Sunday, July 24, 2011

Too Hot To Cook

It’s 110 with the heat index and I just don’t feel like cooking. Did I just say that? I always feel like cooking.

It’s so difficult to get motivated to do anything when it’s this hot. Even the BBQ seems like an effort.
Here are some of the great salads I’ve done this past year that remind me that I don’t have to go near the oven much less turn it on.

Bon Appetit!
Antioxidant Fruit Salad
1 Mango, sliced
1 cup blueberries
1 pomegranate
2 teaspoons lime juice

Cut the mango in half around the stone, and then criss-cross the flesh of the mango halves with a knife into 1/2-inch squares.

Push the diced mango flesh outwards and then slice off the squares from the skin into a bowl.

Tumble in the blueberries, then halve the pomegranate and bash out the seeds with a wooden spoon over the mango. Finally squeeze over the lime juice and serve.

Insalata Rustica
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces 1/8-inch-thick slices pancetta
Spicy crushed pecans
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
4 cups mixed greens
2 pears, cored and thinly sliced
Aged balsamic vinegar (for drizzling)

Fry pancetta and drain. Crumble and set aside. On top of the greens, add cherries, pears, and pecans. Top with crispy pancetta and dressing of aged balsamic.

Peach and Tomato Salad

3 ripe peaches, pitted and each cut into 8 wedges (about 1 pound)
1/2 pound heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, cut into thick wedges
1/2 pound heirloom cherry or pear tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/4 cup greens

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over peach mixture; add basil and toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and sliced red onion if desired.

Asian Cole Slaw

1/2 small head green cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 cup peanuts
4 -5 spring onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sunflower or peanut oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sriracha sauce (spicy garlic sauce)

In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, peanuts, spring onion and coriander.

Make a dressing by combining lemon juice, sugar, oil, soy sauce and sriracha sauce together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed (I find it's plenty salty enough though), then drizzle over salad and toss to coat evenly.

Serve immediately.

Vietnamese Noodle Salad
With the master recipe for the salad, you can create different flavors just by changing the toppings, the greens or the herbs. I know this recipe looks complicated. It is not. Make it in steps and you'll find it to be fairly easy!

For the Greens:
2 cups washed shredded romaine, red or green leaf lettuce
2 cups bean sprouts (optional)
1 ½ cups cucumbers, peeled and julienned or whole
½ cup small whole mint leaves
½ cup roughly thai basil leaves

For the Garnishes:
2 Tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce)
12 sprigs cilantro
Sliced carrots or Daikon

Nuoc Cham:
1 clove garlic
2 to 3 Thai bird chiles (or 1 small jalapeño or serrano chile), cored, seeded, and minced; more or less to taste
1/2 tsp. ground chile paste; more or less to taste
2/3 cup hot water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. shredded carrots (optional)

In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and fresh chiles to a paste. (Or mince them together with a knife.) In a small bowl, combine this garlic and chile mixture with the chile paste, hot water, and sugar. Stir well. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and combine. Float the carrots on top. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before using.

For the noodles:
8 oz. dried rice vermicelli

For the topping:
Use one of these four - Mongolian Beef, Caramelized Pork, Lemongrass Shrimp or Vegetables. See Vietnamese Salad under the recipe page for other toppings.

Mongolian Beef
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. minced ginger
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
3/4 c. dark brown sugar

1/2 c. vegetable oil (I would use less oil)
1 pound flank steak
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 large green onions

Make the sauce by heating 2 tsp. vegetable oil in med saucepan over med/low heat. Don't get the oil too hot or you'll get a major splatter when adding liquids.

Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches.

Dissolve the brown sugar in the saute, then raise the heat to med and boil the sauce for 2-3 min. or until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4 inch thick slices. Tilt the blade of you knife at about a 45 deg angle to the top of the steak so that you get wider cuts.

Dip the steak pieces into the cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece. Let the beef sit for about 10 min. so that the cornstarch sticks.

As the beef sits, heat up one cup of oil in a wok or skillet. Add the beef to the oil and saute for just 2 min. or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. Stir the meat around a little so that it cooks evenly. After a couple minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out onto paper towels, then pour the oil out of the wok.

Put the pan back over the heat, dump the meat back into it and simmer for one minute.

Add the sauce, cook for one min while stirring, then add all the green onions.

Cook for 1 more minute, then remove the beef and onions with slotted spoon to serving plate. Leave excess sauce behind in the pan.

Caramelized Pork: (this is my favorite)
For the caramel:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
For the pork:
2 large shallots, sliced, or 5 scallions (white parts only), chopped
2 tsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
Pinch salt
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1-1/2 lb. pork loin or sirloin, sliced into large pieces about 1/4-inch thick

To make the caramel: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir a few times and allow to simmer until the sauce turns deep brown, about 15 min. Meanwhile, have some extra hot water ready on a back burner. Once the sauce reaches the desired color, carefully add 4 to 5 Tbs. hot water to slow the cooking and thin the sauce. (Be sure to hold the pan away from you so that none of the hot caramel splatters on you when you add the water.) If necessary, add more hot water. The sauce should only be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.

To make the pork: Pound the shallots in a mortar and pestle or mince by hand. Transfer the shallots to a mixing bowl and combine with the fish sauce, soy sauce, salt, vegetable oil, and cooled caramel sauce. Stir well to blend. Add the pork slices and let marinate for 20 min. Meanwhile, heat a broiler or light a charcoal or gas grill. When the broiler or fire is very hot, cook the pork until just done, about 2 min. on each side. Let the pork rest for 10 to 15 min., cut into thin strips, and serve on bun.

Wildflour’s Southwestern Salad
Mixed greens
Red cabbage
Red pepper
Jack Cheese or cotija
Tortilla strips
Ranch buttermilk dressing with cilantro and drizzle of green chili sauce

1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp jalapeno pepper, seeded and crushed
1 Ranch dressing mix packet
2 garlic cloves
3 tomatillos

In a blender, place all ingredients and process until smooth. Allow to stand for a few minutes for flavors to meld.