Shopping Tips

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.


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.

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.

My Favorite Yogurts

All my favorite yogurts are organic. They are made in small batches from organic farms.

The cows feed on grass, hay, grains, which produces milk that is better for your heart and tastes better.  The grass on which they graze has not been treated with chemicals. The cows have not been treated with hormones or stimulants.

The milk is pasteurized, but not homogenized so the cream is on top. The taste is superb and superior.

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes.

The best things and best people rise out of their separateness; I’m against a homogenized society because I want the cream to rise.

— Robert Frost

I eat half a cup of yogurt every day.

If eaten sans sugar, yogurt is probiotic, which means it replaces the good bacteria in your intestines.

I add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon.  Cinnamon has been give credit for lowering the cholesterol and acting as a natural inflammatory.  After eating ½ teaspoon of cinnamon every day for several months, my blood test revealed that my triglycerides had taken a dive.

The yogurt brands I like are:

  • Maple Leaf Creamery
  • Hawthorne
  • Erivan
  • Butterworks

I buy them at Fairway, Gourmet Garage, Whole Foods and Farmers Markets.

Sweet Strawberries


Just returned from Whole Foods Market.

They are having a sale on organic strawberries from California.

$4.99 for a big box.

Very sweet.

I always like to wash fruit and vegetables in warm water to which a dash of white vinegar has been added.

Fill a large bowl with warm water.  Add a dash of vinegar then submerge the berries, swish them around then lift them out.

Submerge and lift one more time in just plain water.

Drain and dry.

Fruit is best eaten at room temperature.

For proper digestion, eat fruit 30 minutes before a meal or 2 hours after a meal.

Purple and Red Fruits are full of protective antioxidants, which are good for the heart.

Halibut Oreganata © Karen Lee 2013

In my Saturday April 20th cooking class we made:

Halibut Oreganata


Braised Fava Beans with Herbs

I added this dish to the menu at the last minute when I saw fresh organic Fava beans on the second floor of Fairway).

Sautéed Asparagus with Ramps

I found the ramps at Citeralla much to my surprise.  That saved me 3 hours round trip by not going to the Union Square Market.  Ramps really made the dish, they are so sweet.  I describe them as a cousin to leeks, only much more tender.  They are in season just 3 weeks out of the year and the time is now.

Halibut Oreganata

Wild caught from Canada and purchased from Pisacane (51st and First Avenue, 212-758-1525 ask for Paul) was glistening and fresh as can be.

Pasta with Arabiata Sauce

We used fresh and canned tomatoes.  Best tomatoes right now are Tasti Lee.  I buy them at Gourmet Garage. They are grown in Florida.  Let them ripen a day or two at room temperature.

Linzer Cookies


Halibut Oreganata © Karen Lee 2013

  • 1 pound of halibut, not more than one to 1¼ inches thick, skin off


  • 1½ Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sliced garlic, green stem removed
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped shallots or cipollini or combination of both
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • A few grindings of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne
  • ¾ tsp. dried oregano (preferably wild-harvested)
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp. of bread crumbs (brioche roll, cubed then pulverized in Cuisinart)
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Final Seasoning

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Garnish with snipped chives (optional)

Preheat oven to 425º.

Dip halibut in a bowl of cold water for one second then dry well with paper towels.  Place the fish in a metal roasting pan that has been rubbed with olive oil or in a skillet that just fits the size of the fish (or a little larger).

Place a small sauté pan over low heat for one minute.

Add the 1½ Tbsp. of olive oil and heat slightly.

Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes on very low heat, never allowing the oil to get too hot and lose its green color.  Add the shallots and continue to sauté over low heat.  Take the pan off the heat if necessary to lower the heat.  While the shallots are sautéing add the salt, black pepper, cayenne and oregano.  Turn off the heat.  Add the bread crumbs, fresh thyme and fresh parsley. Using an icing spatula, spread the topping over the fish.  Roast fish for about 5 to 10 minutes. Time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. If necessary run fish under the broiler for 30 seconds to 2 minutes to get the desired crust. Watch like a hawk. You are looking for brown and crusty, it is more about the color and crust than the timing.  Using two spatulas remove the fish from the pan and place on a serving platter.  Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the fish, and then squeeze a little lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt.  Garnish with optional chives.


If roasting more than 1 pound of fish, increase the topping accordingly and the cooking time…anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes roasting time depending on the thickness of the fish and the number of pounds.

You can tell when the halibut is done by inserting the point of the knife into the thickest part of the fish and the knife-point goes through easily.  If the fish stops the knife it is raw in the center.

Also you will see albumen (white liquid protein) form around the fish.

You can undercook the halibut slightly to allow for carry over cooking time.

Muscat Grapes


Just returned home with the first of the Muscat grapes this spring.

Whole Foods, 59th street and columbus circle.

3.99 a pound

They are green, with a tinge of pink,  seedless, and sweet as sugar.

I  highly recommend them.