Silly’s Restaurant on Washington Avenue in Portland, Maine has been open since 1988 and is still going strong. Catching Health’s Associate Editor Jen Boggs recently asked owner Colleen Kelley for a recipe and a few cooking tips.
Why do you think food and cooking are so important?
I believe it is the only thing in this world that truly nourishes.
What one tip can you offer home cooks?
Don’t be afraid to NOT follow recipes precisely. Cooking is about what you like, it’s not a science, like baking. You are going to have colossal failures and amazing revelations. I should know — both happen all the time to me and I have been in the business for 40 years. Be fearless when cooking, and have fun with it!
Okay, one more tip: how do you cook with tofu so that it comes out delicious?
Tofu is porous and will take on any flavor you can give it, so there are lots of different experiments to try. I have pressed it for two days under heavy pots, I have slightly frozen it to change the texture…then put it in an Asian, Mexican, BBQ, Indian, Middle Eastern/Zataar marinade, dry rub or a wash/breading. Fry it, sauté it, smoke it, bake it, char-grill — whatever mood I am in, or whatever cooking technique that works with the theme of the dish and gives it the most flavor. Then serve it with a thoughtful sauce or dip that enhances the marinade and complements the dish.
Do you have any favorite cookbooks?
I read cookbooks like novels! My favorite ones to have fun with are The Food Lover’s Companion, The Flavor Bible, and The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. They have taught me so much about flavor profiling and about a wide range of ingredients.
Colleen gave us a recipe for Imperial Thai Fighter — it’s one of the more popular items on Silly’s menu. She came up with it after researching other recipes. And … what makes it healthy?
Well, it’s loaded full of protein and veggies and miso is supposed to be good for you as well as ginger and garlic.
Imperial Thai Fighter
Compliments of Colleen Kelley, Silly’s Restaurant, Portland, Maine.
- Chicken breast
- Salt & pepper
- Granulated garlic
- Onion powder
- Greens (spinach and/or kale)
- Cabbage and carrots
- Sesame oil
- Brown rice
- Sesame seeds
- Cook the brown rice and set to the side.
- Put a touch of oil in a pan, then sauté the chicken.
- Sprinkle it with salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and onion powder, then add chopped peppers, broccoli, onions, mushroom, spinach, kale, chickpeas, and cabbage.
- Sauté everything together until chicken is almost done and then add the sauce.
- To make the sauce, chop up fresh ginger and garlic, add miso, brown sugar, pepper, tamari, basil, and sesame oil, then emulsify (translation: whisk slowly over low heat until the sauce thickens a bit.)
- Pour the sauce over the chicken and continue to cook on medium heat. (If it is too high the sauce will separate and be greasy, so keep an eye on it.)
- Serve over brown rice (or try rice noodles!) and garnish with cold scallions and toasted sesame seeds.