Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Vietnamese Adventure!

My BF and I absolutely love these Vietnamese sandwiches called Bánh mì (pickled veggies, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, pate, mayo and meat or tofu), so when I happened to find myself with an excess of pate, I decided to challenge myself to make them! They were delicious, and while not hard to make, it was quite an adventure along the way. So I will share my story (and recipe) here. :)

  • Crusty French sandwich rolls
  • Pate
  • Homemade mayo
  • Pickled vegetables (carrots, cucumber, onion, daikon)
  • Cilantro
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • chả lụa (Vietnamese Ham)
The first step is to pickle your vegetables. Fresh from the farmers market, you'll want to get some carrots, an English cucumber, onion and a daikon (see My date with daikons). Peel and slice them very thin, like matchsticks. I make quite a bit as they are everyone's favorite and they will keep (see squid salad recipe below). While you are chopping, boil one cup unseasoned rice vinegar and 5 tablespoons sugar until dissolved. Let cool and then combine with your vegetables and refrigerate, preferably overnight, but at least until pickled!

Once I had that taken care of, I embarked on the adventure to find the chả lụa, or the Vietnamese Ham. I thought for sure Uwajimaya would carry it, but no luck for me. So, I used one of my lifelines and called my aunt who is a fabulous Vietnamese cook and she directed me over the phone to not only the Vietnamese market, but exactly where in the non-English speaking grocery where to find this meat and what brand to buy (Phu-huong)! I chose two kinds; classic pork and pork with pork rinds. I also bought something that looks more like a cured, bologna ham. Simply unwrapping these things was entertainment in itself (they are boiled in banana leaves!). Slice them thin, 1/4 inch thick or less.

Homemade mayonnaise is a must. Separate 4 - 6 egg yolks, and mix with a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of chopped garlic, teaspoon good vinegar (I used white wine) and salt and pepper. Use a hand mixer or a KitchenAid and slowly poor in a good oil (like Saffola or sunflower) while mixing. Add enough oil until it is the consistency you prefer. For the Bánh mì, I recommend a little more on the saucy side rather than super firm.

Slice up the jalapeño, very thin, and remove the seeds. You can peel it first if you are concerned about the heat. De-stem a few sprigs of cilantro.

I served it buffet style for our guests so everyone got to build their own! My recommendation, pile on the ingredients, you won't be sorry!

  • Slice the bread, Subway style
  • Spread a layer of pate on one side
  • Spread a layer of mayo on the other side
  • Layer the meat, pickled veggies, jalapeños and cilantro
Sooo good! Enjoy! If you want to try out Bánh mì without making them yourself, you can find them at most markets in the International District, even Uwajimaya, and they are dirt cheap ($1.50-$2).

My aunt also sent me her recipe for Squid salad, and while I haven't made it yet, I can tell you it is amazing. Plus, it is the same recipe for the pickled veggies, so you have two meals covered! She was happy to let me share it with you all:

  • 1 butter lettuce, torn into bite pieces
  • 1 small green mango, shredded into julienne strips
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1 cup of daikon & carrot pickles (Boil 1 c of Japanese rice vinegar + 5 Tbsp of sugar. Let it cool then add daikon + carrot julienne strips. Can be kept in fridge up to 1 month.)
  • 1 lbs of squid, blanched in boiling water
  • Some peanuts, crushed
  • Some cilantro + mint, minced
  • 2 Tbsp of sugar
  • 3 Tbsp of rice vinegar (use the one from pickled juice of daikon + carrot)
  • 1/2 tsp of chili garlic sauce, or more if prefer spicier, or minced fresh chili
  • 2 Tbsp of fresh lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp of water
  • 2 Tbsp of fish sauce, preferably "Phu Quoc" from Flying Lion brand, or "3 crabs"
All the ingredients can be layered as the above order or you can mix them all. Pour in the dressing before serving.

If anyone else tries this out, let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Price Challenge: Hollywood Farmers Market vs. New Seasons

I was at a bbq last night when a friend asked me what I was doing the rest of the weekend. I explained that our Saturday morning routine consists of waking up, taking Cass to the dog park and then off to the Farmers Market for our weekly bundle of organic goodness to which my friend commented, "Isn't the Farmers Market so much more expensive?" I paused for a second...while we are a bit cost conscious, price isn't really a main motivator for going to the market. Hmm...I decided to keep track of what I spent at the market this morning and compare it to local grocery store chain who carries mostly organic and local produce of comparable quality--New Seasons. I could have compared it to Safeway but in my mind that's like comparing a pair of Steve Maddens to Manolos.

Here's what I purchased this morning with the prices for FM/NS:

3 lb. Honeydew melon: $2/$5.50
3 Red bell peppers: $2/$4.50
3 sweet onions: $1/$3
2 bell peppers: $1 $2.50
1 head broccoli: $2/$4
1 bunch scallions: $1.50/$1
1 Italian artichoke: $1/$4
1 lb. black cod: $11/$13
2 lbs. clams: $9/$12

Total for Farmers Market: $31.50
Total for New Seasons: $49.50

Wow! I can't believe I saved $18 shopping at the Farmers Market! I'm sure there's a margin of error here but I would be surprised if it came to $20...Major score for the local guys!

So why do we believe in shopping at Farmers Markets? Lynne Rossetto Kasper sums it up best in the "Shopping Manifesto" from her must have ode to good eating, How to Eat Supper; "Supporting local, organic and sustainable growers and producers isn't solely about us and our own well-being. It's about the large view--the environment, the community, the ethical treatment of people and animals, the value of the small and unique. And it's about feeding the people you care about as best you can." Living in a place like Oregon that has been hit hard by the recession, shopping locally takes on an even greater importance. I read recently that for every dollar spent at a local market, three are pumped in the local economy. I also like having a chance to meet the farmers and knowing that we are supporting responsible farming practices that includes respect and love. Hands down organic and fresh groceries just tastes better. The fish spent last night in the ocean, the veggies didn't spend three days on a flatbed truck nor were they raised in soil pumped full of chemicals. While I didn't buy any today, our market also sells poultry and meat products all antibiotics free and free range. There is simply no comparison between the flavor of a grass feed cut of beef versus corn fed (not to even mention the quality of life for the cows). Organically raised meat is a lot more expensive, but totally worth it for many, many reasons--anybody read My Year of Meat?? Also by buying local and growing our own we are cutting down on our carbon footprint. And let's not forget about FUN. It doesn't feel like summer without our weekly trips to the market.

I'm glad that we can now add lower cost to our running list of reasons for shopping at the market!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Gettin Figgy with It

This post is about a month overdue. I've gotten wrapped up in the craziness and laziness of summer...

I don't know if it's because the window of availability is so short, but there is something so alluring about fresh figs.

I use dried figs a lot in winter stews with braised meats--I love the sweetness and depth it adds to chicken and duck--but I am not well versed at using fresh ones. I decided the fresh, delicate flavor would be best used in a desert. A search on the Internet came up mostly dry. I did find a recipe for Millefeuille (don't ask me to pronounce this...) of fresh figs and ricotta but I'm honestly not a huge fan of ricotta's texture on it's own. I mostly followed the recipe but opted to add a dollop of marscapone and cream cheese and I'm glad I did. The balsamic added a really nice finish to cut through the creaminess while also coaxing out the subtle fig flavors.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quick and Easy – Blackberry Cobbler

I’m a big fan of cooking things that are quick, easy and tasty – especially when I can incorporate fresh, local ingredients. And as a southern gal, I love few things more than a tasty cobbler made with seasonal fruit. Blackberry cobbler – using wild berries picked from my backyard – combines my southern sweet tooth with my Pacific Northwest bounty.

My friend Katrina shared this recipe with me and I have to say, it’s a winner. Definitely a rare treat with a stick of butter and a cup of sugar, but you can burn some calories before digging into this baby by hiking to find the perfect blackberries. And we all deserve treats every once in awhile!

Blackberry Cobbler

2-3 cups of fresh blackberries (I add about 1/3 cup of sugar to them a couple hours ahead of time to help extract some of the juices and counter the tartness)

Mix together:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup water
Put 1 stick of margarine or butter in baking dish, put dish in oven and pre-heat to 375 degrees.

Remove pan from oven and pour batter over melted butter. Pour berries (with juice) over the batter and bake (uncovered) until top is lightly brown...about 35-45 minutes.

Now if only I could find some Bluebell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream to top on this tasty treat...

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Favorite Meal... on the Farm!

The BF and I are members of the Dog Mountain Farm CSA, and one of our favorite things to do in the summer is attend one of David and Cindy Krepky’s fabulous Farm Dinners. These multi-course meals are created by a local chef and offer up a tantalizing experience of fresh vegetables, herbs, poultry and seafood.

The evening starts out with a glass of sparkling wine and an appetizer before heading out on a tour of the working farm. The tour includes the WSDA poultry barn, produce and berry patches, and a visit with two very sweet Percheron draft horses. The meals are then served on elegant picnic tables in the orchards with a stunning view of the Cascade Mountain range.

This summer I have been to two dinners prepared by Chef Eric Wright (from Sorrento Hotel Hunt Club and Cactus restaurants) and I have been blown away by the way he has creatively put together the meals. Eric is especially talented at preparing seafood, including Salmon and Halibut. As someone who has been eating fresh fish for my whole life (see Riches of the Pacific Coast), I have been really impressed with his creative preparations.

Here are examples of some of my favorite dishes that Eric has served us from the bounty of Dog Mountain Farm:

  • Spanish tortilla with farm-fresh eggs, new potatoes, roasted sweet peppers, asparagus, and fresh goat cheese
  • Chilled cucumber soup with lemon crème fraiche
  • Grilled apricots with charred Italian chicory, Cabrales Blue cheese, Jerez sherry vinaigrette and toasted almonds
  • Grilled wild sockeye salmon with grilled corn cakes, herb salad, cucumber salsa, and red and green Chile sauces
  • Roasted fresh halibut with tomato-basil salad on sautéed garlicky pea vines with caramelized fennel, grilled purple potatoes, and lemon-thyme aioli
  • Fresh berry pudding with scratch-made pound cake and sweet vanilla cream

Of course, the meals are paired with plenty of wine from a local winery. We’ve enjoyed both Guardian Cellars and Red Sky Winery.

All in all, these dinners are the quintessential example of a slow food meal, linking together the pleasure of food, community, and the environment. We always have such a great time and truly believe these are some of the best meals we have had in Seattle!

To learn more about the Dog Mountain Farm Dinners, and to sign up for one of three remaining events, visit We’ll be there on September 26th, and would love for anyone to join us!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Salad Inspiration

Wanted to point out another great post by Bitten for those of you looking for new salad combinations. Especially handy as we continue thru these dog days of summer. I highly recommend paying attention to the readers comments. Great ideas!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Christmas in July (and August, September...)

I absolutely love my CSA and eagerly await each new box, often calling my husband several times a day on Wednesdays to see if he’s picked up our goodies and to learn what’s in the week’s shipment. And when I arrive home on Wednesdays, I try to see how many veggies I can cram into meals that night and for the next few days. While that anticipation hasn’t waned, I’ve experienced a couple of culinary setbacks forcing me to get a bit more creative with my cooking methods: 1) the hottest temperature ever recorded in Seattle and 2) a hand injury making chopping, dicing, peeling (and even typing, for that matter) virtually impossible.

When the mercury tops 100 degrees in Seattle and you find yourself without air conditioning, cooking indoors becomes a no-no. While salads of deliciously crisp and earthy farm-fresh greens and vine ripened tomatoes are always a summer treat, protein is essential as well. Certain vegetables scream to accompany salmon on the grill (few things are better to me than asparagus or squash topped with a bit of EVOO, salt, pepper and crisped a bit on the grill), but others may not seem as obvious. One of my biggest surprises this season was how wonderful turnips tasted when tossed with garlic, onion and EVOO, mixed with fresh and dried herbs, and wrapped in foil for roasting on the grill. Charred greens can be a nice accompaniment to meals when mixed with some oil and vinegar, and peppers, onions and even tomatoes can be wonderfully grilled, either with direct heat, wrapped in foil or cooked in a grill-friendly pan.

My other conundrum – and one that will impact my summer CSA experience more than the heat – is my injured finger making cutting and preparing vegetables difficult and dangerous (it's pretty hard to cut through anything firmer than butter when you can't use your left middle finger; I've tried). Luckily it’s a short-term setback with the stitches coming out next week, but in the meantime, I’ll be relying on my husband to serve as my sous chef and whip up tasty meals on his own – Will, the kitchen’s all yours! – or I’ll have to get creative with cooking entire heads of broccoli and cauliflower and eat my fresh tomatoes and zukes whole and raw. Feel free to share your favorite fun and easy recipes for summer veggies here as I bet all of our partners would like to take care of their favorite KD lady once in awhile; fully functioning hands or not!