Thai Beef Salad

Thai Beef Salad
Summer finally arrived about a week ago and it’s been too hot to cook. Too hot for heavy meals and just generally too hot. My favorite thing about this dish adapted from this Shape.com recipe is it’s served chilled and for a light dinner, it is really filling.

Ingredients:
Well-marbled New York steak or a skirt steak, grilled (we broiled and pan-seared a couple of times when it was too hot to grill) to your liking, but preferably no more than medium rare
1 small red onion, sliced into skinny wedges
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped, no stems
Large handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or 1/2 vine-ripened tomatoes cut into wedges)
1 green pepper, sliced thin
2 limes (or about 1/4 to 1/3 cup lime juice)
1 tablespoon brown sugar (you may need more. Note: the original recipe called for palm sugar, but we’ve had a hard time finding it)
1.5 tablespoon fish sauce
Thai chili powder to taste (we found a blend at Penzy’s Spices that we love for this dish – Bangkok blend)

Directions:
Grill, pan-sear or broil the meal as directed above and slice into thin strips after allowing to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Put the brown sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl, add some of the lime juice and mush into a thick liquid form. Add the rest of the lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar.
When the steak has cooled, Add it to the sauce mixture. Toss with your hands to incorporate all over the steak. Add the rest of the veggies, toss and taste. Tasting as you go is the most important part. Add more fish sauce if it needs more salt, or more sugar if it is to lime-y.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or so to let the flavors meld. Then serve on a bed of lettuce and garnish cilantro.

My opinion:
You can add the cilantro into the sauce mixture, just give it a rough chop. If you want to quick sautee your veggies in peanut oil (or your favorite cooking oil), feel free it adds another layer of flavor. This is the perfect dish for a hot summer evening.

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Mango Salsa


Watching the Super Bowl also means eating chips and dip. But it’s winter and fresh salsa in the winter is usually pretty disappointing. But when the new grocery store in town had mangos on sale for 19 cents each, I jumped at the chance to have just a little taste of summer. C made up this amazingly refreshing mango salsa. As we were eating it, we decided it would also be delicious on fish tacos, salmon, pork and of course tortilla chips. It was super easy to make.

Print Recipe
Mango Salsa
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Dice all ingredients into roughly the same size. This part is important because if the mango chunks are too big, they'll fall off the chip. Or worse, break the chip.
  2. Add ingredients to a bowl.
  3. Mix with a spoon.
  4. Squeeze the juice from the mango pit into the bowl.
  5. Feel free to use the side of a metal spoon to scrape off the fruit attached to the pit.
  6. Squeeze the lime juice.
  7. Mix again.
  8. Add salt and pepper, tasting in between.
  9. Garnish with cilantro.
  10. Serve immediately, or chill and serve later.

My opinion:
As noted above, usually fresh salsas made in the winter lack flavor, maybe it’s because we let the mangos get really ripe, but this was full of flavor and very tasty. Don’t be afraid to try it on something other than tortilla chips!

Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill)

After watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations for Vietnam, J and I have sought out Vietnamese dishes to prepare. And as we’ve mentioned before, we are always looking for more  ways to eat fish . J found this recipe from the Ravenous Couple and it didn’t disappoint. Easy to prepare, delicious and fragrant, we’ve added this to our dinner rotation.

Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill.
Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill.

Ingredients:
1 lb of white fish fillets (We used tilapia fillets)

Fish Marinade
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (this gives the fish the beautiful yellow color)
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder (The original recipe calls for galangal powder, but we’ve had a hard time finding it around us)
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce

Additions
1 large red onion, sliced (we only had a white onion on hand)
1 cup of green onion cut lengthwise into 1.5 inch segments
1 bunch of fresh dill coarsely chopped (thick stems removed)
1/4 cup of dry roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed (we didn’t use this because we didn’t have any)
12 oz. bag of vermicelli noodles (boiled and drained, we used white rice because we didn’t have vermicelli on hand)
Fresh mint

If you’re ever interested in making your own fish sauce, the original recipe has instructions on how to do that. We opted not to for time purposes, as we made this on a weeknight.

Directions:
Combine olive oil, turmeric, galangal, garlic, shallots, salt, sugar, and fish sauce in large bowl and mix well. Cut the fish into smaller fillets and gently mix, and allow to marinade in the fridge for at least an hour.

You’ll need two skillets for this, one large and one medium. In the large skillet, saute the red and green onions with a bit of oil under medium low heat. At the same time have the medium non-stick skillet heating on medium high.

While the onions are cooking, cook the fish fillets about 3 minutes on each side until you get a nice golden opaque color and a light brown crust. A minute or so before the fish is done, turn the large skillet with the onions to high and place the cooked fillets on top of the sauteed onions and scallions. Remove from heat and generously top with fresh dill and roasted peanuts (if desired). Serve immediately over vermicelli noodles, fresh lettuce and herbs.

My Opinion:
The dill, fish sauce and mint make te flavors really pop. If you’re skeptical like we initially were, try just a little of each on one bite. I promise, you won’t regret it. The only change we’ve made is to use a bit of a firmer fish. Tilapia was just what we had on hand the first time and worked fine, but cod, halibut, or the recommended catfish would be easier to sear. You won’t feel bogged down by this dish. It’s light and filling. We served it with rice, but that was almost unnecessary, the onions were enough.

Szechuan Kung Pao Chicken


I love Chinese food. When I was younger and my sister and I got to pick the restaurant for our birthday dinner, I always chose the local Chinese restaurant. As I grew up, I loved trying the flavors of the different provinces, but Szechuan has remained a favorite. J found this recipe from Big Oven (our new favorite go to recipe source). It was divine. I was so disappointed there wasn’t any left overs! The secret is in velveting the chicken. This crucial step is what makes all the difference.

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken thighs (we used two large boneless, skinless, chicken breasts)
10 whole red chili peppers (we left five whole)
1 small red onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic (original recipe calls for crushed, we used minced)
1/2 piece fresh ginger (crushed, we just tossed this in the food processor.)
Handful of roasted peanuts (we used unsalted and about a half cup)
Marinade:
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or Sherry (we used a dry sherry)
1 Egg white
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
Seasoning:
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or sherry (again, we used a dry sherry)
1 tablespoon dark vinegar (balsamic will do)
1 tablespoon Dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 scallion (we used a “bunch” of scallions from our garden)

Directions:
Dice chicken into half-inch cubes (We originally went a little too big, but you also don’t want to make these as small as they are in traditional Kung Pao dishes served in your local Chinese establishment.) Mix marinade, lightly beating the egg white and pour over the chicken. Leave to stand for no more than 30 minutes. Velvet the chicken with oil or water (again, this is the secret and makes a HUGE difference! We used the water method, but the oil method would work as well):
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir the chicken to separate and stir again. Simmer for about 2 minutes until the chicken turns white. Drain the chicken. Tear the chilis into pieces, then soak them in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain. Peel the onion and cut into square 1 1/2 inch pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok until very hot (until it starts to smoke). Add the garlic and ginger to the oil, stir for 15 seconds, then add the chilis and stir for a minute or two. Add the onions and continue to stir and flip for another minute. Add the chicken, scallion, peanuts and cook for another minute. After this, if you notice that it seems a little dry for your taste, feel free to mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with a little bit of water and pour in along with your seasoning. Give it a good quick stir (I mean it, be quick, the sugar will burn.) Serve with rice!

My Opinion:
Leaving the chilis in whole meant this dish was spicy. We liked it so much we actually added the left over rice to the wok in order to sop up all of the left over sauce. The chicken was tender, juicy and just amazing. Next time, we’ll add a bit more onion, ginger and garlic. Plus a green pepper for some added vegetables. This dish was so good I could eat it every single day for a long time and never grow bored.

p.s. If anyone one knows where to find Shaoxing wine in Columbia, let me know! I’m sure it would just add a bit more depth to the dish!

Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta


If you told me 10 years ago, I’d be eating squash, I would never believe you. But I am! And I’m loving it! I had no idea these fall vegetables could taste so lovely! I’m always looking for new recipes and when a friend recommended this Self Magazine butternut squash recipe, I jumped at the chance to try it. It was super easy (once I figured out how to cut the squash) and very filling.

Ingredients:
8 oz whole-wheat penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 fresh sage leaves (Do not substitute dried, it doesn’t taste the same!)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lb), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (it’s ok to omit this, but it does enhance the flavors)

Directions:
Cook penne as directed on package (we used spaghetti because we were out of penne, it worked just as well!). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry sage, turning once, until crisp on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel. Add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add squash, 3/4 cup water, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash softens, 5 to 7 minutes (this took about 10 minutes for us). Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot and add squash mixture; stir over low heat, adding some reserved cooking water if necessary, until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Serve, garnished with cheese and sage.

My Opinion:
I didn’t expect this simple dish to be as flavorful and wonderful as it was. The only two changes I’ll make are to add more onion and garlic. A great late fall early winter dish. Not to mention a wonderful introduction to the world of butternut squash. What new vegetable should we try next? Parsnips?