Quick Dinners: Mexican-Inspired Rice Bowl with Chorizo & Avocado Salsa

Rice bowls are one of the easiest and most delicious ways to tackle dinner.
And this Mexican rice version with a chorizo-bean saute and avocado salsa
is sensational. (A Little Yumminess)Simran and I are both big fans of the one-bowl supper. They’re so great for repurposing leftovers and work well for packed lunches the next day too (leftovers of leftovers, the gift that keeps on giving!). In this version we’ve layered rice (but you could use any leftover cooked grain) with a tasty chorizo-bean saute, and a super quick, semi-homemade avocado salsa. Add shredded carrots, chopped lettuce, diced tomatoes or whatever else you have on hand and your “what’s for dinner?” problem is solved.

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Omurice (Fried Rice Omelette)

Japanese Omurice - Fried Rice Omlette by A Little Yumminess

Japanese Omurice: an omelette wrapped around fried rice…. so homey, so simple, so genius (and a great way to use up some leftovers)! We came upon our first fried rice omlette in Hawaii on the Big Island at Teshima’s in Kealakekua. It’s one of their house specialties, although in their case they do it island-style by stir frying their rice with spam or Portuguese linguica. In my subsequent reading up on this dish, I learned that it’s a one of those items you’ll often find on kids’ menus in Japan. So I suppose it’s like the Japanese equivalent of macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets, but in my opinion it’s leaps and bounds better. Don’t get me started on kids’ menus — erghhh!

For me fried rice is one of those “cooking 101” kind of dishes that every kid should learn how to make. It’s not really a recipe so much as a technique: fry an egg, fry some left over rice until it’s a little bit crispy, chop and sizzle up some leftovers, splash a few Asian sauces then toss it all together into one glorious bowl of yumminess. Lately we’ve been experimenting with some variations on fried rice: Jean George’s elegantly minimal leek, ginger and garlic version, and also with using various kinds of rices, but the leftover, “kitchen sink” version remains our favorite. I am convinced that you will always be surrounded by friends if you know how to make a tasty fried rice. And now that Luca is just old enough to start working at the stove with supervision one of our summer vacation projects is “fried rice” class. Perhaps we’ll even bring in Gung Gung for a little master class (learning from mom is good, but learning from grandpa is better!).

Omurice takes humble fried rice to a slightly new place, putting the egg on the outside and wrapping it all up into a pretty omelette package. My two main takeaways from attempting this dish at home is that you need a good pan, one that you know will absolutely not stick and will allow your finished omelette to slide easily onto your serving plate. If you succeed, you will feel like Jacques Pepin! Secondly, while I normally like the grains of my fried rice to be dry and separated (using leftover rice is the cardinal rule of fried-rice making) in the case of omurice, slightly moister rice works better. A moister rice will cling together so that your entire omelette doesn’t tumble out when you cut into it.

Omlette Fried Rice - A Little Yumminess

Omurice – Japanese Fried Rice Omelette

(makes 1 large omelette: enough for one hungry adult or 2 kids. Scale up the ingredients to feed more people, but to keep the proportions right make omelettes in 2 egg + 1 cup fried rice batches)

  • 1 cup leftover rice
  • Fried rice add-ins of your choice: chopped leftovers, grated carrot, frozen peas, etc.
  • Your favorite Asian sauces such as soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce
  • Sliced Scallion and cilantro leaves
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Make the fried rice (this can be done in advance of making the omurice, just reheat the fried rice before filling your omelette):

  1. Lightly oil a saute pan, add the rice and stir fry until some of the grains start to get crispy (about 5-8 minutes). ** In the picture above, I sauteed some leeks first before adding my rice. **
  2. While the rice is crisping, prep your fried rice ingredients (chop leftovers into bite sized pieces, defrost a handful of frozen peas, grate a carrot, etc.).
  3. When the rice is crisped, stir in your add-ins until they are framed through and well incorporated into the rice.
  4. Season to taste with soy sauce, sesame oil, and a dash of oyster sauce and garnish with chopped scallion and cilantro.

Make and fill the omelette:

  1. Heat about 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Beat 2 eggs in a bowl then pour the eggs into the hot pan, tilting the pan so that the egg coats the bottom of the pan.
  3. Cook the eggs, swirling pan, until omelette sets but top is still moist (1-2 minutes). Check to make sure your omelette is not sticking by lifting up the sides and loosening it as needed. Shake the omlette in the pan to make sure it moves and will slide out after you fill it.
  4. Arrange the fried rice down center. Using a rubber spatula, slide omelette onto a plate, then roll the omelette around the filling.

If you want to be authentic, serve with ketchup, if you’re Simran pour on the Sriracha.

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You may also like: Dad’s International Fried Rice, Soy Dijon Chicken and Buttered Corn Fried Rice

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Goes Global

It’s Thanksgiving morning and we’re looking forward to chowing down on turkey, mashed potatoes and all the fixins with the family. My very ambitious goal for today is to somehow manage to save some room for a sliver of pumpkin pie and a sliver of my husband’s granny smith apple pie. Dare to dream!

I’m in the “I love leftovers” camp, so as I sip my coffee and catch up on Top Chef this lazy holiday morning, I’m mulling over some possibilities for the foil covered paper plate of Thanksgiving turkey that will make its way back home with us. My dad’s “international fried rice” is a definite contender (heck, throw the cranberries and sweet potatoes in there too.) But I’m also thinking about some of our favorite global recipes that would be perfect with a substitution of some leftover turkey. Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving  — happy eating!

Vietnamese Bun Thit Nuong (Rice Noodle Bowls) with Nuoc Cham

Mexican Chilaquiles

Carribbean Cha Cha Bowls

Indian Turkey Tikka Masala

Thai Lemongrass Turkey and Coconut Soup


Sesame-Avocado Brown Rice Bowls

Tortilla Española

It’s always nice to stumble upon a new tasty use for leftovers. After all there’s only so much fried rice a person can eat. I’m loving this Spanish tortilla, aka tortilla de patatas,  because it’s easy to make, works with a lot of different odds and ends and is less egg-y than a quiche or a frittata (a plus in my book). The finely layered potatoes look way more impressive than they should which might even win you a few kudos from your friends. You can serve it warm or room temperature and enjoy it just about any time of day. Because it holds together so nicely, it’s a good one to slice into wedges for the lunchbox or to tote along to a picnic. Give this one a try next time you open your refrigerator and you see some potatoes and eggs staring back at you. It’s super easy, I promise!

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 pound of potatoes (about 3 large russets)
  • 1 onion finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs finely minced (parsley, thyme, mint or a mixture of your favorites)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup leftover meat or vegetables finely chopped (if needed, squeeze the  chopped vegetables to remove excess liquid); We also like finely chopped ham or chorizo.
  • oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon of hot sauce
  1. Lightly oil a sheet pan and pop it into the oven and turn the heat up to 450 degrees. This way you can preheat your pan while you slice your potatoes.
  2. Peel and slice your potatoes into thin rounds, about 1/8″ to 1/4″ is nice. Once you’ve finished slicing, pat them dry and lay them in a single layer on your pre-heated baking sheet and season with salt and pepper and a little smoked paprika if you like. Cook them about 10 minutes or until they start to turn golden around the edges, then flip them to cook on the other side. After another 5-10 minutes, check them to see if they are tender. Once they pierce easily with a fork, take them out and let them cool. You can do this step ahead.
  3. Saute the minced onion until translucent, then move it to a large bowl to cool. When the onions are no longer hot, add the eggs, the herbs, salt pepper, smoked paprika and/or hot sauce to the bowl. Beat well. Add the cooled potatoes to the bowl and toss them very gently with your hands to coat them with egg.
  4. Lightly mist a saute pan with oil. Start layering the potatoes like shingles. Here and there add your chopped leftover meat or vegetables so that they are layered with the potatoes. Drizzle a small amount of the egg mixture after each couple of layers. Keep going until you’ve used up all your ingredients. Then pour more of the egg mixture over the top until it comes just to the top of your final layer of potatoes. You may not need all of the egg mixture.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, cook the tortilla on the stove top using medium heat until it is a deep, golden brown on the bottom. Slide the tortilla onto a plate. Give the pan another light mist of oil and then invert the pan over the plate and flip them together so that the tortilla falls back into the pan and you can brown the second side. Once the second side is also a deep golden brown, move the whole pan to the pre-heated oven. Check for done-ness after about 10 minutes and about every five minutes after that. Just insert a knife into the center of the tortilla and lightly press next to it to see if any liquid comes to the top. It’s done when no more liquid appears.

Let the tortilla cool slightly so it can set before you cut into it. Slice into wedges, sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve with hot sauce on the side. Leftovers of your leftovers? Not to worry…..slices of tortilla also make a great filling for a bocadillo — a Spanish-style sandwich on crusty bread. Yum!

Potatoes waiting for a tortilla.

Puff Pastry to the Rescue!

Store bought puff pastry is fast becoming something I swear by.  We bought some from puff pastry from Royal Market and Bakery and transformed it into the crispy, savory and yummy farmer’s cheese, grated sharp cheddar and cooked mild Italian sausage puffs pictured below.  These couldn’t be easier to make.  Thaw puff pastry for 30-40 minutes stuff each square (this puff pastry was already cut into squares), fill with stuffing of choice, fold over and make a triangle, crimp edges with fork, brush with some egg wash and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes till golden brown.

A good one to make with the little kids.  You can lay out a variety of fillings (or any leftovers) and let the kids have some fun making their own puffs.  Good way to use left over nubs of cheese that languish in our fridge forever.  A handy portable lunch for little hands.  Assemble and freeze individually and pull out in a pinch, bake for longer and serve with a side salad or steamed vegetables.  How’s that for an easy dinner?

Filling ideas:

Cooked Italian Sausage, Caramelized Onions (optional) and Sharp Cheddar

Spinach and Feta

Leftover tandoori chicken/chicken tikka masala

Variety of leftover cheeses and cooked mushrooms

Pan-fried meat with taco seasoning and any kind of melty cheese or goat cheese.

Roasted vegetables and a little marinara

Leftover meatloaf or lamb keema

Ham/Salami & cheese & Dijon mustard

Indian spices potatoes and peas (fast samosas!)

Roasted squash, blue cheese and sage

Puff pastry with Nutella & hazelnuts

You get the concept – basically anything works!  Do share your ideas with us.

Supper in a Flash: Chilaquiles

If you’ve fallen into a quesadilla rut, switch things up one of these nights with chilaquiles. Think of chilaquiles as the world’s best nachos or a sort of deconstructed enchilada, but way, way easier to make. This is one of my husband’s favorites and is a fantastic way to transform a bit of leftover roast chicken or that lingering bag of stale tortilla chips into something special — some real deal comfort food. Did I mention it’s super easy?

The only downside for us and chilaquiles these days is that Luca has entered his “suspicious of anything soupy-saucy” phase and this is just the kind of meal he just picks around. The food moves from one side of the plate to the other, he chokes down a few nibbles that look the dryest with a look in his eyes that just screams “UGH…I can’t believe my mom is making me eat this”.  On a positive note, it’s on these saucier nights nights, that he goes for his green vegetables first and, on occasion goes for seconds and thirds of them before dealing with his dreaded nemesis. I find it all a little humorous because my husband is what I like to call an  “extreme saucer”. Triple what I consider to be an appropriate amount of sauce and he’s generally happy. My genius solution to achieving family harmony when it comes to sauce? Just to make things how I like them and call it a day.

Chilaquiles for Four

  • 6-8 tortillas (about 1-2 tortillas per person) or equal amount of tortilla chips
  • ~28 oz of red chile sauce (I love this recipe for charred dried California chile and tomatillo sauce for this but you can use your favorite canned red enchilada sauce in a pinch)
  • Optional: leftover shredded meat (scrambled or fried eggs work great too)
  • Your favorite garnishes such as cotija cheese, avocado, lime edges, cilantro, sour cream, sliced radishes (fresh or pickled). In addition to the more traditional garnishes, I often sprinkle on some finely chopped spinach leaves just for a little extra nutritional boost.
  1. Cut tortillas into strips about 1/2″ wide. Lightly oil a baking sheet then crisp them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes (check them mid way and give them a toss). You can crisp your tortillas ahead of time and keep them for a day or 2 in an airtight container. I had purchased some low fat tortillas with flax which on their own were kind of terrible, but they were actually fine in this recipe. The point being, this is a very forgiving dish. You can substitute an equal quantity of tortilla chips if you like, we like Casa Sanchez brand.
  2. Heat your favorite red chile sauce in a large pan that can contain all the tortilla strips/chips. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. If it’s too watery cook it down a bit, if it’s too thick you can thin it with chicken stock. The deliciousness of your chile sauce is what makes or breaks this dish. I can heartily recommend Rick Bayless’s charred guajillo and tomatillo salsa because it’s easy on the spice which is great for kids but big on tangy, rich flavor. If you think there’s a chance you might be making chilaquiles in the next week or so, make this sauce over the weekend and keep it in the fridge. You could substitute a 28oz can of prepared red enchilada sauce in a pinch.
  3. Once your sauce reaches a nice simmer, pour in the tortillas. Stir them well to coat and let them soften for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Place the tortillas and sauce onto a serving platter and garnish. Serve right away with a side of black beans and your favorite vegetable. For sauce lovers like my husband, reserve some chile sauce and bring it to the table.

I feel you on this one Luca, Love JL

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You might also like: Our Favorite Quick and Easy Recipes; Salsa for Beginners: Charred Guajillo and Tomatillo Sauce; Cooking with Louisa: Taquitos; Effortless Enchiladas; Three Bears: Grilled Salmon Tacos; Cooking with Louisa: Sopa de Tortilla

When Life Gives You Leftovers, Make Fried Rice

My favorite food is the food my dad makes for me. He’s as apt to make an involved, multi-course chinese meal as a big pot of rustic minestrone soup. It’s hard to pick an all-time favorite, but for sentimental reasons his “international fried rice” holds a special place in my heart. The spirit of this dish really represents my dad: thrifty, inventive, laid back, homey.

The key is the rice which must be a few days old (ideally a little dried out from being in the refrigerator). The next critical component are your leftovers which can be of any international variety. I’ve seen my dad throw in everything from black bean sauce chicken to Indian take out and even on occasion, spaghetti. Some of my favorite versions of all time were cooked on the final mornings of camping trips, in a cast iron skillet over a campfire. (Yes, my family cooked rice on camping trips.). Some of you may have boundaries for crazy food combinations, but I find fried rice has virtually no limits.

After watching may dad dozens and dozens of times, I started making fried rice in college and have kept on ever since. It shows up on our table often as breakfast, lunch or dinner. Depending on what you include, it can be an “all in one meal” that even picky kids like my son will happily eat. So the next time you find yourself with a random assortment of otherwise uninspiring leftovers, consider making your own contribution to the genre of international fried rice.

Dad’s International Fried Rice

There are probably as many methods of fried rice making as there are fried rice makers, but this is how I do it:

1. Make your omelet by beating a couple of eggs well (I usually add a pinch of salt and some finely minced chives if I have some). Cook in a lightly oiled plan until set. Flip and cook through. Rough chop and set aside. (if your omelet turns out more like scrambled eggs, no worries since you’re chopping it up anyway.

2. Dice your various leftovers and set aside. You want to eliminate any excess sauce from your leftovers which will take away from the crispy, fluffy yumminess of the final dish. If I don’t have leftover cooked vegetables on hand, I usually just throw in some frozen peas in the last 5 minutes of cooking and let them warm through.

4. Drizzle a little more oil in the pan and let it get quite hot. Break up your rice into the pan. Ideally, your rice will be a couple of days old and dried out. Let it warm through and take the time to let it get a crispy in places. I’ve learned over the years, that it’s worth not short changing this step. Letting a bit of the rice get golden and crispy makes all the difference. Sprinkle the rice ever so gently with some soy sauce. If you have some grated ginger on hand (which you will if you use this handy little trick), add some in and fry along with the rice.

5. Add in your diced leftovers and vegetables. Toss well and let warm through. Add your chopped omelet (and optional frozen peas). Toss well and warm though.

6. Taste and season to taste with whatever combination of sauces you like. I sometimes use a few drops of sesame oil, and a light touch of oyster sauce or chili paste depending on how flavorful the leftovers were. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and scallion.

Tortellini in Brodo

Have you ever had one of those ultimate meals — one your mind wanders back to, even years later? Tortellini in brodo at a little restaurant in Bologna (I can’t even remember the name of the place!) ranks in there as one of the best things I have ever eaten. A few humble tortellini swimming around in some broth — but somehow impossibly delicious. Tim says his grandmother’s cousin Alina used to whip up homemade tortellini for lunch whenever they came to visit her in Lucca, Italy. I regret that I never had the chance to sample them. You can’t get much better than homecooking from an Italian nonna!

So, peeking into my refrigerator the other day and seeing a half of a package of gyoza wrappers and a few pieces of prosciutto, I got the inspiration to take a try at tortellini. It’s really not too hard but it does take some time, so better saved for when you’re not rushed to get dinner on the table. You can do some of it in advance (the broth, the filling) and it’s a nice way to use up extra roasted meat you might have on hand.  This definitely falls into the category of something extra special to cook for people you love! Most kids love simple, uncomplicated food, so this should be a big hit.

This will make 100+ tortellini. You can freeze the extra tortellini on a cookie sheet  lined with waxed paper and transfer to a freezer safe container once they are frozen.

Shopping List:

  • 1/2 pound chicken (breast or thigh, your choice)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • Several slices proscuitto and/or mortadella
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ~100 Fresh pasta squares (wonton wrapper will do)

Extra Chicken-y Broth

I got a little inspiration in the broth department from Charlie Trotter’s “Egg Drop Soup with Ginger-Braised Chicken” recipe from the “Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home” cookbook. He makes a super flavorful broth by simmering chicken in stock and using the resulting braising liquid for the final dish.

  • In a hot pan, sear the chicken for a few minutes on both sides until golden.
  • Roughly chop 1 small onion, 1 carrot and 1 celery stalk and add to the pan, cooking 5-10 minutes until caramelized.
  • Add 2 quarts chicken stock and simmer 30 minutes or so or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken.
  • Put the stock through a strainer and skim off the fat. Or to make things easier make the stock the day before, strain and refrigerate, removing the fat after it has cooled.

Tortellini:

  • Remove skin/bones from the cooked chicken and finely mince. (BTW: In lieu of or in addition to the chicken, you could substitute any combination of cooked meats you might have on hand… a good opportunity to use up leftovers)
  • Add a few slices of minced prosciutto and/or mortadella, one egg yolk, and a cup or so of grated parmesan cheese, and just a teeny pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. You could add well-drained ricotta or whatever herbs or seasonings you desire.  Mix until well combined. Since all but the egg yolk is cooked, definitely taste and adjust the seasonings — you could even mix in the egg yolk after tasting if you’re concerned about it.
  • Fill each pasta square with a tsp of filling. Lightly wet the edges and fold in half to form a triangle. Press to seal making sure there are no air pockets. With the triangle point facing up, bring the 2 bottom corners together around your finger and pinch to seal. Gently fold back the triangle point (the one that was facing up). Place on a kitchen towel without letting the tortellini touch. I used circular gyoza wrapers just because I had them and it worked out fine. Homemade pasta if you really have some time on your hands, would be phenomenal, of course.
  • Here’s a video if you want a quick little video tutorial on folding tortellini.

Serve

  • Heat the broth. If you want you can throw in a handful of peas and some steamed, diced carrots (I know, not traditional, but I’m always trying to get more vegetables on the table).
  • Cook the tortellini in well-salted water for 8-10 minutes.
  • Spoon the cooked tortellini into bowls and ladle the broth (with the optional vegetables) over. Add some grated parmesan cheese on top.

Dive In, The Ramen’s Fine!

This was inspired by the “Eating Your Words Challenge“. Thanks to Savor the Thyme and Tangled Noodle for cooking up this contest. Looking forward to seeing the other creations!

Eat Your Words Challenge 2010

Ramen is another super simple dinner to put together, a great way to use up stuff in the refrigerator and popular with everyone in my family. In this case, it also turned out to be a great canvas for a little creativity.

I had broth on hand from  preparing a whole poached chicken earlier in the week. We pretty much always have eggs, carrots, frozen peas, and ham or some sort of leftover meat hanging around, and our little patch of cilantro in the garden is still doing its thing. The only last minute shopping Luca and I had to do was to pick up some ramen noodles, scallions, baby bok choy. We happened to see some fish cake, so we grabbed that too. But sky’s the limit as far as what you can throw in — let your leftovers be your guide!

Ramen in 3 Easy Steps

1. Precook your noodles, then put them into ice water to stop their cooking. When cool, drain. (I tossed mine with a little scallion oil I had on hand).

2. Prep all your condiments.

3. Arrange your noodles and goodies in a big bowl and pour the hot broth over.

Luca loves the opportunity to put stuff into his soup, so I always make sure to bring extras to the table for everyone.

Hard Boiled Eggs

If you want to include a hard boiled egg, The Gourmet Cookbook has the most fail proof recipe I’ve found: Cover eggs with cold tap water by 1.5 inches. Partially cover and bring to a full boil. Reduce heat to low and and cook 30 seconds. Cover and turn off heat and let stand 15 minutes. Run under cool water to stop their cooking. Refrigerate until ready to peel and use.