Chef’s Viewpoint

Ravioli with Grape Tomatoes Topping

I love to place Grape Tomatoes Topping over Ravino Ravioli. It is more of a topping than a sauce. This recipe makes enough for two portions as a side dish.

Ravioli with Grape Tomatoes Topping © Karen Lee 2016

Ravioli with Grape Tomatoes Topping © Karen Lee 2016


  • 2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sliced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in circles, preferably Del Cabo brand
  • Ravioli
  • Boiling water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 pieces of ravioli, preferably Ravino
  • Garnish
  • ½ cup or more freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chiffonade of parsley


  1. Heat an 8-inch skillet for 1 minute over medium heat.
  2. Add two tablespoons olive oil and then the garlic. Turn the heat to low. Sauté about 2 minutes or until the garlic has just begun to take on a little color.
  3. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, oregano, black pepper and cayenne. Sauté 1 more minute, but do not allow the garlic to get too dark.
  4. Add the grape tomatoes and simmer about 10 minutes or until they have softened. In order to keep the round shape of the tomato slices, stir no more than 2 times.
  5. In a medium size saucepan, bring one quart of water to a rolling boil. Add ½ teaspoon of salt. Add the ravioli to the boiling salted water.
  6. After the ravioli has come to a boil, set the timer for 4 minutes. Stir once. Remove with a wire strainer or slotted spoon.
  7. Place ravioli on two dishes. Spoon Grape Tomato Topping over ravioli. Drizzle with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with parsley.



Broccolini is a green vegetable similar to broccoli but with a milder taste. It has smaller florets with thinner and more tender stalks. I use the whole vegetable except for the last half-inch of the stems.

Broccolini © Karen Lee 2016

Broccolini © Karen Lee 2016


  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sliced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • a pinch of crushed dried chili pepper
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup chicken stock


  1. Wash broccolini by submerging and lifting in a big bowl of water to which a dash of white vinegar has been added.
  2. Let drain in a bowl. Spinning dry is not necessary.
  3. After discarding about ½-inch of the stems, cut the broccolini into ½-inch pieces.
  4. Heat a 10-inch stainless steel or enamel skillet for one minute over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and then the garlic. Turn heat to medium low and sauté the garlic until it just starts to take on some color. After the garlic has been in the pan for one minute add the salt and the chili pepper.
  5. Add the broccolini and toss; sauté about 1 minute, then add the stock a few tablespoons at a time. Simmer until evaporated then toss and add more stock as needed until the broccolini is tender, approximately 5 minutes. Dish. Drizzle with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.

Shiitake Chips

Shiitake boost the immune system. I roast 2 or 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms almost every night in a black iron skillet and serve them as a side dish or an appetizer with my dinner.

Tips for working with mushrooms

  • Buy all mushrooms 2-4 days in advance and let them air dry in the frig on a plate without a cover.
  • Always wash your hands and the cutting board after handling the shiitake and make sure they are cooked through before eating.
  • You want to be able to see parts of the bottom of the pan otherwise the pan is too crowded and the shiitake will not brown or crisp.

Shiitake Chips © Karen Lee 2016

Shiitake Chips © Karen Lee 2016


  • 12 shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • black pepper, a few turns of the mill
  • a sprig of thyme or rosemary (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Wash shiitake.
  3. I like to wash all vegetables and fruits by submerging and lifting them in a bowl of water to which a dash of white vinegar has been added. This helps the cleaning process.
  4. Dry the shiitake with a paper towel.
  5. Place them in a black iron skillet stems up.
  6. Do now crowd lest they will not crisp.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Toss in a sprig of thyme or rosemary if you have it.
  10. Roast the shiitake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a little crisp and brown.


Serve like lollipops. The stems are too tough to eat.


How To Sauté

Sautéing is a cooking technique for browning meat in a little bit of oil or a combination of oil and butter. When referring to meat I mean steak, lamb, pork, veal, chicken or fish. This technique is good for a piece of meat up to 3/4-inch thick.


Rinse the pan (iron skillet if not making a sauce otherwise stainless steel).
Dry over high heat.
Turn the heat to medium.
Add a small amount of oil or a combination of oil and butter.
Usually the meat is lightly coated in flour, salt and pepper. Salmon, swordfish, tuna, and steak would be four exceptions; no flour is needed.
I like to tap off the excess flour.
Lower the meat into the pan and sauté for a few minutes. Once nicely browned, turn and then sauté on the other side.
If you have a thin piece of fish you might only sauté on the second side for a few seconds lest the fish be overcooked. Just go for that mahogany brown on one side when you are dealing with a thin piece of fish.
If the pan is smoking, turn down the heat.
If you do not hear anything (a good sizzling sound) then turn up the heat.

Tips for Sautéing Success

  • To avoid sticking, heat the pan before you add the oil.
  • The meat must be dry in order to achieve the desired crusty brown and to avoid sticking.
  • Do not overcrowd the pan because the meat will steam instead of sauté.
  • For a gluten-free option, I coat in water chestnut powder instead of flour.
  • Be mindful of the pan drippings as you don’t want them to get too dark if you are making a sauce.

Good Garlic at Last!

Spring Purple Garlic is on sale at Fairway right now! It’s a new crop from Florida and priced at $3.99 a pound. Fresh and no green stem.


Sliced for sautéing or whole for roasting, Spring Purple Garlic is exceptional. The only other garlic that is better is local organic garlic that will be found in the open-air markets in July, August and September.

The garlic we have been buying in the stores since November has been in cold storage, old and strong. The new crop is milder, fresher, better tasting. When garlic is old it develops a green stem that is bitter and should be removed. You can see the green stem by slicing a clove in half.

Roasted Garlic

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Choose a small pot or saucepan with a tight fitting cover. Stainless steel or enamel.
  • Dip the whole head of garlic in a bowl of water to which a dash of white vinegar has been added. Lift it out of the water and dry with a dishtowel.
  • Using a serrated knife, slice off about ¼ of an inch off the tiptop to expose some of the garlic, i.e., the pointed end of the head of garlic.
  • Add a dash of extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of the saucepan.
  • Place the whole head of garlic in the saucepan.
  • Rub down the garlic generously with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Cover and roast for 30 minutes or until the individual cloves are soft.
  • Remove from the oven.
  • Remove the garlic from the pan and place on a plate and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • Squeeze the cloves to extract the roasted garlic and place on a plate. Now it is ready to use in various ways.

Roasted Garlic Puree is great on heated bread. You can add it to pasta sauces or to cooked beans. You can use it anytime a recipe calls for sautéed garlic, in which case you would just omit the sautéing and add it directly to the sauce or whatever dish you are making. Garlic, sautéed or roasted is a healthy flavor enhancer. I love welcoming in the spring culinary season with this wonderful Floridian new crop garlic.

Answering the Soy Question

Whenever soy sauce is called for in a recipe, students always ask when to use which type of soy. With Chinese, Japanese, Dark, Light, and Tamari variations, no wonder it is confusing!


When to use which soy?

Generally speaking, for marinating I like to use the Chinese Light Soy (Thin) or the Japanese Soy. For seasoning sauces I use either Dark Soy or a combination of Dark and Light.

If you need Dark Soy and if you can’t get to Chinatown, just pick up a bottle of Japanese Soy, empty half of it into a bottle or jar, add 10 percent molasses, then label it Dark Soy.

Chinese Soy is available in Chinatown. Two sources are: Tokyo Market at 91 Mulberry Street and Kam Man at 200 Canal Street.

I buy Japanese Soy at Fairway and Whole Foods. My favorite brand is San-J Shoyu Organic. I also like Eden.

What are the differences?

Dark Soy has molasses in it, which makes it thicker and sweeter. My favorite brand is Koon Chun.

Light Soy, also known as Thin Soy, is thinner and saltier. Koon Chun is my favorite brand.

Tamari is soy made without wheat but it must say on the label “gluten free”. San-J Organic Tamari, gluten free, is my favorite brand.

Chef Secrets

  • Always buy soy in a glass bottle, never plastic. Plastic imparts a bad taste and studies show long-term storage of salty and oily substances in plastic have a carcinogenic effect on food.
  • Store soy at room temperature, up to 3 months, away from heat and light. If keeping longer I recommend refrigeration.
  • Measure precisely as it is so salty it can wreck a dish.
  • Rather than buying low salt soy I just cut the soy called for in a recipe by half and make up the difference with sherry, sake, or homemade salt free chicken stock.

Mexican Peaches

The organic peaches from Mexico are so sweet and the season is now. They rival the Georgia peaches.


Fairway has them priced at $3.99 a pound. (Second floor of Fairway, 74th and Broadway)

Choose the ones that have a dominant red patch.

Allow them to ripen at room temperature for 2 -3 days or until they smell sweet and have a slight give.

I turn them every 12 hours. Lay them flat, in a single layer.

I like to wash fruit by submerging it in a bowl of filtered water to which a dash of white vinegar has been added.

Dry and eat. You are in for a treat!

Ginger Beef For The Valentine’s Class February 14, 2014

This is an ancient Chinese recipe updated and upgraded. I use prime filet instead of flank steak – less oil, less salt.


ginger-beef-02Flank steak is good, the filet is great. Because the filet is so tender there is no need to marinate more than a few minutes. I cut the filet into thick slices so that in the final dish the meat is medium to medium rare.

If you choose to use flank steak, cut the steak first into two pieces the long way then cut into thin slices against the grain and marinate for 12 to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Karen Lee Secret: When choosing steak always look for lots of marbling. Marbling is the white threads going through the meat. The more marbling the more tender and juicer the meat will be. The final dish resulting in that big luxurious mouth feel.

Ginger Beef

Ginger Beef


  • 1 lb. filet of beef completely trimmed of fat and silver skin
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons pure olive oil or peanut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons finely shredded ginger
  • A full ½ cup shredded scallion (white and green parts included) 2 ½ inch thin strips
  • Marinade
  • 1 tablespoon light soy
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 level teaspoon water chestnut powder or arrowroot
  • Seasoning Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon water chestnut powder or arrowroot dissolved in
  • 2 Tablespoons sherry
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Chinese dark soy
  • Garnish
  • 10 or more V-cut snow peas (blanch and shock)
  • or snow pea shoots ( do not blanch, just wash)
  • or scallion brushes
  • or steamed broccoli flowerets


  1. Slice steak 3/8-inch thick.
  2. Place beef and ingredients for marinade in a bowl and stir with chopsticks.
  3. Refrigerate meat while preparing the rest of the recipe.
  4. Combine ingredients for the seasoning sauce.
  5. Place wok over high heat for 2-3 minutes or until it smokes.
  6. Add 1½ tablespoons oil, swirl to coat wok, then immediately add half the beef slices in a single layer.
  7. Sauté about 30 seconds or until nicely seared. Working quickly, turn each piece of meat and sear another 10 seconds.
  8. Remove the beef from the wok allowing the fat to drain back into the wok. Place beef on serving dish.
  9. Repeat the frying procedure with the remaining beef; remove from the wok.
  10. Add ½ tablespoon oil to the wok and over low heat stir-fry the ginger for two minutes and then add the scallions and continue to sauté for 1 more minute.
  11. While the ginger and the scallions are sautéing, re-stir the seasoning sauce.
  12. Turn the heat to high, and add it to the wok all at once along with the beef; stir-fry for about 5 seconds. During that 5 seconds coat the meat evenly with the seasoning sauce. Empty contents of wok into heated serving dish and serve immediately.
  13. Garnish with blanched snow peas around the beef or a few shredded scallions on top or show pea shoots on the side or steamed broccoli flowerets.

Indian Inspired Split Pea Soup with Spiced Yogurt

I taught a class on February 4th and asked the students at the end, “About which recipe would you like me to blog?”

They overwhelmingly replied, “The Soup!”

This delicious soup lasts five days in the refrigerator, and is packed with healing spices that can have a salutatory effect on the body when used regularly.

  • Cayenne pepper has been given credit for lowering cholesterol, fighting infection and acting as a natural anti-inflammatory.
  • Turmeric has been given credit for preventing cancer, acid reflux, inflammation, and Alzheimer’s.
  • Cumin has also been given credit for preventing Alzheimer’s.
  • Ginger has been given credit for aiding digestion and circulation, lowering cholesterol, and acting as an anti-inflammatory. It also speeds the recovery of a cold and sore throat and settles an upset stomach.
  • Beans are a great source of iron, fiber, and protein and also help lower cholesterol.

Karen Lee Secret: Roasting cumin enhances the flavor. I like to roast ¼ cup cumin seeds in a small iron skillet over low heat for a few minutes or until the seeds are a little darker and smell good. Let cool then pulverize in a Krups electric coffee mill or use a mortar and pestle. Store in refrigerator in a covered brown glass jar. Roasted cumin will keep its aroma for three months.

Split Pea Soup with Spiced Yogurt © Karen Lee 2014

Split Pea Soup with Spiced Yogurt © Karen Lee 2014


  • 1 2/3 cups organic yellow split peas
  • 6-7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (green stem removed if any), sliced
  • 2 cups diced sweet white onion (such as Vidalia) or half onion and half leek
  • ½ cup carrot, scrubbed but not peeled
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/3 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes
  • Garnish
  • Spiced yogurt
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Chopped cilantro


  1. Wash split peas, drain and simmer in 5 cups of the stock for 1 hour, cover askew, or until almost soft. Stir every fifteen minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.
  2. Pour the olive oil in a heated skillet over low heat. Sauté garlic and onions for 4 to 5 minutes until they just begin to color. Add carrots and celery, ginger, and continue to sauté for 2 minutes. Add the turmeric, cumin, salt, and cayenne; sauté over low heat for another 3-4 minutes until spices get a little darker and their aroma is released. Take care not to burn the spices. Add the tomatoes and simmer a few minutes. Then add the cooked peas and the remaining stock. With cover askew, simmer until the split peas are soft, approximately 20 minutes.
  3. To serve the soup, place one cup of pea soup in a bowl. Add 1½ teaspoons of lemon juice. Sprinkle with cilantro and a dollop of spiced yogurt.

The Spiced Yogurt recipe is adapted from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison and can be made two days in advance and stored in refrigerator. Yields four to six portions.

Spiced Yogurt

Spiced Yogurt


  • 1 cup plain whole yogurt, hung, or use Greek yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  1. If using plain yogurt, cut a piece of cheesecloth about an 8-inch square. Rinse in cold-water; squeeze dry. Line strainer with cheesecloth and drain yogurt in strainer for a few hours.
  2. Place the yogurt in a bowl. Using five chopsticks (Chinese wooden whisk), stir in the spices.

Sautéed Snow Peas and Shitake

We had another fun class on January 19th.  Happy hungry students gathered around the butcher block eager to learn healthy new dishes to add to their repertoire.  Sautéed Snow Peas and Shitake were on the menu and I wanted to share this delicious recipe with you.


Choose Snow Peas that are bright green, no trace of brown or yellow. Crisp looking, flat, with underdeveloped peas. Snow peas are a good source of vitamin C, iron and manganese (good for bone development).

Shitake have been given credit for boosting the immune system, and helping prevent cardiovascular disease.

Karen Lee Secret: I like to buy shitake (and all mushrooms) three to five days in advance. Place them in a bowl, uncovered in the refrigerator. They dry out and give up less water when you sauté them and therefore become crispy.


Sautéed Snow Peas and Shitake

Sautéed Snow Peas and Shitake


  • 10 ounces of snow peas (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup shitake, no stems
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced, no seeds no membrane
  • 2 tablespoons diced shallots
  • ¼ teaspoon ground roasted cumin
  • 1 whole scallion cut into 1/8-inch half rounds
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Wash snow peas by submerging and lifting them out of a bowl of water to which a dash of white vinegar has been added. (This helps clean them) String each snow pea then pile 2 snow peas on top of each other and slant cut into 3 pieces the long way.
  2. Wash the shitake in the same way as the snow peas. Using a knife remove the stems and discard, then cut each shitake into ¼ inch strips.
  3. Heat a small iron skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, turn the heat to medium and sauté the shitake about 5-7 minutes or until crispy. Season with half of the salt and pepper. Remove from the skillet to a serving platter.
  4. Rinse a 10-inch stainless steel or enamel sauté pan then dry over medium heat. When water evaporates (this procedure will take one or two minutes) add the remaining olive oil and sauté the snow peas over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining salt and pepper. Flip or stir occasionally.
  5. Add the butter and the ginger and sauté another minute.
  6. Add the jalapeño, shallot, and cumin and continue to sauté and stir for another minute.
  7. Add the scallions and sauté another 30 seconds. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Empty contents of pan into the serving platter.