Pancakes, Tuna Sandwiches, and Black Pepper Chicken

    This week brings easy, delicious, healthy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I absolutely love these buckwheat and banana pancakes, which I came up with when making breakfast for a friend who doesn’t eat eggs or dairy and doesn’t love wheat. I like the challenge of making super healthy food that doesn’t taste like it belongs in California in the 1970s. If my son likes them, then anyone will like them! The quick tuna sandwich makes a satisfying lunch and the soy-mayo spread really makes it sing. The chicken dinner is so easy it’s ridiculous. Just make sure your pantry is stocked with fish sauce and rice vinegar from the Asian market – they add incredible depth of flavor, it will taste like you have been slaving all day. If you only buy one organic item, it should be the chicken. Cook with love! Make it great!


    Buckwheat and banana pancakes

    I've got a thing for pancakes. This combination of nutty buckwheat and sweet, sticky banana is just great. You could sprinkle chopped walnuts on the pancakes as they’re cooking for a full-on pancake-meets-banana bread experience. These happen to be vegan, but don’t taste like it. Buckwheat flour adds a lot of value to the plain white flour – it’s rich in nutrients like calcium, iron, B vitamins and protein, and it's gluten-free. Definitely worth a trip to the health food store.

    Serves: 3 or 4 (makes about a dozen pancakes)

    • 1 1/4 cups soy or rice milk
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more for serving
    • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour or white spelt flour (substitute rice flour to make pancakes completely gluten-free)
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 bananas, thinly sliced

    1.Mix all the wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a slightly bigger bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir just enough to combine – be careful not to over-mix (that's how you get tough pancakes).

    2.Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat (I love Jamie Oliver’s nonstick cookware – it's so slippery that I don't need to use any oil or butter). Ladle as many pancakes as possible onto your griddle. Place a few slices of banana on top of each pancake. Cook for about a minute and a half on the first side or until the surface is covered with small bubbles and the underside is nicely browned. Flip and cook for about a minute on the second side. Repeat the process until you run out of batter. Serve stacked high with plenty of maple syrup.

    Asian tuna sandwiches with soy and sesame mayonnaise

    This started as an elegant, plated tuna dish, but it quickly turned into an out-of-this-world sandwich. If you'd like, you can omit the bread and simply serve the tuna on a bed of arugula and use the soy and sesame mayonnaise as a dressing.

    Serves: 4.
    Time: 10 minutes.

    • 2 tuna steaks, about half a pound each
    • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
    • 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
    • 8 slices ciabatta
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Soy and sesame mayonnaise (see recipe below)
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 cup arugula

    1.Slice each tuna steak in half horizontally so you end up with four thin steaks (more bang for your buck!). Rub them with the peanut oil and ginger. Set a large, nonstick skillet over high heat. When it's hot, cook the tuna steaks for 20-30 seconds on each side or until just seared.

    2.Meanwhile, grill or toast the bread and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Spread the soy and sesame mayo on one side of each slice and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Distribute the tuna and arugula evenly on four slices of bread and sandwich with the remaining four slices.


    Soy and sesame mayonnaise

    Beyond quick and simple but full of flavor. Also a nice dip for steamed vegetables.

    Makes: 1/2 cup (more than enough for 4 sandwiches).
    Time: 1 minute!

    • 1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise (or Veganaise – the only substitute that tastes good)
    • 2 teaspoons shoyu (soy sauce)
    • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil

    Whisk everything together.

    Caramelized black pepper chicken

    I recently found this recipe in Food & Wine magazine. It's from Charles Phan, who runs the great Vietnamese restaurant, Slanted Door, in San Francisco. When I make it, I use a little less sugar, a lot more cilantro and organic chicken breasts (I prefer the texture of white meat in this preparation). This literally takes minutes, is so easy and tastes like what you always imagine take-out will taste like (but sadly never does). Serve this with jasmine or brown rice and stir-fried or steamed vegetables.

    Serves: 4 generously
    Time: 10 minutes

    • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar (unrefined)
    • 1/3 cup fish sauce
    • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 teaspoons finely grated garlic
    • 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
    • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
    • 1 or 2 fresh Thai chilis (to your taste!), halved
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
    • 2 pounds organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (1/2")
    • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

    1.In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, ginger, pepper and chili and reserve.

    2.In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the shallots until softened and a bit brown, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and stir-fry, browning it all over, about a minute. Add the sugar mixture and simmer over high heat until the chicken is totally cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

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