Monday, June 18, 2012

Vietnamese Noodle Salad

Through most of high school I worked in a little family operated Vietnamese restaurant called Pham's. The owner, Hong Pham, worked mostly in the kitchen while his sister ran the front of the house. His parents, who didn't speak english at all, helped in the kitchen prepping the huge quantities of fresh veggies needed for a day's service. I wore a beautiful traditional dress while I waited tables and, with my bleach blond hair cut in an angular bob, people often thought I might be Hong's daughter or niece.

Now we have wonderful restaurants from all the different parts of Asia and Northern Africa in most areas but at the time Asian food was strictly chow mein and fried rice. I instantly fell in love with the unusual fresh, bright flavors and colors. This was so far from the meat and potatoes my midwestern family favored. 

My favorite meal was always the Bun Noodle Salad; warm, marinated meat and onions or crispy spring rolls over chilled noodles and fresh veggies with a zingy fish sauce dressing. This has been a go-to summertime meal and no matter where I have lived over the years, the local Vietnamese restaurant soon got to know me and my love for this salad. It was a special heartbreak the first time I realized it was off-limits with my nightshade allergy due to the chilies and peppers that are in the dressing.

So, of course, I figured out how to make my own version. The first couple of tries were pretty boring. The dressings were so watery and flavorless. I wasn't sure I would be able to get the same zing without chilies. Last night we were really craving a light, healthy meal after a weekend of eating steaks and burgers so I decided to give it another try and it turned out amazing. My husband didn't even add any rooster or scotch bonnet sauce. He always adds spice to my asian cooking! The secret is a special marinade on the meat for extra flavor and to use less water and more ginger in the dressing. For anyone who has stumbled on this recipe who is not avoiding nightshades just add a tablespoon or so of finely diced jalapeño or thai chili before blending the dressing. Also, I used beef but this recipe works with just about anything; chicken, pork, shrimp should all be equally yummy. Measurements are approximate and easy to vary according to taste. Make it your own!

Lastly, this is not a quick recipe. It is easy but time consuming. If I'm taking the time to make it I make extra of everything except the noodles and eat it for lunch over rice for the week.

Meat & Marinade:
1 lb Sirloin Steak or other meat
1 med onion-sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup honey
1 lime - juiced
  • combine soy sauce, honey & lime juice
  • thinly slice beef and combine with marinade at least 6 hours
  • saute or stir fry beef with onion & keep warm

2 cloves garlic - minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger - minced
1/8 cup fish sauce
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor
8 oz rice noodles (vermicelli or fettuccine style) 
1 cup fresh cilantro - chopped
3 lg carrots - julienne or shredded
2 cups napa cabbage-finely shredded
1/2 cup cucumber - seeded and sliced thin
1/8 cup fresh mint - chopped
1/8 cup fresh basil - julienne

  • cook noodles according to package directions, rinse in cold water
  • combine vegetables and herbs
To assemble salad:
  • place about 1/2 cup of noodles in the bottom of a bowl.
  • layer 1/2 cup veggies on top of noodles
  • drizzle with 2 tbsp dressing
  • top with beef & onions 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Gluten Free Berry Shortcake

My wonderful family went all out last night to make me an awesome birthday dinner. On the menu: steaks with sautéed onion, mushroom & garlic, baked sweet potatoes, salad with tons of veggies and Berry Shortcake.

My mom was pretty excited when called to tell me the Bisquick now makes a GF blend. Unfortunately, she didn't notice that it does contain potato starch and the biscuit recipe called for 3 eggs. I told her not to worry, I would find a safe recipe and pick up the ingredients. I found one that looked pretty good and only required 1 egg. Typically, when substituting eggs in a recipe, the more eggs in the recipe the more you notice the substitution. I just needed to stop & pick up some Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer. It's the only one I've found without potato starch. I tried 4 different stores including 2 GF specialty stores and no one had it.

While scanning the shelves for another option I found Bob's Red Mill Biscuit Mix---no potato starch, no eggs required. Add butter & milk (or water). Perfect!

My birthday dessert was saved! Here's how we did it:

We used strawberries, blueberries, raspberries & blackberries. We kept them separate so everyone could choose their own mix. Slice strawberries and sprinkle a little sugar on them. Put in the fridge for a few hours. This creates a syrup without cooking them down.

Make the biscuits according to the directions on the package & whip up some heavy whipping cream. I used vanilla rice milk in the biscuits and no sugar in the whipped cream.

Too easy! So good!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Strawberry Season

There is nothing like a strawberry picked fresh from the vine. (I used to think the same thing about tomatoes!). We live in an area with plenty of farms and the strawberry sellers are spread around the town parking lots & street corners for a few weeks each spring & fall.

This is our first stop this year. They've been out for a few days already but I don't usually carry cash, except during Farmer's Market season. Time to get back into that habit.

I bought the 5 pint bucket thinking I would freeze some or find a recipe for sorbet. I may have to go back for more later! He keeps coming to me pushing a half eaten strawberry into my face.
"Mom, you just have to try a bite of this one!"