Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Red Pepper and Bacon

Until last year, I didn't eat brussels sprouts.  This is not that surprising since I long had an aversion to cabbage, and brussels sprouts are kind of an uber cabbage.  The smell of them cooking repulsed me. The smell of steamed brussels sprouts, which is the way Tjing usually cooks them, is the smell of decrepitude and death.  Walk into a house where brussels sprouts have been steamed and my first reaction is to look for the corpse rotting in the rocking chair.

One way to explain my new found appreciation for brussels sprouts is that taste buds change as we age.  There's a greater receptivity for bitterness.  It's as if our taste buds have themselves adjusted to increasing levels of bitterness as we age.  Another way to explain my change of heart towards brussels sprouts is that as I've aged I've become increasingly comfortable with the stench of of decrepitude and death.  Either way, brussels sprouts have become my new feel good vegetable.

This version is similar to a dish in Momofuku.  I had some home cured bacon that I was looking to use up, so I thought I'd give this a try.  The sprouts are stir fried in bacon fat along with a sweet long pepper and tossed with some nuoc cham.  The bacon pieces are returned to the dish to coat with the reduced sauce just before serving.

Brussels Sprouts with Red Pepper and Bacon

1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
1 long sweet red pepper or red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
a few tablespoons of water
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup nuoc cham with caramel sauce

In a wok or large frying pan, crisp the bacon piece over medium low heat.  Remove the bacon pieces and drain on paper towels. Turn the heat up to medium high.  Add the brussels sprouts, cut halves down.  Brown the sprouts, then add the pepper.  Stir fry a few minutes until vegetables are charred at spots.  Add a little water and cover the wok.  When the brussels sprouts are cooked through but still crunchy, add the nuoc cham.  Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce has been reduced to a glaze and the vegetables are thoroughly coated. Stir in the bacon pieces just before serving.

Nuoc Cham with Caramel Sauce
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup water
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup Vietnamese caramel sauce
juice of 1 lime
2 TBS sriracha sauce
1/4  to 1/2 cup white sugar, to taste

Friday, October 22, 2010

Crab Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of those dishes that I generally avoid at restaurants.  It's a great way to get rid of leftovers, but that's not why I go to restaurants.  Moreover, it is often greasy, fried in too much oil.  At home, fried rice is a treat.  It's quick, easy, and not greasy at all.

 Crab fried rice is not a dish of leftovers.  Although I originally had this version at a restaurant near the school where I taught in Jakarta, this is not an Indonesian style of nasi goreng.  Indonesian nasi goreng features kecap manis and is a dish that I associate more with breakfast.  This crab fried rice is more subtly spiced and allows the crab to stand out.  The addition of corn adds a little sweetness and texture to the rice.

It's important to use good quality crab meat when making this dish.  You could add other ingredients if you like, but I prefer to let the crab be the star of the show here.  That's the same reason I would feature this as the main dish of the meal, not peripheral to any other dish.

Crab Fried Rice

4 cups cold, cooked rice
1 cup good quality crab meat
2 shallots, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1--2 red chilies, finely diced
kernels from 1 ear of corn, about 1/2 cup
2 large eggs
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 TBS fish sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
3 TBS Thai basil, finely chopped
2--3 TBS vegetable oil

Beat the eggs with 1 tsp of the fish sauce.  Heat a wok or frying pan over medium high heat.  Add a little oil to cover the bottom.  Fry half the egg mixture to make a thin omelet.  Remove and repeat with the remaining egg.  Let the omelets cool, then roll and slice into thin strips.

Heat the remaining oil in the wok.  First, fry the corn for about a minute.  Then, add shallots and garlic and briefly fry.  Next, add chilies and fry another 30 seconds or so.  After this, add green onions and then stir in rice, breaking up any clumps.  Then, add crab meat, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Stir well to distribute the ingredients evenly.  (If necessary, add a little water to help break up any rice clumps.) Finally, stir in the Thai basil just before removing from heat.  Decorate the plated rice with the omelet strips before serving.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Roasted Eggplant and Crab Meat Salad on Won Ton Triangles

Our niece, the princess, recently returned to Indonesia after living with us for several years while she went to college here.  Although we would have liked it if she had stayed longer, we certainly understood her  desire to return home to her mother, grandmother, and miserable dogs.  At the same time, her departure has expanded the foods we're able to enjoy.  

Despite coming from an archipelago blessed with some tremendous seafood, the princess is allergic to all that the ocean produces.  She also claims to be allergic to eggplant.  She doesn't claim to be allergic to carrots, but has an aversion to them that borders on the phobic.  Since her return to Indonesia, I've reintroduced these items to our table.  

Eggplant is a vegetable that people generally love or hate.  Mishandled, it can be god-awful--greasy, salty, or bitter.  That is especially true for the larger, globe eggplant.  Asian eggplant tend not to be as bitter.  Roasted, they have a subtle sweetness and a silken texture.  Ca tim nuong, Vietnamese grilled eggplant, combines the eggplant with scallion oil and a salty-sweet dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, chilies and sugar.  Mix in some crab meat and serve on top of fried won ton triangles and you've got a wonderful appetizer, perfect for autumn when eggplants are at their best.

As much as I enjoyed it, this is not something I would have cooked for the princess's birthday this week had she still been here.  Still, I hope she had a wonderful time with family and friends in Surabaya.

Roasted Eggplant and Crab Meat Salad on Won Ton Triangles

Two slender, Japanese or Chinese, eggplant
1/2 cup crab meat (preferably fresh)
3 TBS mint, finely julienned
3 TBS Thai basil, finely julienned

2 scallions (green onions), green parts only, finely sliced into thin rounds
2 TBS vegetable oil

Juice of 1 lime
1 clove of garlic
2 TBS fish sauce
2--3 TBS sugar
1 red chili, seeded and minced (I didn't have any on hand, so I left it out)
1 TBS Thai sweet chili sauce

Prick the eggplants with a fork in 6 to 8 places.  Roast over a hot grill until softened.  When cool, peel, cut into 2 inch lengths and pull the pieces into shreds.  Heat the oil to smoking, then pour over the scallions.  Pour over the shredded eggplant. 

Mix the eggplant and scallions with the crab meat and herbs.  Lightly drizzle with the dressing.  Serve on top of won ton triangles for an appetizer.  This can also be served as an accompaniment to other dishes with rice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Delicious Vietnam #6 Roundup

Delicious Vietnam #6 attracted some wonderful entries, with a slant towards vegetarian dishes.  Vegetables feature prominently in Vietnamese food anyway, and at least several days a month many Vietnamese eat vegetarian dishes, so it is no surprise to see many participants posting vegetarian recipes.  All of the posts look delicious and will have you eager to try recreating them.

Anh and I both tried our hands at papaya salad, Anh's being strictly vegetarian, while mine features shrimp and fish sauce.  Here's the link to Anh's post:

My take on papaya salad can be found here:

Hong and Kim posted a recipe for soup with stuffed bitter melon.  Their version of canh kho qua can be found here:

Mai also chose to feature a soup.  She chose to post a recipe for bun bung.  Here's a link to her dish:

Lan posted a classic Vietnamese comfort food, com ga.  I certainly wouldn't be angry about having this for dinner.  Here's the link to her post: Com Ga - Vietnamese Chicken & Rice

Pepy posted two related recipes.  She presented some delicious looking chao tom accompanied by  nuoc mam cham.  Here are the links to her dishes: and

Debra chose to do a vegetarian version of banh mi.  Her version features a mushroom paté and looks delicious.  Here's a link to her post:

 Finally, we had several desserts.  Miss Adventure posted a recipe for a simple, yet delicious banh khoai mi.   This is just the kind of dessert my wife loves, so I'm sure I'll be giving it a try sometime soon.  The link to her post is here:

Julia also posted a recipe for a dessert.  Che is one of those treats that people discover when they get the chance to travel to Vietnam.  There are countless versions using a variety of ingredients.  Julia's features corn, lotus seeds and peanuts.  Here's a link to her post:

I'd like to thank everyone for their participation in Delicious Vietnam #6, the monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese food.  Thanks to Anh and Kim and Hoang for starting this monthly celebration, and for allowing me to host this month's roundup.

The host for next month is Nina, of the blog MissAdventureAtHome.  The submission deadline is November 14, 2010.  For full details on how to participate, please go to the Delicious Vietnam page at Ravenous Couple's blog.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Papaya Salad with Grilled Prawns (gỏi đu đủ với tôm nướng)

I had intended to post this last night.  Indeed, I thought I had posted it last night.  Yet, somehow when I went to make sure that it looked ok this morning, the entire post was missing except for the title.  I don't know what happened.

Papaya salad is a refreshing, typically Vietnamese style of salad featuring young, still green papaya, carrots, and rau ram, an herb that Indonesians know by the name daun laksa.  If you are unable to find this herb, mint makes a good substitute.  I often use both herbs together in the salad.

This is a very easy salad to pull together as long as you have something to julienne the vegetables.  The dressing is essentially nuoc cham and can be adjusted to meet individual preferences.  Although I added shrimp to make it a light meal, it is still delicious without shrimp.  Fried shallots and ground peanuts make for a nice garnish, but if you don't have them?  No problem.  I grilled the prawns, but you could also boil them.  In other words, this recipe is flexible and forgiving.

Papaya Salad with Grilled Prawns (gỏi đu đủ với tôm nướng)

1/2 small green papaya, julienned (about 2 cups)
2 to 3 carrots, julienned
2 TBS rau ram (daun laksa) or mint, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

juice of 1 lime
2 TBS fish sauce
2 to 3 TBS sugar
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 Thai chili, seeded and finely minced (or a splash of sriracha)

6 to 10 large prawns, peeled and deveined
1 TBS oil

Mix one TBS of the dressing with the oil.  Marinate the prawns in this for 20 minutes or so.  Grill on a hot grill for about 3 minutes, until just cooked.  Do not overcook the prawns.

Sprinkle the papaya and carrot with the sugar and salt.  Mix well to distribute the salt and sugar evenly.  After a few minutes rinse the vegetables thoroughly.  Drain then dry well between paper towels. 

In a serving bowl mix the vegetables with the chopped herbs.  Add the dressing and toss well.  Place the cooked prawns on top of the salad.  If you like, garnish with fried shallots and chopped peanuts.  I sprinkled on some toasted sesame seeds because I had some on hand.  Banh tom (krupuk udang--shrimp crackers) also are a nice accompaniment.

 I am submitting this to Delicious Vietnam #6, a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese food.  Founded by Anh of A Food Lover's Journey, and Kim and Hong of Ravenous Couple, Delicious Vietnam welcomes submissions from bloggers around the world.  To learn how you might participate, click here.  The roundup for Delicious Vietnam #6 will be hosted by yours truly.  Check out the roundup to find the details on who will be hosting Delicious Vietnam #7.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Strawberry Jam with Cacao Nibs

Probably like a lot of older bloggers, one of the first, perhaps the first, food blog that I became aware of was Chocolate & Zucchini, when I heard about it on NPR.  Clotilde's blog was (and is) a wonderful potpourri of fresh recipes and ideas presented by a charming personality who had a distinct voice.

One of the recipes that struck me was for a pear jam made with cacao nibs.  When I made a cherry jam for Steph Chows first Jam Exchange last year, I decided to try to incorporate some cacao nibs into one of the jams I made.  Following Clotilde's lead, I was conservative in the amount of nibs I used in the recipe.  While the lesser amount probably  was the right balance for a jam made from pears, I felt the cacao nibs were overpowered by the cherries.

I was slow at getting around to making the jam for this year's exchange, so I only made some strawberry and lemongrass jam in time for the exchange.  While neither my wife nor I generally eat much jam, once I'm making some I figure I might as well make some more.

Strawberries and chocolate are a combination I enjoy, so I decided to incorporate the cacao nibs into a strawberry jam.  Not wanting to repeat last year's mistake of being too timid with the nibs, I increased the amount to a full cup for the five half-pint jars the recipe makes. I also replaced six ounces of the strawberries with some raspberries I had in the house.  As much as I like the strawberry lemongrass jam, I like this combination even more.  The cacao nibs provide a depth of flavor to the jam, muting its sweetness.  This is a jam to savor with croissants or crackers, one that could even be enjoyed with a glass of port. 

Strawberry Jam with Cacao Nibs

2 1/2 pounds strawberries (I substituted 6 oz of raspberries for 6 oz of strawberries)
3 3/4 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup raw cacao nibs

Give the strawberries a quick rinse under cold water.  Pat dry with paper towels and hull them.  Place the strawberries in a glass or ceramic bowl and stir in the sugar and lemon juice.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to macerate overnight in the refrigerator. 

Pour the berry mixture into a deep saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Remove about two cups of the berries, then briefly use an immersion blender to get a rough puree of the berries in the pan.  Bring the liquid to a boil and cook to around 220º F, skimming any foam that rises to the surface.  Return the reserved whole berries and the cacao nibs.  Bring back to a boil on high heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring gently.  Pour the jam into jars and seal following standard canning procedures.  This recipe makes 5 half-pint jars of jam.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A King's Tribute--Peanut Butter and Banana Bread Pudding with Chocolate Caramel Sauce

As part of the Foobuzz Tastemaker program, I received a coupon good for a loaf of Nature's Pride bread to enter a recipe for a chance to win accommodation and airfare to the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco.  Were I to win, I would become an ambassador--and I figure that's the only way I'd ever be appointed to an ambassadorial post.  Last year I entered a savory dish, so I thought I'd try a sweet dish this year.

Nature's Pride bakes a variety of different breads.  While I prefer their Nutty Oat for sandwiches,  the Country White was an obvious choice for an homage to Elvis.  

I originally intended to enter a coconut custard bread pudding with mango topped with my coconut caramel sauce.  Although people who tasted it seemed to like it, I felt the mangoes didn't stand out enough.  It was good, but not great.

Elvis Presley was famously fond of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  He would die for this bread pudding.  Incorporating the King's favorite combination, it employs the Indonesian technique of first grilling one side of the bread lightly spread with butter and a sprinkle of sugar (Indonesians would use Blue Band Margarine instead of butter).  The toasted slices of bread are then spread with a mixture of peanut butter, bananas and palm sugar (brown sugar will do).  The slices are cut into cubes, placed in individual ramekins or a larger baking dish into which a lightly sweetened custard is poured.  Served warm with a scoop of vanilla icre cream and the warm chocolate caramel sauce, this is a bread pudding that will have you saying, "Thank you.  Thank you very much".

Peanut Butter and Banana Bread Pudding

4 slices of Nature's Pride Country White Bread
2 TBS butter
4 tsp white sugar

1/2 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy style
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup palm sugar, or light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

6 3/4 cup ramekins, lightly buttered

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Spread the slices of bread with the butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Grill on a hot grill about 1 minute, rotating the slices 90º to get nice cross hatching.

In a bowl, stir together the peanut butter, bananas and palm sugar.  Spread the mixture on the toasted bread.  Cut each slice into 3/4 inch to 1 inch cubes.  Place the cubes loosely into the buttered ramekins.

In a small saucepan, scald the half and half.  Stir in the sugar.  In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs.  Add a small amount of the half and half to the eggs, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.  Add the remaining half and half mixture while continuing to whisk.  Stir in the vanilla.

Pour the custard mixture into the ramekins.  Push the cubes of bread into the custard mixture.  Allow to sit for five minutes before baking.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned and the custard is just set.

Allow to cool briefly before upending the ramekins onto serving plates.  Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the chocolate caramel sauce.

Chocolate Caramel Sauce
(Adapted from Joy of Cooking)

1 cup golden brown sugar
1 TBS unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao bittersweet chips)

Melt sugar, stirring constantly.  Stir in butter and heavy cream.  After you have smooth caramel, remove the pan from heat and stir in chocolate.  The heat from the caramel sauce should be sufficient to melt and incorporate the chocolate.

 Oh, and just ignore those rumors about how much Elvis' colon weighed.