Gado Gado: An Indonesian Salad

You probably don’t need another salad recipe. That’s why I’m sharing a salad idea. Gado Gado, which translates to “mix mix,” is made up of surprisingly ordinary ingredients – raw or cooked vegetables, greens, eggs, tofu or tempeh, and peanut sauce are typical.
But with variations throughout Indonesia, there is no one way to prepare the dish or a set list of ingredients to adhere to. In fact, Gado Gado is one of the most popular dishes in Indonesia and I’m betting that’s because of the versatility. Or maybe because it’s just a great way to toss together leftovers.

Gado Gado: An Indonesian Salad

Ingredients

For the salad:
    • Greens
    • Cooked rice
    • Your choice of vegetables, either raw or cooked or a mix of both – such as broccoli, beans, cabbage, snow peas, carrots, or sprouts
    • Protein – tofu, tempeh, eggs, shredded chicken or pork
    • Peanut sauce
For the peanut sauce:
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp. grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp.soy sauce
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • Salt, if needed

pbsauce

However, a good peanut sauce is at the heart of Gado Gado. It’s probably the one thing you need to pay attention to here. I referenced Mollie Katzen’s recipe in The New Moosewood Cookbookthough based on other peanut sauces I’ve made, the ingredients here are pretty standard.

Just combine peanut butter with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, water and red pepper flakes in a blender or food processor until smooth.

What I love about peanut sauces is that they encompass so many of our basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, umami and maybe even a little bitter. It could be why I could put the sauce on almost anything.

Play with the ratios of these ingredients to make the sauce flavored to your liking. It’s easy to up the red pepper, for instance, and transform it into a really spicy peanut sauce if that’s what your feeling. Or increase the sugar for a sweet version. Experiment and customize it to the food you’re putting it on.

I’ve also seen peanut sauces amplified with coconut milk, fish sauce and/or lime juice. You could try adding these in too, but I think the ingredients listed here make a good start.

I used Katzen’s idea here by adding 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric to the rice as it cooked (2 cups rice simmered in 3 cups water until tender, adding more water, if need). The turmeric adds some color, a little flavor, and all of those health claims people are raving about lately. Interestingly, it’s dubbed the poor man’s saffron.

Then add your vegetables to the plate. I quickly steamed snow peas, carrots, and shiitakes. Be creative in your combo and if you prefer a crunch, skip the cooking and enjoy them raw. Next goes the protein. I luckily found a hard boiled egg left in the fridge and I was content with just that. Tofu and tempeh are popular in Gado Gado, though I don’t see why shredded chicken or pork couldn’t work either. If you have it, use it. If you want it, cook it up or go get it. You can put as much or as little effort into this dish and as long as your peanut sauce is good, I don’t see how you can go wrong.

gado

Finally, drizzle on the peanut sauce. Don’t skimp. Toss, or perhaps I should say mix, it all together. If you want, throw on a topping. I chose pea shoots, but chopped peanuts could work or how about some fresh herbs? And that folks, is all there is to Gado Gado.

Wild Leek Risotto

The world of food is filled with misconceptions. And I love to do my best to clarify them.

Today’s clarification: Risotto.

Creamy, rich and delicious, risotto has a reputation of being a laborious and challenging dish to prepare. I disagree. Risotto is just Italian rice. We know how to make rice, right? If not – which is fine, many people actually do not know how to handle this household staple – you should probably start there. Here’s a good resource to help you out.

Once you have basic rice down, risotto is only slightly more complex. But certainly not out of your capabilities. Here are three things you need to know for a successful pot of risotto.

  1. You need a specific kind of rice. A high starch, short grain rice is ideal for absorbing liquid and producing a creamy, not mushy, texture. The most common risotto rice is called Arborio. Pick some up in the bulk section of your local co-op.
  2. Use a heavy bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, to prevent sticking or worst case scenario – burning.
  3. Make sure your broth is hot and ready to go.
Wild Leek Risotto

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 – 6 as a main dish, 8 as a side or starter

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bunch ramps/wild leeks or 1-2 leeks
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine (optional)
  • 5 1/2 cups broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Though traditionally made with onions, spring is great time to substitute wild leeks, also known as ramps. You can forage your own or find them from a local farmer. But they won’t last long. If you miss out on the short season of ramps, feel free to use traditional leeks, but omit the greens, which are not very edible.

Prep your wild leeks with a good wash. Then separate the tops from the bottoms.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in your heavy bottomed pot. Add in the chopped part of the ramps and the garlic. Cook 5 minutes, until softened, then add in the rice. Cook another 3 minutes, stirring the rice around the pot to prevent sticking.

If using the wine, go ahead and add it in now and let it cook off for a couple of minutes. If not using the wine, just go ahead with the broth.

A ladle full at a time, add the broth to the pot, stirring and waiting until absorbed by the rice before adding the next ladle. Repeat this stirring and broth adding process until the rice is tender and no longer absorbs the broth, about 20 minutes. Stop occasionally to taste for doneness. Rice should be al dente, or with a slight bite to it. If you have a friend/partner/child, this might be a good process for them. It’s slightly time consuming, but certainly not challenging.

IMG_0047

Now remove the rice from the burner and add in the sliced ramp leaves, Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest and juice, and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir everything together to combine.

You’ll want to serve the risotto relatively soon after cooking. If it sits too long it will continue to cook and solidify. If reheating, add a little broth or water to thin out again. If you find yourself with way too much risotto, consider making Arancini, Italian rice balls.

Risotto

Risotto makes for an awesome comfort food and at the same time, sophisticated dinner. Although traditionally prepared with Arborio rice, an Italian short grain variety, you could easily swap out some of the Eight Common Grains, such as barley. With Arborio it just takes a little extra time and some degree of your attention, yet the process is very simple.

The basis of a good risotto involves starting out by cooking onions, adding in the grain, deglazing the pan with some wine, then slowly adding hot broth as it is absorbed by the rice. Some then top the dish with grated cheese, like Parmesan. The process results in a creamy consistency and rich flavor.

 

Other, uncooked vegetables can be added in right after the onion and before adding the grain. And pre-cooked vegetables could be added in during the last few minutes of cooking and could save on overall  . Recently, I made a risotto with beets and guest chef Hilary Adams made one with butternut squash. Both were delicious and all it takes is mastering the rather simple technique. A pot of either of these risottos could easily feed six as a main dish with cooked greens or a salad on the side.

Butternut Squash Risotto

serves 6

1 quart chicken broth
1 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
nutmeg, grated, to taste
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
7 or 8 leaves fresh sage, slivered (optional)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring stock and water to a simmer in a sauce pot then reduce heat to low to keep hot. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. When hot, add the onions and garlic and cook until softened – 2 to 3 minutes, then add in the squash and nutmeg. Add rice and toast for a minute or two, until fragrant – this helps bring out the rice’s rich, nutty flavor. Next, pour in the wine, if using, and cook it off for 2 to 3 minutes. Start ladling in the stock in intervals – a couple of ladles at a time. Allow the liquid to be absorbed between each addition. Risotto will cook in about 30 minutes from the first addition of the stock. You will be able to tell when the risotto is near done when it is no longer absorbing liquid. But taste and cook to a consistency to your liking. In the last-minute of cooking time stir in the sage and cheese. Adjust seasoning, add in butter, if using, and serve.

Beet Risotto

Replace the squash with four medium, peeled and chopped beets. Omit the nutmeg and sage.