Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vietnamese Beef Wraps

After watching "The Great Food Truck Race" episodes on Food Network, I started to crave a wrap from the Nom Nom Truck - who used fusion cooking to create Vietnamese style tacos in flour tortillas. I love wraps of all kinds.  They are a quick way to create a tasty meal and the possibilities are endless. Last week I made Greek wraps, with beef  kebabs (marinated in lemon, garlic, olive oil and oregano)  broiled or grilled., then wrapped in Mediterranean pita bread and dressed with tzatziki, red onions, lettuce and tomatoes. Yum! You can make wraps with the flavors of any cuisine including Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern and everything in between. Tonight it's Vietnamese.
I just marinated some steak, then seared and sliced it, wrapped it in a flour tortilla, topped with lettuce, red onion, fresh cilantro and chopped peanuts. Drizzle with some Nuoc Cham and you're good to go.

Sirloin steak, about 3-4 oz per person
Flour tortillas

Lime Juice from 1/2 a lime
Garlic - a large clove minced
Fish sauce - 1 tsp
Lemon Grass, chopped - about a Tbsp
Fresh cracked pepper - a pinch
1 tsp vegetable oil

Shredded romaine lettuce
Thinly sliced red onion
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Crushed peanuts
Nuoc Cham sauce (recipe below)

Nuoc Cham Sauce:
Fish sauce - 2 Tbsp
Lime Juice from 1/2 of a lime
Rice Vinegar - 3 Tbsp
Garlic - 1 clove minced
Ginger - 1 tsp minced
Sugar, 1 1/2 Tbsp
Carrot, 1 Tbsp finely grated
Hot Water, 1- 2 Tbsp
Sambal  Oelek (chilli paste) 1 tsp or more if you like it really hot. Or use chopped, fresh chillies, such as Serrano.

Mix sugar in hot water until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients in a covered jar. Shake to mix. Refrigerate until needed.

Marinate the steak in marinade while you prepare the rest of the meal. Sear on both sides over medium high heat. It should be about medium rare. Let rest about 5 minutes before slicing into strips.

Warm tortillas in a dry pan on medium low (or use microwave, about 10 seconds) until warm. Arrange beef slices in the center of the tortilla. Top with lettuce, cilantro, red onion and Nuoc Cham sauce. Sprinkle with peanuts and devour!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Singapore Noodles

Tonight I made Singapore Noodles for dinner. So yummy!!  As you can see, I am a major noodle addict. I've seen so many different recipes for Singapore Noodles but I don't really think there is one definitive, "authentic" recipe.  It's basically a street vendor food which is a mixture of Asian flavors, primarily soy sauce, Indian curry spices and sometimes fish sauce and sesame oil. From what I've read, there is some question as to whether it originated in Singapore or not. I will leave others to argue that chicken or egg question. I don't think there is really any way to know factually who was the first person who created this dish. Regardless, it is a delicious dish and one that is good for cleaning out the refrigerator :) Here's what I used to make it tonight: I didn't measure anything; I just used what I had in the refrigerator and pantry.
Make as much as you need, depending on how hungry you and your friends are :)

Singapore Noodles

Vermicelli Asian rice noodles, I used two dry squares which is how they come from my Asian grocery story.
Or use thin spegetti  and cook al dente according to package directions.
Chopped cooked chicken
Chopped barbecued pork ( I had left over ribs from lunch at a local Barbeque's place.)
Chopped  raw shrimp ( marinated in a little fish sauce, and sambal)
Tofu, cut into slices and marinated in a little fish sauce, sambal and a pinch of sugar
Sliced onions
Sliced celery
Sliced bell peppers, I used red and green mixed
Shredded romaine lettuce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp minced fresh or jarred ginger
Oil for sauteing, about 2 Tbsp
1 lime (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste.

1 cup broth or water
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Indian Curry powder
1/4 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp Sambal Oelek (Chili  paste) or to taste (it's very hot.)
1/4 tsp fish sauce

Soak rice noodles in hot water until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside, leaving a bit of the water with the noodles so they don't stick together.
Mix sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Saute tofu over medium heat in a small amount of oil until browned. Add onions, celery and bell peppers. Saute until limp, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and let cook about a minute. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Add chicken and pork and toss to combine. Shove everything over to the side of the pan and add raw shrimp to pan. Cook about two minutes until barely cooked through. Add romaine lettuce and noodles and sauce. Toss to evenly distribute sauce. Adjust the seasoning for salt and pepper as needed. Serve in shallow bowls with a wedge of lime to squeeze on top.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quick Minestrone Soup

Quick and Delicious Minestrone
Tonight I'm making a quick version of Minestrone soup for dinner. I know, it's not exactly tropical (well, I've been to some rather warm, seaside towns in Italy...) but it was so quick and easy to make, I thought I'd share. The silver lining is it's very healthy and can be completely vegetarian if you use vegetable stock or water. This isn't a recipe per say, just what I threw together with what I had to make an awesome soup :) The amounts aren't that important, just use what you have and measure according to how many people you are cooking for. It took me about 15 minutes to throw together and about 30 minutes to simmer. Serve with some earthy, whole grain bread. Using my amounts, you will have enough for about 4 servings or two servings with seconds.

Chicken broth, vegetable broth or water, enough to cover veggie by about three inches - about 32 ounces
Dried herbs - (about a tsp each) parsley, oregano, marjoram, basil, thyme and 1 bay leaf
Potato, skinned and diced (I used one red one)
Carrots, skinned and diced (I used two)
Celery, diced (I used about 1/2 cup chopped)
Onions, diced (I used 1/2 medium onion)
Garlic clove, minced (I used one)
Kidney beans, I used about 1/2 15 oz can)
Lima beans (I used frozen ones)\ (I used about 2/3 cup)
Green beans, chopped into bite sized pieces (I used frozen ones) or use zucchini (I didn't have any.)
(I used about 2/3 cup)
Canned or fresh chopped tomatoes, (I used about 2/3 cup)
Greens such as Kale, Swiss chard or Spinach, 1-2 cups, chopped (optional)
1-2 Tbsps tomato paste (I used 2 Tbsp)
Sugar, about 1/4  - 1/2 tsp
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese for garnish

Sauté onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oil. Sprinkle with dried herbs and salt and pepper. Add diced potatoes, garlic, and tomatoes. Stir to coat veggies and let simmer a minute or two. Add broth, tomato paste, sugar, kidney beans, lima beans and green beans. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed. Let simmer about 30 minutes or until veggies and lima beans are tender and cooked through.  Check occasionally; you may need to add more broth or water. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if desired.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice) - Serves 4

Arroz con Pollo is comfort food to me. My mother, who is Costa Rican, used to make it often when I was a kid and I always loved it. She put potatoes, olives and raisins in hers; I generally omit the potatoes but like the addition of raisins and sometimes put in olives, if I remember. My mom used to make a big pot of small, red beans to go on top of the rice... so yummy! These beans are typical of Central American cooking and have a hearty, delicious flavor that is different from the regular kidney beans used in other Latin kitchens. I can't imagine eating Arroz con Pollo without some fried platanos (plantains) on the plate. Just let them get ripe (golden with streaks of black on the skin.) Not too ripe or they will absorb too much grease. Please use Valencia rice; this is a must! The rice is what makes the dish! Make as much as you need, depending on how many people are eating. This is a great dish to make for company. And it's very economical too. You can even make it with rotisserie chicken or left over shredded chicken. Don't worry about exact amounts of the vegetables or meat. I never measure anything when I cook. Just make sure the rice is moist. There should be excess liquid in the dish when you are done. That is the correct way to make Arroz con Pollo. This dish is a staple in my home. Delicious!

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice, Latin Style)

1 1/4 cup Valencia rice
4-6 legs or breasts of Chicken, shredded or on the bone.
1/2 Large Onion, roughly chopped
1/2 Green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 Red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced.
1/2 15 oz can petite cut tomatoes
3/4 cup of frozen peas and carrots
Good quality Olive oil, extra virgin if possible
3 3/4- 4 1/2 cups Chicken broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Dried Parsley
Pinch of Saffron threads (optional)
1/4 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Annatto
Raisins, a handful (optional
6 Spanish Olives with pimiento (optional) Chopped fine or left whole

If using shredded chicken, cook chicken parts in simmering water until cooked, about 30 minutes. Take out chicken pieces and set aside. Shred the chicken when it is cool enough to touch. Save the broth to cook the rice in.

If using bone in chicken, brown the chicken pieces in a little olive oil then set aside. Don't worry about completely cooking them through, as they will cook in the rice and broth later on. Pour off the oil and then begin making the suffrito in the same pan.

In a large pan on medium heat, sauté onions until limp. Add Green bell pepper and about 2/3 of the red pepper slices. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and sauté just a minute, and then add the canned tomatoes, olives, raisins, the cumin, oregano and parsley, paprika, annatto, salt and pepper. This is called a suffrito and is the basis of many Latin dishes. Push the suffrito to one side of the pan and add a little more olive oil (about 1 Tbsp) Add the rice to the oil and sauté for about 2 minutes until all the rice is coated and a bit toasty. Mix the rice with the suffrito and add the broth. Stir and taste the broth. If it needs more salt add a little more. Add the chicken and mix into the rice mixture. Add the saffron threads. Let the rice simmer for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Make sure the heat is not too high because it will burn the rice on the bottom. Add the peas and carrots and put the remaining red bell pepper strips decoratively across the top of the rice. Lower heat to med low and put a lid over the pan. Cook another 10-15 minutes. Test the rice to see if it's done. The rice should be soupy and not dry. Add more broth or water if it gets too dry.

Serve with fried plantains and a crisp garden salad of tomatoes, red onions, avocado, cucumber and lettuce with sherry vinegar vinaigrette.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Asian Noodles

When I was a little girl, I lived in the Florida Keys. Yeah I know, lucky kid growing up on a tropical island vacation spot. It was great and the Keys still have a warm place in my heart. My mother, who is an immigrant from Costa Rica, often befriended other immigrant mothers and this recipe comes from a lovely Japanese woman that was her friend. It became a favorite in our household and was served as often as regular Italian-American style spaghetti that we loved. I have made a few adjustments to Mom's recipe, adding ginger and Sambal Oelek  (chili paste) for a kick. Don't worry about the long list of ingredients. You can use a food processor to quicken the slicing of the vegetables or buy them precut. I have even used frozen veggies in a pinch. The recipe is very forgiving, and it can be easily doubled. Everyone who has tried this dish loves it. I find these noodles addictive.

Asian Noodles - serves 2

1/2 package of spaghetti (1/2 lb)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (you can use left overs if you want)
1/2 large sweet onion, Vidalia or other type
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the bias
1 cup shredded cabbage or romaine lettuce
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp minced ginger
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Sambal (Vietnamese chillie paste) optional
1/2 cup sliced ham
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 cup water or chicken broth or vegetable broth
1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the water to boil the noodles. Cook noodles until al dente since they will be added to the pot later on.

In a large wok or pan over medium heat, add 1 tsp or so of oil. Pour in eggs and let cook until set. Carefully flip the egg over, trying to keep its shape and thinness. Let cook another 30 seconds or so and remove from pan.  Cut into 2 inch strips. Add ham slices and cook briefly then set aside with cooked egg. These will be garnishes.

To the same pan add remaining oil and sauté onions, bell peppers and carrots. (I use olive oil for everything.) When they are limp (after about 2-3 minutes) add garlic and ginger. If using cabbage, add here. (If using romaine add last.) Add shredded chicken and cooked drained noodles. (Add romaine here if using romaine.) Add the broth or use the cooking water from the noodles. Add soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and chili sauce if using. Mix well. Turn off heat. Taste and correct the seasoning for salt and pepper. You can add more soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce if you wish but I prefer a subtle hint of their flavors since they can be over powering. Serve topped with slices of ham and slices of the cooked egg. Divine!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thai Inspired Fish / Crab Cakes

Tropical Fish Cakes with Avocado/Papaya relish.

Inspired by my love of Thai food and locally grown ingredients from my home town of Miami, these cakes are a combination of fish and crab cakes, served with a spicy tropical relish of avocado and papaya.

Fish-crab Cakes
Make 8 cakes.
2- 6 ounce cans of crab meat or 1/2 lb fresh crab meat picked over for shells.
1/2 lb mild white, Atlantic fish such as Mahi Mahi or Snapper
3/4 tsp Thai style red curry paste
3 Tbsp light mayonnaise
1/2 cup unseasoned fresh bread crumbs
1 egg + 1 egg white beaten together
1 tbsp chopped kaffir lime leaves (available jarred in speciality shops) or 1/4 tsp grated lime zest.
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground preferred
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
1/2 medium sized red onion, cut into small dice
1/2 red bell pepper cut into a small dice


Sprinkle half the salt and pepper over the fish fillets and cook in a non stick skillet in 1 tsp of olive oil. Depending on the thickness of the filets, limit cooking time to 3-4 minutes per side. Do not overcook. Put cooked fish filets in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Saute ginger, garlic, onion and red bell pepper in remaining oil until soft. Add to fish. Drain crab mixture (if using canned) until fairly dry, squeezing out the excess moisture. Add crab to fish and mix well, leaving a few chucks of fish and crab.

Mix red curry paste, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, lime leaves or zest, and mix until well combined. Add to fish and crab mixture, along with bread crumbs and eggs. Mix throughly and form into patties a little smaller than an average hamburger. You should have eight cakes total. Cover and refrigerate while you make the relish. Pan fry the cakes on medium heat in olive oil until golden using a non stick pan. Fry in two batches, using 1 Tbsp of olive oil for each batch. Serve over bed of shreded iceburg lettuce with the Avocado relish on the side.


Avocado/Papaya Relish
1/2 head of iceburg lettuce, shreded
1 Haas avocado or 1/2 Florida (large variety) avocado
1 cup papaya cut into small dice
1 minced clove of garlic
1 tsp minced ginger

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
1 Tbsp Asian Fish sauce
1 Lime, juiced
2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
Pinch of Salt
1/2 tsp or more of Sambal chilli paste (Optional)
Make dressing: In a medium size bowl mix together the chopped cilantro, Thai sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, and salt.  Add Sambal if you like it really spicy and hot. Set aside.

Add the papaya and avocado to the remaining dressing. Mix to cover with dressing. Refrigerate until searving time.

To serve: Arrange fish cakes on top of shredded lettuce Serve with Avocado-Papaya relish on the side. A side dish of baked or roasted sweet potatoes make a great accompaniment.

Miso Soup

I love Miso soup. There is something comforting about a steamy bowl of soup that soothes the soul. Tonight I was seeking that comfort after a rainy, gloomy day. Within about 15 minutes tops, I had a healthy dinner, a full stomach and a calm spirit. I just made a simple Miso soup; the type I get in restaurants with my sushi. Only there seems to be something so much better about homemade Miso Soup. Mix the miso paste directly in the bowl because if the water is too hot it will destroy the healthy goodness of the miso. The stock used for making Miso soup is called dashi. It is used extensively in Japanese cuisine and is a fish stock made from dried bonito fish and dried seaweed. I use the stock granules but if you can't find them you could make a broth with the kombu, which is seaweed and maybe add a dash of Thai fish sauce. Or if you are a vegetarian simply use the seaweed in a vegtable broth. This is a basic recipe- feel free to add other veggies and/or some soba noodles.

Miso Soup
Makes two servings.

3 1/2 cups water
1 tsp dashi stock granules (I bought mine at an Asian grocery store)
1 slice dried kombu about 5inches by 2 inches long, snipped into bite sized pieces
4 oz firm tofu cut into cubes
2 green onions chopped into thin slices
4 tsp miso paste (I used white miso)

Put the dashi granuels in a pot with the water and kumbo. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.  Add tofu. Simmer about 10 minutes until kombu is soft. Add green onion and let simmer for about another 1-2 minutes.
Meanwhile, set out two soup bowls. In each bowl put 2 tsp of  miso paste. Add a little of water to the miso paste and mix until well blended. I use a wisk. Divide the soup between the two bowls. Mix each well to make sure the miso paste is well blended. Enjoy!