettes with sake, shoyu, and a copious amount of orange marmalade.
The resulting thick, sticky, sweet glaze would coat every inch of the tender drumettes that were savored hot or room temperature on New Year’s Day.
It wasn’t necessarily a classic component of the traditional Japanese New Year meal known as osechi. But in his family, it sure made for good eating on that day or any busy weeknight.
Me? I think it would score big-time on Super Bowl Sunday.
I mean, why pay homage to Buffalo, NY with been-there, done-that, fiery red-sauced wings when you can support the home team by indulging in a version from a bona fide San Francisco Mission District chef instead? That’s got to make for good juju, right?
The recipe comes from his debut cookbook, “Rintaro” (Hardie Grant, 2023), of which I received a review copy, that was written with San Francisco food writer Jessica Battilana.
Any way you slice it, there’s nothing wrong with sweet apple pie, especially fresh-baked and still warm. But let’s not forget that apples are also sensational starring in savory fare.
Case in point: “Cider Braised Apples with Coconut ‘Bacon,’ and Garlic,” a fabulous accompaniment to roast chicken, Cornish game hens, turkey, pork loin, sausages, duck or even grilled firm tofu planks.
February is the perfect time to tuck into it, too, since it’s National Cancer Prevention Month. I’m proud to partner with the American Institute for Cancer Research and Pazazz Apples to help spread the word about how apples are high in fiber and antioxidants that can help reduce the risks of some cancers. To learn more about how nutritious apples are and to assess how your own lifestyle choices affect your risk of cancer, go to the informative health check here.
What’s more, those antioxidants also fuel neurotransmitters in the brain that trigger the release of dopamine that boosts mood. That makes apples a veritable “happy” fruit.
And who wouldn’t want more bliss in their lives, right? All it takes is heading to Albertsons, Safeway, or Vons like I did to pick up some Pazazz apples (about $2.99 per pound), now at peak flavor through June.
Whenever I read news stories of late about tech bros going to questionable lengths to try to live seemingly forever, I just roll my eyes.
Who wants the lifespan of Dracula?
Me? I’d be happy to have the longevity of a head of cabbage.
Seriously, the stuff lasts for an inordinate amount of time in your crisper drawer with little intervention needed. I mean, yes, its exterior leaves may wilt and discolor a bit over time. But peel those off, and the rest of it is as good as new. It’s like how we humans use a loofah brush to uncover smooth skin as fresh as a baby’s.
Because of its great longevity, cabbage is so handy to keep in the fridge. Because you just never know when you might need an extra side dish, salad or soup ingredient on the spur of the moment — and lo and behold, handy-dandy cabbage to fill that void.
That’s why one day, while I was leafing through the new cookbook, “Polish’d” (The Experiment, 2023), of which I received a review copy, I was so glad to have already have a Savoy cabbage on hand when I spied “Cabbage Salad with Green Sauce, Olives, and Bryndza Cheese.”
This cookbook is by Michal Korkosz, a food journalist based in Warsaw and creator of the award-winning blog, Rozkoszny (which means “delightful”).