Wednesday, August 26, 2009
There are a few basic items that are essential to make Bun dishes (Bun is Vietnamese for rice vermicelli noodles) - fresh crisp bean sprouts, Nuoc Cham, fresh basil and cilantro, some spicy chili's and of course the delicious noodles. The rest seems to be slightly different everywhere I go - so I just made a version with all of my favorites and with one slightly non-Vietnamese addition - Peanut sauce. I happen to love spicy peanut sauce. So, instead of topping with chopped peanuts, I served with peanut sauce instead. This sauce keeps well in the fridge - so make plenty extra and use it in stir-fry, as a dipping sauce for meat, tofu or spring rolls, or even as a salad dressing.
Folks - this dish was simply amazing. The noodles absorb the flavor of the Nuoc Cham which is perfectly complimented by the smokey, spicy grilled shrimp and peanut sauce; with little bursts of flavor from chili peppers and herbs and crunch from the fried onions, bean sprouts and cucumbers it is just sublime. To me - its the perfect combination of flavors and texture and makes a wonderfully cool meal in the very hot summer.
While the title says grilled shrimp - I served both that and grilled tofu, both of which were marinated in the peanut sauce. This dish is easily made vegan when eaten with tofu - though you will have to leave out the Nuoc Cham (I couldn't not find a satisfactory substitution for fish sauce, though you could just make a spicy broth with peppers & garlic and get a similar effect). The tofu was absolutely delicious as well - the sauce carmelizes and blackens on the tofu which really absorbs the smokiness of the grill.
Really, you can do any kind of topping for these noodles - cut up spring rolls or any kind of meat or vegetable you like. I have had it with chicken, pork and beef - and while Shrimp or tofu is my favorite - they are all delicious. This is also really cheap. These amounts I have included will feed 5 people (heartily). Using items from your garden and pantry and an inexpensive topping - this meal is a lot of flavor without a lot of cash. Check your local Asian grocery for a lot of the items you might have trouble finding (I even recommend getting your herbs and bean sprouts there - I find they are usually better and less expensive than the typical grocery chains).
Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Shrimp & Spicy Peanut Sauce (Bun Tom Xao)
fresh crisp bean sprouts
3 sriracha d chili's, cored/seeded and minced
crispy fried onions
1 cucumber, diced or julienned
1 and 1/2 pkgs Bun noodles (rice vermicelli)
1 and 1/2 lbs large Tiger Shrimp, peeled and de-veined
AND/OR 1 large brick of extra firm tofu, sliced
Optional other additions that I didn't use this time but are quite good:
Hoisin Sauce (sooo good with this)
dry roasted peanuts, chopped
lettuce or cabbage
First - make your sauces (recipes below).
Marinate shrimp (and/or tofu) in a few tablespoons of peanut sauce. Allow to sit in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Prepare the Noodles (can be done up to 2 hours in advance):
Bring a stock pot of water to boiling. Add the noodles and allow to boil for 3 to 5 minutes (I did mine for exactly 5 and they were perfect). Stir once or twice as they boil to break the noodles apart.
Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse in cold water until the noodles are cool and the water runs clear. Let the noodles drain in the colander for at least 30 minutes, or can leave them for up to 2 hours unrefrigerated. Before serving, run just a bit of warm water over the noodles so they aren't sticking together (I also like them to not be so cold. If you want them cool, rinse with cool water instead).
Grill the shrimp and/or tofu over moderate heat just until done. The shrimp will only take around 4 or 5 minutes (or even less). The tofu, slightly more.
Bring it all together:
Fill each bowl with noodles. Top with a handful of bean sprouts, fried onions, a pinch of the diced chili peppers, and cucumber. Tear the basil and cilantro into each bowl. Top with with the shrimp (or tofu).
Pass the Nuoc Cham at the table - each person should pour on about 3 or 4 tbs of the stuff. Pass the peanut sauce as well - which can be added to taste (along with Hoisin or Sriracha if you like).
Toss the noodles, toppings and sauces together a few times with chopsticks or fork, and enjoy!!
Spicy Peanut Sauce
1/3 cup all-natural (no corn syrup, not a bunch of added sugar) creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 cloves garlic, pressed (or minced and crushed)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp tahini
3 tbs Sambal-Oelek
1 or 2 tsp Sriracha Sauce
Place all ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat. Stir and heat until it has reach a smooth and creamy consistency. Serve immediately or keeps several weeks in the fridge. As it cools it will change consitency slightly, become thicker. If you like, heat in the microwave over medium heat or in a sauce pan on low before serving. Its also good cold straight out of the fridge :)
Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)
1 clove garlic
1 or 2 tsp Sambal-Oelek
1/2 tsp Sriracha
2/3 cup hot water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Fish sauce
2 tbs fresh lime juice
Combine Sambal-Oelek, Sriracha, water and sugar. Stir well - until sugar has dissolved. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and stir until combined. Make at least 15 minutes before serving - but the earlier the better, you can even make it days in advance (it will keep for up to a month). I just stir it all up in a jar and keep it in the fridge, then on the day I need I take it out and let it come to room temp before using (I don't like it to make the dish cold).
Saturday, August 22, 2009
I am a big fan of thick and hearty tomato soups. The problem is - most of them are full of heavy cream. Why turn wonderful heart healthy tomatoes into something so horrible for you? Not only that - but being slightly lactose intolerant my stomach cannot handle heavy cream at all. This soup is the perfect answer - ripe tomatoes and lots of garlic roasted with rich balsamic vinegar then simply simmered with lots of basil and sauteed onions. Blend it all up and its a rich and delicious soup that I find myself craving all the time. Let the croutons sit at the bottom of your bowl and soak up all tomatoey goodness and they make a delicious addition.
This soup is great for late summer when the markets are full of cheap, fresh tomatoes and the weather is starting to remind us that fall is coming quickly.
Just a few notes about the recipe: start with less water than it calls for to prevent from watering down your soup. Some tomatoes are more watery than others and I find I need different amounts of liquid every time I make this. I use exactly half the amount of Olive oil that he recommends (or even less - it definitely doesn't need that much!), and always make sure to use a really good rich balsamic - it makes a world of difference in the flavor of the soup. I sometimes add in a few other herbs with the basil (like rosemary and thyme) with pleasing results. When I make the croutons, I dip them in a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of just oil. And last but not least - the bit about using a non-reactive baking sheet is really important. Try to avoid using an aluminum pan when roasting the tomatoes as it can really add a metallic taste to the soup.
Roasted Tomato Soup
from Micheal Chiarello
For the soup:
- 12 large (about 4 pounds) tomatoes, stemmed and quartered
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
- 12 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped yellow onions
- 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, plus few leaves torn for garnish
- 2 cups cold water
For the croutons:
- 1 loaf country-style bread
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (260 C - my oven doesn't even go this hot! So I have to let them cook a bit longer).
Prepare the tomatoes. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, 1/4 cup of the oil (I just drizzle in to taste - not nearly that whole amount), the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper, to taste. Spread the tomatoes out on a non-reactive baking sheet (important or your tomatoes will taste like aluminum). Roast the tomatoes in the oven until very dark in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool a bit.
Prepare the bruschetta. Cut the bread crosswise into slices about 1-inch thick (you will need 8 slices). Lightly brush the slices on both sides with oil and season with salt. Place the slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until the bruschetta are golden brown and just beginning to crisp, about 6 minutes.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining 1/4 cup oil, the onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are very soft, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the 2 cups basil leaves and saute with the onions for about 1 minute.
Add the roasted tomatoes and water to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Puree the tomato mixture in a blender. Start the motor at a slow speed and increase gradually. Alternatively you can use an immersion blender right in the pot. The mixture should be very smooth. You should have about 8 cups. You can prepare the soup to this point and refrigerate it. When ready to serve, pour the soup into a medium saucepan and bring it to a slow simmer over medium heat.
Serve the soup. Garnish with herbs if you like and serve with the croutons.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
But really - the true star of this dish is the positively amazing red onion confit - sweet red onions caramelized and cooked with sugar and balsamic vinegar into a gooey spread. It gives a deep richness to this galette that leaves you intensely satisfied.
This will easily serve 6 to 8 servings and can work well as either your main course or as a bring-along to a buffet or pot luck.
Tomato & Eggplant Galette
1 very large Brandywine (or similar) tomato, sliced thin
2 small very ripe roma tomatoes (or similar), sliced thick
1 medium eggplant, sliced thin and drizzled with a few tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
2 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
pinch coarse sea salt
For the Red Onion Confit:
2 large Red Onions, diced
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
For the Crust:
2 cups Flour
10 Tbs cold butter
1/4 tsp salt
6 (give or take) Tbs ice water
First make the pie crust. Place flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the (very cold) butter into small chunks and add to the flour.
With 2 knives (or a pastry blender) cut the butter into the flour until it has a coarse grainy texture. Drop ice water into the mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring it in with a fork as you go. Once the dough has a good constancy form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge. You can do this a day or two ahead of time (or longer and keep it in the freezer).
Next, make the Red Onion Confit. Saute the onions in the butter until onions are very soft and just beginning to brown slightly. Add the sugar, reduce heat slightly, and cook for around 15 minutes - until sugar is all dissolved and onions are getting pretty caramelized.
Add the balsamic and raise heat again (just a touch). Cook, stirring frequently, until it becomes a thick sticky texture - around 15 or 20 minutes. Add a pinch or 2 of salt. Remove from heat and let cool completely. This step can also be done a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge.
Finally its time to put the whole thing together. Preheat your oven to 400 F (204 C).
On a floured surface roll out the dough into a large circle. Cover a baking sheet or pizza stone with parchment paper and transfer the dough to the papered surface.
Spread some of the confit in a 9 inch circle in the center of the dough (you probably won't need all of it -just add to taste. The rest keeps quite well in the fridge and tastes great on burgers, steaks etc as well).
Sprinkle with the chopped rosemary (reserve just a bit). Layer the eggplant slices and large tomato slices, slightly overlapping. In a smaller circle in the center layer the small roma tomato slices.
Fold the dough up around the filling, folding it slightly as you go (wet your fingers and the dough if necessary to make it stick). Sprinkle the dough edges with the course salt, then sprinkle the whole thing with the Parmesan cheese. Top with a pinch of chopped herbs.
Cook for around 40 to 50 minutes or until the crust is nice and browning and cooked all the way through. Just a note - I found the butter tends to ooze and drip from the crust and can make a mess of your oven, so plan accordingly :)
Serve immediately while nice and warm.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The nice thing about these is you can just throw them on the grill and let them do their thing as the grill cools from your main course. They could also be a great camping treat.
But the nicest thing about this? If you just skip the ice cream - or replace it with a dollop of thick greek yogurt instead - this is a pretty healthy dessert. It is also a pretty affordable one - one half of a peach is all you really need per serving. This is also easily made vegan but leaving out the ice cream or using a plant-based version.
Grilled Peaches with Vanilla Ice Cream
2 large ripe but firm Peaches, cut in half and pitted
a few tablespoons Honey or Agave syrup
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
After your main course is finished on the grill place the peach-halves on the grill skin side up. Try to place on medium heat - not in the center or hottest part of the grill.
Cover and allow to cook for a few minutes then turn and cook for a few minutes more (we just let them do their thing while we ate our dinner - jumping up to check on them every few minutes). Once both sides have been grilled, drizzle the skin side with honey and place back on the grill skin side down. Now drizzle some honey on the flesh-side, cover and allow to cook for a few minutes more. When the peaches are soft, juicy and fragrant they are done.
Place in a bowl or plate and top with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream (I used Haagen-Daaz Vanilla Bean but would have used homemade if I had an ice cream maker!)
Monday, August 17, 2009
We decided we needed to try making something similar at home immediately. We grilled red onions instead of topping ours with an Onion Ring like the Hard Rock version and it was absolutely delicious. The onions carmelize and the smoky-sweet flavor combined with the spicy, tangy wing sauce, strong blue cheese and tender juicy burgers is just too good. I mean, worth-every-single-calorie-and-clogged-artery delicious. We also discovered that making wing sauce is super easy, so you will likely be seeing many many buffalo chicken recipes in the future.
Oh - and I recommend eating these with a napkin!
Buffalo Blue Cheese Burger
2 lbs ground sirloin
Creole Seasoning (we always use Tony Cachere's)
1 1/2 cups crumbled bleu cheese (stronger the better)
1 large red onion, sliced
1/4 cup unsalted butter
6 tbs. hot Cayenne Pepper sauce (I recommend Franks)
1-2 tsp Louisiana hot sauce (like Tabasco)
1 1/2 Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar
a few pinches salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 sesame hamburger buns
Prepare the buffalo wing sauce. In a skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add hot sauces, vinegar and salt and stir until well combined. Taste and adjust amounts to desired spiciness/flavor. Set aside in a small bowl or jar.
Divide meat into four thick patties - generously seasoned with Creole seasoning. Place sliced onions in tin foil or a grill basket. Prepare grill. Once hot, cook burgers to desired done-ness (which if you like burgers, better have some pink in the middle. come on.) as well as onions. Keep the onions over lower heat - they will probably be done before the burgers. Lightly toast the buns on the grill.
Mix a spoonful or two of buffalo sauce into the mayonaise and generously spread over both sides of each bun. Now build your burger - first pile on some grilled onions, then a generous heaping of blue cheese, then the burger patty, then sprinkle on a bit more blue cheese. Drizzle some wing sauce over the whole thing before topping with the bun. We found ourselves dipping the whole thing in wing sauce as well. You could optionally throw on a slice of tomato, pickles and lettuce if you so desire - we left those off just to keep things more simple.