Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Nuoc Cham

Here's the recipe for the Vietnamese Noodle Salad that I served with the Vietnamese Roast Chicken. The photo is of the Pickled Carrots and Daikon Radish since I didn't wan't to use the same photo from the last recipe.  This salad is well known as Bun, sometimes spelled Bunh in Vietnamese restaurants and is served with a variety of grilled meats -  like Lemongrass Beef or Caramelized Pork, Seafood or fried Egg Rolls. The highlight of the dish is the Nuoc Cham, which is used as a salad dressing, but is also the most famous dipping sauce of Vietnam. I used (and modified) a recipe from Andrea Nguyen as it is my favorite version of this sauce.  

Bun is easy to make - it only involves assembling rehydrated Rice Noodles, shredding some lettuce and slicing some Cucumbers, Green Onion tops and Red Onion. The Nuoc Cham also comes together easily. The only thing that has to be made in advance is the Quick Pickled Carrot and Daikon, which involves thinly sliced pieces of each that is soaked in a mild vinegar, sugar and water mixture. I use a Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler to make the Pickled Carrot and Daikon Radishes a quick fix. Do try to find some Perilla Leaves if you can - they add an indefinable flavor that is one of my favorites. This is an absolutely  delicious salad that I recommend that you add to your recipe file and make often!

Vietnamese Noodle Salad (Bun) with Nuoc Cham

1 pound fresh or dried thin Rice Noodles soaked in hot water for 10 minutes

2 Cucumbers, peeled, cut in half, deseeded and cut into thin sticks
1/2 head Iceberg Lettuce, shredded
Green Tops of 4 - 5 Scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup thinly sliced Red Onion
1 cup Quick Pickled Carrot and Daikon (recipe below)
1/2 cup of Mint Leaves
1/2 cup of Cilantro Leaves
Optional:  10 - 12 Perilla Leaves, cut into small pieces with kitchen scissors
Nuoc Cham Dressing (recipe below)

Drain Noodles and place on the serving plate. Sprinkle Cucumbers and Lettuce shreds on top. Then add on the Scallions, Red Onion and Pickled Carrots and Daikon.  Then sprinkle with the Herbs.   

Top with any grilled meat of your choice:  Caramelized Pork, Vietnamese Chicken Thighs (previous recipe), Grilled Seafood or Lemongrass Beef.  Then, pour over the Nuoc Cham sauce to serve.

Quick Pickled Carrot and Daikon

1/4 cup julienned Carrot

1/4 cup julienned Daikon
1/2 warm Water
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 Tablespoon Salt
1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar (without sugar)

Mix the warm Water with the Sugar to dissolve it. Add in the Salt and Rice Vinegar and mix thoroughly. Then add in the Carrot and Daikon and let marinate for at least 15 minutes or in the refrigerator for several days.

Nuoc Cham from Andrea Nguyen

6 Tablespoons fresh Lime Juice

6 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 cup Warm Water
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 Red Jalapeño or 1- 2 Red Thai Chilis, minced 

Ina mixing bowl, stir together the Brown Sugar and Warm Water until blended. Then add in the other ingredients and let sit for at least 10 minutes so that the flavor of this sauce blends.

Five Element Analysis

There are so many ingredients in this dish that you just know it is going to have an intrinsic Five Element balance and it does! In Asian cuisines, the most famous meals are planned to be balanced and this dish is no different. The Lettuce and Chiles bring in the Fire Element. The Lime Juice and Rice Wine Vinegar make sure that the Wood Element is present. The Carrot and Cucumber add the Earth Element as does the Brown Sugar. The Rice Noodles, Daikon, Scallions, Red Onions, Garlic and fresh herbs all contribute the Metal Element. And finally, the Fish Sauce makes sure that the Water Element is present and this is also why a Vietnamese Salad is so often served with Grilled Pork as that adds even more of the Water Element. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Roast Chicken Thighs with Vietnamese Flavors

As you know, I don't often use recipes directly from the source as I am always tweaking things. I think it's that an experienced cook can often "taste" the recipe before making it and sometimes I just know that things need to be changed. I'm always happy to get good recipes and the folks at Serious Eats often have good ones. So, I took their Vietnamese Chicken recipe and only tweaked it a little bit - I made it less spicy and used less Ginger, and of course, I made it Gluten Free. I also doubled the recipe and cooked the chicken for a longer time as they were big pieces. The marinade ended up being deeply flavored and my only complaint is that it smoked up my kitchen while it was cooking. But then again, that might just be because my oven is acting up. In any case, I got a wonderful smoky flavor out of it, but I did have to turn off my smoke detector!  The result was worth it - the chicken things were delicious!  I served them over what the Vietnamese call Bun or basically a rice noodle salad (it will be the next recipe I post) and it made a wonderful meal.  I think this would be a good recipe for a pork tenderloin too and I will try that soon. As I think the oil in this recipe caused the smoke, I am leaving it as an optional ingredient. This dish was delicious and this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Roast Chicken Things with Vietnamese Flavors from Serious Eats

10 Chicken Thighs - bone in and skin on
1/2 cup Tamari
1/2 cup Fish Sauce
3 Tablespoons fresh Lime Juice
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon minced peeled fresh Ginger
1 - 2 teaspoons Chili Garli Paste
6 Garlic Cloves, minced
Optional:  2 teaspoons grated Lime Zest
4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

Mix the ingredients for the marinade and pour into a large glass baking dish. Put in the Chicken skin side down and marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.  Halfway through, turn the chicken over. 

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and place a wire rack over it. Remove each piece of Chicken from the marinade and place it on the rack. Place the baking pan in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees. Transfer chicken to a serving plate.

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element and the Lime Juice adds even more. The marinade contains Tamari and Fish Sauce, which contributes the Water Element and the Ginger and Garlic add in the Metal Element. The Brown Sugar brine int eh Earth Element and the Chili Garlic Paste makes sure that the Fire Element is also present. Serving this dish with a Salad  (Bunh) with Lettuce for the Fire Element and Cucumber for the Earth Element will make it a balanced meal!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Portobello Mushrooms with Boursin Cream Sauce

There are times when it is worth it for me to eat a dish that is made with Cheese because the dish tastes so good. Luckily, I can take my Lactaid pills, which makes it digestible for me. One of the dishes I had at my friend's house in Belgium a few months ago was sautéed Wild Mushrooms with a sauce that was made with butter and Boursin Cheese. For those of you who don't know, Boursin is a creamy cheese flavored with either Garlic and Fine Herbs or Shallots and Chives - both are delicious - I used the Garlic and Fine Herbs version when I made this dish.

I made it first with Button Mushrooms and it was great, but the other night, I made it with Portobello Mushrooms and it was even better! This is such an easy recipe and it really is good with every type of Mushroom, but I loved the meatiness of the Portobellos and I served it on toast. Oh my, it was good! So here's another one of those super easy recipes that make it look like you worked really hard. I think any kind of Mushrooms in this sauce would be great with Meat or on Toast as I served it, or as a side dish for a big holiday meal. I hope you try this dish because it is just so delicious!

Portobello Mushrooms with Boursin Cream Sauce

4 large Portobello Mushrooms or 16 oz any variety of Mushrooms, washed 
5 Tablespoons Butter
1 5.2 oz Boursin Cheese

Slice the Mushrooms about 1/4 inch thick. Melt the Butter in a large frying pan. Add the Mushrooms and cook until soft and when the Mushrooms have released their juice. Take it off the heat and add the Boursin Cheese, stirring until it is incorporated. Serve warm.

Five Element Analysis

Mushrooms are Earthy as you can tell by their color and how they are grown. The Butter and Boursin Cheese with either the Garlic and Herbs or Shallots and Chives add the Metal Element. The Water, Wood and Fire Elements are missing so be sure to serve this with other foods from those elements. If you serve it with Wheat Toast, you will have covered the Wood Element. I served it with Gluten Free Toast full of more Metal and Earth starches so I also made a big salad with vegetables and seeds from the missing elements to create a Five Element balance. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tostones - Fried Plantains

Here's the second part of my Cuban meal that I have been meaning to post for days and days. My only excuse is that I was teaching, but this recipe was requested. I have to tell you, though, this is a super easy recipe. It requires only 3 ingredients - Plantains, Oil and Salt - that's it!  

Plantains are a part of the Banana family, but are not as sweet. In fact, when they green, they starchier and are more like Potatoes. When they are yellow, they have a light sweetness and a taste more like Bananas. Either way ,they are cooked in Cuba, Puerto Rico and many Latin American countries.  The trick is to cook them in hot oil. Make sure the oil is hot so that they won't absorb the oil. When they are browned, you remove them and then smash them so they get much thinner and you fry them again. Then you sprinkle them with salt and serve. If you need to keep them hot because you are doing multiple batches, place them in a warm (200 degree oven) until they are all cooked or if you need to hold them warm until everything else is done. They are delicious!

Tostones - Fried Plantains

2 large Plantains (Green or Yellow), peeled and sliced about 1/3 inch thick
1 cup vegetable Oil
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Heat the Oil in a large frying pan. Meanwhile, cover a plate in two layers of paper towels.  When the oil is slightly smoking, add in as many Plantain slices that will fit without being crowded. Cook until lightly browned. Turn carefully with a spatula or tongs and brown on the other side as well. Remove to the plate and add in remaining slices. Repeat until all are cooked.  

Then take a mallet and on a cutting board, take the coolest Tostones and smash lightly so that the edges get scalloped. Place back in the oil and cook until they are a deeper brown. Remove to another plate covered with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until all are cooked and serve. 

Five Element Analysis

Plantains are a tropical fruit and they are starchy so they belong to the Earth Element. Therefore, they are grounding and pacifying. So, these are great with any meal that needs more of that element!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cabbage Salad with Cuban Mojo Vinaigrette

I made a Cuban style dinner last night because I was inspired to buy some Plantains at my local market. So, I also threw a Pork Roast into my basket. I marinated the Pork in a Mojo Marinade (previous post). I was happily squeezing lots of Lemons, Limes and Oranges and I actually made more than I needed. So, I decided to also use the extra as a base of a Cuban Mojo Vinaigrette. Sometimes, using the same flavors again in a different dish is a wonderful thing, especially when the textures are so different.  

I decided to use Red Cabbage as I wanted some color on the plate as Pork and Plantains and Rice are a little too much the same color. I also served Black Beans. The Salad turned out to be so good and it was also so beautiful! I made it in advance and let it marinate for 2 hours, but it was still crunchy and delicious. I loved it so much I might make it again tonight!

Cabbage Salad with Cuban Mojo Vinaigrette

½ head of a large Red Cabbage, cut into small shreds
¼ head of a large Green Cabbage, cut into small shreds
1 large Carrot, peeled and shredded
¼ cup minced Red Onion
¼ cup minced Cilantro
¼ cup fresh Lemon, Lime and Orange Juice
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, minced finely
¼ teaspoon Jalapeno, finely minced
2 teaspoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 heaping teaspoon dried Oregano

Place the shredded Red and Green Cabbage in a bowl along with the Carrot, Cilantro and Red Onion. In another bowl, mix together the Citrus Juices with the Olive Oil, Garlic, Jalapeno, Sugar, Salt and Oregano. Whisk to combine and pour over the salad.  Toss well and cover. Place in the refrigerator to let the flavors blend for at least 30 minutes up to several hours.

Five Element Analysis

Cabbage belongs to the Earth Element and the Carrot adds even more Earth, so this is an Earthy salad!  The Lemon, Lime and Orange Juices and the Olive Oil make sure that the Wood Element is also present. The Red Onion, Garlic and Oregano contribute the Metal Element.  The Jalapeno brings in only a hint of the Fire Element and the Water Element is missing. That’s why this is such a good salad to serve with Pork and also Black Beans, which belong to the Water Element. And I served the Pork with some Hot Sauce, which brought in Fire to make a balanced Five Element meal!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Natalie's Nori Tofu Packets

A number of years ago, my friend Natalie made these delicious Nori Tofu Packets when she was staying with me and I've thought about them ever since.I recently visited her in England and she asked me what I would like her to make and I immediately requested this dish. For me, it embodies the flavors of Japan, which was my childhood home.  And, it was just as good as I remembered!  I watched her make it carefully and came home and made it myself. The only thing I changed from her recipe is that I added some Tamari to the Tofu as I like the savor flavor it imparts and I added a drizzling sauce that incorporates some Chili Garlic Sauce to add some heat. This is a lovely dish for those of you who enjoy tofu!

Natalie’s Nori Tofu Packets

1 package Firm Tofu, drained and crumbled
1 Leek, root end trimmed, dark green part cut off, quartered and sliced thinly
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons Tamari + more for serving
2 Tablespoons Umi Plum Vinegar + more for serving
Nori Seaweed Sheets – 8
Optional:  Chili Garlic Sauce

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add in the sliced Leek and Carrots pieces. Cook, stirring frequently, until the Leek and Carrot pieces soften. Add in the Tofu and cook for another 2 minutes.  Sprinkle the mixture with the Tamari and Vinegar.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Heat the water in a steamer  Lay one sheet of Nori on a small plate and spoon a heaping 1/4 cup of the Tofu mixture into the center.  Fold in the two sides and then the two ends, turning over so the seam side is down. Repeat until all the packets are made.  Steam on the plate or on a steamer tray covered with parchment, two at a time for 5 minutes each. Serve with additional 1 Tablespoon Tamari and 1 Tablespoon of Vinegar mixed together with 1 – 2 teaspoons of Chili Garlic Sauce to drizzle on top.   

Five Element Analysis

Tofu is a Metal Food and the Leeks add even more. The Carrots contribute the Earth Element and the Umi Plum Vinegar makes sure that the Wood Element is present. Tamari brings in the Water Element along with the Nori Seaweed. Only the Fire Element is missing form the main part of the dish so that’s why it is wise to serve these Nori Tofu Packets with a sauce made with Chili Garlic Sauce to create a balanced Five Element dish.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Spiced Carrot Soup

I had an amazing Carrot Soup at Cafe Campagne in Seattle when a friend was visiting last month and I remember asking at the time what spices were in the soup because it was so incredibly delicious. The secret ingredients were Five Spice Powder and Cardamom. I don't know why I waited so long to make it once I knew what was in it. So tonight, I stopped by the store and picked up some lovely slender carrots with the tops on as they are fresher and finally made this soup. Oh my it was good and it was so easy too!  It's made with Shallots and Butter, Carrots, Vegetable Broth and the spices I already mentioned.  That's it and it took only about 20 minutes to make. It is a creamy soup with just a hint of exotic spices. I left the seeds of the Cardamom nearly whole as I enjoy biting into the resinous little seeds. I am going to make this soup again and again - this one is not just a keeper, it's already become a favorite!

Spiced Carrot Soup

4 cups of peeled and chopped slender Carrots
2 large Shallots, chopped (nearly 1 cup)
4 Tablespoons Butter (or Ghee)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 cups Vegetable Broth (or Chicken Broth)
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
Seeds from about 6 -8 Cardamom Pods crushed (remove bits of husk) or about 1//8 - 1/4 tsp when ground

Melt the Butter in a soup pot and add in the Shallots. Cook, stirring until translucent.  Add in Carrots and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, keeping them from getting brown. Then add in the Vegetable Broth, Salt, Five Spice Powder and Cardamom - use more if you want a stronger spice flavor. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 - 15 minutes or until the Carrots are soft. Using a stick blender, puree until smooth or use a blender, adding 1/2 at a time until it is the right consistency.

Five Element Analysis

Carrots are extremely nutritious and belong to the Earth Element. The Vegetable Broth (or Chicken Broth) contributes the Wood Element. The Five Spice Powder, Cardamom and Butter along with the Shallots bring in the Metal Element. Soup, by it's very nature is part of the Water Element. Only the Fire Element is missing so this is a good soup to serve with a Salad to create a Five Element balance.