Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Vietnamese Meatball Bun Salad Bowl













It's hot and smoky here in Seattle due to all the wild fires burning in British Columbia. That makes me too tired to cook much, so I've been eating a lot of salads and sandwiches. Tonight, though, I was craving Bun, which is a Vietnamese Salad bowl full of Rice Noodles, Cucumber, Carrots and lots and lots of fresh herbs like Cilantro, Thai Basil, Mint and Shiso Leaf. Unfortunately, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant closed recently near my house and I didn't want to drive downtown to their other location. The solution? I decided to make it myself. Luckily, I have Mint, Shiso Leaf and Thai Basil all growing in my garden and I always have Cilantro in my fridge along with Carrots, Cucumbers and Lettuce. The only thing I was missing was Pork that I could slice to caramelize the Vietnamese way. But, I did have ground Pork so I made Vietnamese style Meatballs in the Broiler and I added just a bit of caramel into the Pork to give it the right flavor. I got that idea from a recipe I saw once and wrote down on a little slip of paper, which I kept, but I am sorry to say that I didn't write down where it came from. So thank you to whomever created that recipe. I topped the salad with chopped roasted Peanuts and I was in heaven. It was so good!  I might not need to order takeout anymore since I love this version so much!

Vietnamese Meatballs

1 pound ground Pork
1 large Shallot, minced
3 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Tablespoons Sugar 
3 Tablespoons Boiling Water
2 Tablespoons Cold Water

Put the Pork into a mixing bowl and add the Shallot and Fish Sauce. Then in a small frying pan, add the Sugar and Boiling Water. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Then quickly add in the cold water, stir and add to the Pork mixture. Stir to combine, pushing the meat down with a spatula until it becomes somewhat pasty. Shape into about 20 meatballs and place on a baking sheet. Press to flatten. Put into the broiler and cook for 4 - 5 minutes and then turn over and cook for an additional 4 minutes.  

Bun Salad Bowl

8 ounces of Rice Noodles
1 large or 2 smaller Cucumbers, peeled and cut in half
1 large Carrot, peeled
1 small head of Butter Lettuce, washed
1/2 cup of Cilantro Leaves
1/2 cup of Thai Basil Leaves
1/2 cup of Mint Leaves
Optional:  1/2 cup of Shiso Leaves
1/3 cup chopped roasted Peanuts

Cook the Rice Noodles in boiling water from 7 - 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with Cold Water. Place in a serving bowl. 

Remove the Seeds from the Cucumbers using a small spoon.Then cut into julienne pieces about 2 inches long.Julienne the Carrots into similar size pieces. Then slice the Lettuce using a Lettuce knife or tear into thin strips. Place on top of the Noodles. Then sprinkle on the fresh herbs. Lay the Meatballs on top of that and sprinkle with the Peanuts. Pour the Dressing over all and toss before serving.

Nuoc Cham Dressing

1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 cup Boiling Water
4 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon Red Chili Flakes

In a bowl, stir together the Sugar and the Boiling Water. Stir until dissolved and then add in the Lime Juice, Fish Sauce, Garlic Cloves and Chili Flakes.  

Five Element Analysis

Pork belongs to the Water Element and so does the Fish Sauce. The Wood Element is represented by the Lime Juice. The Fire Element is seen in the Lettuce and Chili Flakes. The two kinds of Sugar, the Peanuts, the Cucumber and the Carrot all make sure that the Earth Element is present. And finally the Metal Element is represented by the pungent herbs, the Shallot and Garlic and the Rice Noodles. This then is a perfectly balanced Summer meal!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Greek Salad


In the summertime, I eat a lot of salads during hot weather and I have a lot of different salads that I make, but wanted something a little new and different. I also had someone coming over and decided to make Greek food for dinner, so the perfect accompaniment would be a Greek Salad. I've had lots of them in Greek restaurants, but wasn't that excited by them and not too long ago, a friend of mine - who is half Greek - told me that traditional Greek Salads don't have lettuce in them. I've always had them served with Lettuce - usually Iceberg so I was intrigued. I got her recipe and when I made it, I loved it and so did my guest.

A traditional Greek Salad incorporates Cucumber, Sweet Red, Orange or Yellow Peppers, ripe Cherry Tomatoes, thinly sliced Red Onion, Feta Cheese and Kalamata Olives. The dressing is made with Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil, Garlic, Salt and dried Oregano. It's very important to cut the Feta into cubes instead of using it crumbled and it's actually much better to use dried Oregano than fresh. My friend told me to make the Salad dressing ahead of time to let the flavors meld and also to dress the salad at least 30 minutes before you serve it. This is such a great salad that it is joining the summer salad rotation!

Greek Salad

1 large hothouse Cucumber or 4 Persian Cucumbers, ends trimmed (leave peel on) 
1 small Orange Pepper
1 small Yellow Pepper
2 cups Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup thinly sliced Red Onion cut in quarters
4 ounces Feta Cheese (Sheep's Milk if possible to find), cut into small cubes
1/2 - 3/4 cup Kalamata Olives        


Cut the Cucumber in half and take a small spoon and scrape out the Cucumber seeds and then cut into 1/4 inch thick half moons. Then cut a think slice off the top and bottom of the Peppers. Then, cut in half and then cut into 1 inch squares - you should have about 1 cup of each. Put the Cucumbers, Peppers, Tomatoes, Red Onion, Feta Cheese and Olives in a large salad bowl. Drizzle dressing over and toss to coat everything. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.  


Dressing

2 Garlic Cloves minced
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/3 cup Olive Oil   
1 teaspoon dried Oregano   
3/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon fresh Ground Black Pepper   

Place all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes up until overnight before dressing the salad. 

Five Element Analysis

There are so many colors in this salad that you can be pretty sure that most Elements are covered. To start, the Cucumbers belong to the Earth Element. The Yellow and Orange Peppers have both Earth (because of the color) and Fire because Peppers belong to that Element. The Tomatoes and Black Pepper add even more Fire. The Red Onion and Feta along with the Garlic and Oregano make sure that the Metal Element is present.  The Vinegar and Olive Oil contribute the Wood Element and the Calamata Olives bring in a bit of Wood but also some Water o because they are black. The little bit of Salt in the dressing and in the Feta bring in a touch more Water. The Water Element needs a little support, so this would be a perfect salad to go with some grilled Fish, or an Eggplant dish or some Greek soup.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Radish Salad with Butter Vinaigrette


One of the classic French ways of serving Radishes is with softened Butter and Sea Salt and I've loved it since the first time I tried it in France. I still eat Radishes that way quite often. I've even been known to make that combination into a sandwich. Something about the flavor of Butter softens the pungent bite of the Radishes. So tonight I got inspired to make a Butter Vinaigrette and make this classic combination into a salad. I cooked some Shallots in unsalted Butter and added some Sherry Vinegar, flaky Sea Salt of course, a pinch of Sugar and a spoonful of Dijon Mustard. I poured it over a plate of sliced Radishes and I was in heaven! This recipe is definitely a keeper so I decided to share it with you. It's so easy and so good. If you love Radishes, you need to try this Radish Salad with a Butter Vinaigrette!

Radish Salad with Butter Vinaigrette

16 Radishes, trimmed and cut into thin slices
4 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
1 small Shallot, minced
4 Tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
pinch of Sugar (about 1/8 teaspoon)
fresh ground Pepper to taste

In a small frying pan, melt the Butter and add the Shallots. Cook until the Shallots just start to brown. Turn off the heat and add in the Sherry Vinegar, Mustard, Salt and Sugar. Stir to combine and pour over the Radishes. Sprinkle with fresh ground Pepper and serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Radishes are one of the few Metal vegetables because of their pungent flavor. But because they are red, they have a bit of Fire too. The Mustard, Butter and Shallots bring in even more of the Metal Element. The Vinegar belongs to the Wood Element.  There's only a hint of the Water Element from the Salt and Earth from the Sugar. So, this is a great dish to serve when you need a lot of Metal to round out the meal.   


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Gluten Free Spinach and Feta Quiche


This is a Quiche that I make frequently for my son and daughter in law. It incorporates all the flavors of Spanikopita but it is cooked in a pie shell instead of inside puff pastry. I have to admit that I don't usually make my own Gluten Free Pie Crust, I buy it frozen. It saves a lot of time and the only downside is that it is smaller than I usually make my Quiches so I use less Egg and Milk. So the Quiche ends up tasting mostly of Spinach and Feta instead of just being savory custard and I think it actually makes it better. 

Gluten Free Spinach and Feta Quiche

1 frozen Gluten Free Pie Crust (I used Silly Zak's)
6 ounces frozen Spinach, thawed
3 - 4 Green Onions, trimmed and minced
1/4 cup fresh Dill
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Eggs
1 cup Milk
8 ounces Feta Cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the Pie Crust on a large sheet pan for about 10 minutes or until the crust is just starting to get lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Add the Olive Oil to a frying pan and then add the Green Onions and Spinach. Cook until the Spinach is heated through. Remove to a bowl and add the Dill.

I another bowl, mix together the Eggs, Milk, Feta Cheese and Salt and add to the Spinach mixture. Pour into the Pie Shell and place in the oven.

Cook for 35 - 40 minutes or until the center is set when you test it with a knife and the top of the Quiche is lightly browned. 

Five Element Analysis

With all the Spinach in this Quiche, you know that there is a tot of the Wood Element present. The Eggs bring in the Water Element. The Feta Cheese, Green Onions, Dill and Milk all contribute the Metal Element and the Pie Crust which is made of mostly Butter and Rice Flour adds even more. It also contributes a tiny bit of the Earth Element with the Tapioca Starch, but this Element needs to be incorporated into the meal in some other way so I add a Cucumber and Tomato Salad, for the mostly missing Earth and the missing Fire Element to create a balanced meal. 


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Eggplant Dip with Georgian flavors


I love making Dips with Eggplant and had the idea today to make one with Georgian flavors. I've always enjoyed Georgian food when I've been lucky enough to have it. This dip is sweet and sour, due to the addition of Pomegranate Molasses and has as additional seasoning of pureed fresh Tomatoes and Garlic. I sprinkled it with toasted Walnuts, which gives it another textural layer. If I had some Pomegranate Seeds, I would sprinkle those on top as well. I served it with Gluten Free Crackers and it would also be very good with toasted Bread. Georgian Eggplant Dip is incredibly delicious!

Georgian Eggplant Dip

1 large Eggplant
1 Roma Tomato, stem end removed
2 small Garlic Cloves 
3 - 4 Tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses (depending on how sour you want it to be)
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 cup Walnuts, broken or chopped into small pieces

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the Eggplant all over with a fork and place on a foil covered pan. Cook for 45 minutes to one hour or until the Eggplant is soft at both the top and the bottom.  Slice open and let drain until cool. Peel and then chop the Eggplant.  

In a blender or food processor, puree the Tomato with the Garlic, Salt and Sugar. Add to the Eggplant mixture and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to serve to let the flavors meld. When ready to serve, toast the Walnuts in a small frying pan and sprinkle on top.

Five Element Analysis

Eggplant belongs to the Water Element and the Walnuts add even more. Tomatoes and Pomegranates come from the Fire Element although the Pomegranate Molasses is Sour so it also contributes the Wood Element flavor. The Garlic brings in the Metal Element. The Crackers I served (Schaar Entertainment Crackers) are made from Cornstarch and Corn Flour and add in the Earth Element. This ended up being a balanced Five Element Snack!


Monday, July 2, 2018

Sugar Snap Peas with Bacon


Sugar Snap Peas are one of my favorite vegetables - they are crunchy and sweet and I think they are good both raw or cooked. I like to cook them just a little. I saw a bunch at the Asian Market and they looked so good that I had to buy them.  I make them many ways, but my current favorite way is with Bacon. It's one of those combinations that I think should be enshrined in the culinary world.  This is a really simple side dish and it's even good cold. I've brought it to potlucks and it's been a big hit. It doesn't need any other seasoning besides a little bit of Shallot and hint of Pepper as the Peas are sweet and the bacon is salty. - a perfect match!

Sugar Snap Peas with Bacon

1 pound of Sugar Snap Peas, ends pinched off
4 cups of Water
4 - 6 slices of Bacon, cut into very small pieces
2 teaspoons minced Shallot
pinch of fresh ground Pepper

Bring Water to a boil in a saucepan. Add in the Sugar Snap Peas and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.  

Cook Bacon in a frying pan until crisp. Remove to a paper towel covered plate. Drain off extra oil. Add Shallots to the pan and cook until soft. Then add in the Sugar Snap Peas to the pan, coat with that little bit of Bacon fat and sprinkle with Pepper.  Pour into a bowl and top with Bacon pieces.  

Five Element Analysis

Sugar Snap Peas are primarily identified with the Wood Element as they come from fast growing vines, but because they are sweet, they have embody some the Earth Element too. The Bacon belongs to the Water Element and the Pepper brings in just a bit of Fire.The Shallot adds just a bit of the Metal Element. Since this is a side dish, be sure to add another Fire Food (we had Lamb with a sweet place for some more Earth too) and a bit more of a Metal food - we had Fennel and Orange Salad as our other side dish for a Five Element balance.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Chili with Hominy














I was in the mood for Chili today and I wanted to make something a little different. I'm not eating many beans these days so I decided I would make Chili with Hominy instead. I love big chewy Hominy and simply don't have enough dishes to use it in. So, I made a mild Chili with New Mexico Chili Powder, some Tomato Sauce, Beef Broth, Garlic, Onions and Red Pepper. If you want to make it hotter, use a spicier Chili Powder and if you want to make it more like Chili Colorado, eliminate the Red Pepper and the Tomato Sauce and add more Beef Broth.  It was simple and oh so good!  I usually like to eat my Chili scooped up into Fritos or Tortilla Chips although this Chili would be good over Rice too. But tonight, I served with some Gluten Free Cornbread and a Kale Salad

Chili with Hominy

1 pound Ground Beef
1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Red Pepper, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 - 2 cups Beef Broth
1 15 ounce can of Tomato Sauce
1 25 ounce can of Hominy, drained
2 - 3 Tablespoons mild New Mexico Chili Powder
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Mexican Oregano

Add the Ground Beef with the Onion, Garlic and Red Pepper in a large skillet until the Meat is no longer pink. Add in 1 1/2 cups of Beef Broth, Tomato Sauce, Hominy, Salt and Sugar. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, checking to see if it needs more liquid, then cooking for an additional 10 minutes. 

Five Element Analysis

Tomato Sauce, Chili Powder and Red Peppers both belong to the Fire Element so this is very much a Fire food. The Beef and Hominy and the Cornbread contribute the Earth Element. The Onion and Garlic and the Mexican Oregano bring in the Metal Element. The Water and Wood Elements need some representation in the meal, so I served it with a big Lacinato Kale Salad covered in Pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds (a previous post) to make it a balanced meal!