Monday, January 31, 2011

Pork & Chorizo Soup

It all started with the soup I thought I ordered, but not the one that was delivered to me.  My husband and I were on a weekend getaway to the beautiful city of Portland, and stopped at a cute little place that had a warm and smoky bbq scent wafting out the door. Letting my husband follow his nose and chose the place, we went inside.  It was just the kind of place that appeals to a girl with its great decor and warm service, and a meat loving guy who just wanted some pulled pork.  It turns out that the bbq scent was from the wood fired pizza oven, but the place was enough to make us want to stay.

I ordered the soup 'of the day' which was pork and chorizo soup... now that sounded like something I would like!  Right before our meal came out, the server stopped by and mentioned that she was wrong about the soup... it was Pork and Garbanzo bean soup.  Well... not exactly what my taste buds were hankering for at this point, but hey, I'm on vacation and feeling relaxed.  The soup was really quite good, brothy with tender bits of pork, nice veggies and about 3 garbanzos!  I laughed, and kept thinking about what the soup should have been.

Right before we left for our getaway, I took a 2 lb. pork tenderloin out of the freezer, anticipating that it would be ready to go for dinner on the day we got home.  Nope, that thing was frozen solid!  Today is Monday, and I decided to have another go at it... still kind of icy, not great for roasting...  Hmmmm, what to do, what to do.... I know SOUP!  I had some turkey chorizo sausage in the fridge and everything else I needed for soup already on hand.  I still have enough Pork to make another meal... so stay tuned for that one!

Here's the soup that I really wanted at that restaurant, but had to invent myself.

6-8 oz pork tenderloin, sliced thin and shredded into small pieces
12 oz. chorizo sausages (or Linguisa Portguese sausage)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
3 medium carrots, diced
3-4 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 15oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
6 cups of chicken broth, or beef broth, or combination
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp hot sauce, (Durkee's Red Hot is my favorite)
Fresh Ground pepper and salt, to taste

Chop the onion and saute in the olive oil.  Add the carrots, bell pepper and celery and cook until the onions and celery are starting to get translucent. 

Add the garlic and the smoked paprika.  Add the sliced sausage and the shredded pork.  Let this cook about 5 minutes, ot until the pork is no longer pink colored. 

Add the broth, and the cans of diced tomatoes, including juice.  Drain the garbanzo beans and add those too. 

I added the Durkee's Hot Sauce to give it a little spice, and a little tang.  If you don't want it to be too spicy, you could add a tablespoon of vinegar instead.  It needs a little acid tang to give it the taste you want.

Let the soup simmer for about 30-45 minutes, and serve.  It's a nice soup with a great broth, and it's not too thick.  If you prefer a thicker soup, you could add a diced potato, or even some noodles- but this is nice with just meat and veggies!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce & Capers

Say “Clam Sauce” and everyone thinks of a white, rich sauce with clams in it over heavy pasta.  But growing up, my Mom never, ever made a white clam sauce, only this addicting red one. This recipe is entirely different! I love the clean, tangy and salty taste of this broth-like pasta sauce.  You really need to have some crusty sourdough bread, or French bread to serve with this to help soak up all the broth while enjoying this dinner.

This meal took 15 minutes to get to the table tonight, it is so easy, and with a little planning, you could have the ingredients for this in your pantry at all times!  Don’t skip the parsley in this recipe, it really adds something to it!

I will tell you that I am not a “clam” person, I never, ever order clams at a restaurant, I just don’t enjoy them.  This sauce is different and while it may have a clam taste, it does not have the texture that clam haters everywhere detest.  My kids ate this happily, never even asking what meat was in the sauce.  It’s that good.

One word of warning, this is a messy dish to eat, the long strands of pasta have a way of whipping about on their way to your mouth, making a complete mess of your shirt… even if you are careful!  Wear the silly napkin bib, it just makes life easier.

The recipe below makes about 5 good size portions for a main dish, but this would also make a nice light pasta course for 8 people if you were having a dinner party.

2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tbsp of minced garlic
3-4 Tbsp of chopped parsley
2 6oz cans of minced clams
1/c cup of clam nectar/clam stock
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes
3-4 Tbsp of capers
Freshly ground pepper
1 1lb box of vermincelli pasta, thin spaghetti
***I didn't add any salt to my recipe, based on the great taste without it. Capers are naturally salty and so are canned clams and tomatoes.  Taste first, then salt it!

Here are the steps in order to complete this dinner in 15 minutes:
Boil water (add salt) for pasta, vermincelli cooks in about 6-8 minutes and you do want this to be al dente.

Chop the parsley. Add olive oil to a saucepan, and over medium heat add the garlic and the parsley, slowly warm it up. Watch to make sure that you are not frying the garlic, as it can get bitter. Add the capers.

 Add the canned clams (& the broth in the cans too), the diced tomatoes with the can juices and the 4 oz of clam nectar.  Give the mixture a stir and bring it to a gentle boil.  Serve immediately over hot cooked noodles.  Serve with bread.
How easy it that?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Moroccan Pot Roast with Couscous

I really can’t remember why I thought I needed an American copy of Cottage Living magazine in Barcelona for the airplane trip home.  It seems a bit incongruous to me, and I almost never buy that magazine. Maybe I was a bit nostalgic to get back home after a long trip in Europe. During our travels, we’d been on a short stop to Morocco, which was a major highlight of the trip.

Here I am at a beautiful fountain in a Moroccan inner courtyard

It was so exotic going through the casbah markets and seeing the big bags of spices everywhere. Flipping through the magazine on the long flight I happened across this recipe for Moroccan pot roast.  It was a way to bring a little of the smells and warmth of the trip home and I had to make it!  It was an instant hit with my family, and an exotic change to a comfort classic.

I will admit there are many family members who will complain about dried fruit cooked into dishes.  I happen to love dried fruit, in anything and everything, but I do try to appeal to my audience.  This dried fruit works because you add it at the end, and it doesn’t get all slimy and puffy.  Try it, I think you’ll like it. A 2 lb pot roast should serve 4-6 people

1 ½ Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 lb Beef Pot Roast
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups beef broth
1 -15oz. cans of garbanzo beans,
     rinsed & drained.
¼ cup chopped dried apricots
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat Olive Oil in a large heavy duty pan preferably with a lid, large enough to brown the meet, plus add the extra ingredients and broth. If you don’t have one with a lid, you can use foil during the cooking time.

Season the meat with Salt & Pepper and then sear the meat, about 4 minutes per side.

Remove & set aside. Add onion and carrots to the pan and cook for 3 minutes.

Add garlic, paprika, cumin and cinnamon, cook about 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. 

Add broth, and return roast to the pan.

Cover with lid (or foil) and bake 3-3 ½ hours. Remove the beef to platter, tent with foil to keep warm.  Add garbanzos to the liquid and place over medium heat, until they are warm. Stir in the remaining ingredients, apricots, golden raisins, cilantro and mint.

Slice, or shred the pot roast and spoon the sauce over the top.  It’s terrific served with couscous.

This is an easy recipe to double for a big group.

Side Dish Inspirations
This is a full meal on it’s own, you probably only need a salad and maybe some bread:
  • Green Salad
  • Moroccan salad- grated radishes and orange sections.  This is one of my favorites, I will need to post this to the blog soon.
  • French bread

Round Two cooking… make more and use it for:
Here's some ideas:
  • Great for a group, I made 3 pot roasts once for a crowd, but you’ll need a large pan!
  • It’s great to have the leftovers, but I don’t think you’ll have many.
What else would this technique work on???
You could easily use this technique on:
  • Chicken thighs!  I think you could brown chicken thighs and complete the same steps, you would just need to reduce the cooking time to 45 minutes or so.
Adapted from Cottage Living September 2007

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Piper's Joe's Special

If you’ve never had a Joe’s Special, you need to try this!  There are many origins of this dish, but I like the one that said it was created for musicians for a late night snack.  In Seattle, the best place to have this is at the iconic Thirteen Coins, usually in the wee hours of the morning after a night on the town. 

Most Joe’s Special recipes call for mushrooms, and I’m not the world’s biggest mushroom fan.  So, I started thinking what else would be marvelous with the eggs, cheese and ground beef… I guess the question IS, what wouldn’t be?
Here’s my rendition below, but I would encourage you to see what you have and make tweaks to what sounds good to YOU.

This is a hearty dish that is perfect for brunch, but also good for a quick dinner when your inspiration is low.

1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 medium bell pepper
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced, (optional)

½ tsp truffle salt, or regular salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 oz (half a bag) fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped,
4 to 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup of grated parmesan

Note:  Other traditional spices in a Joe’s special are ¼ tsp ground nutmeg and ¼ tsp dried oregano.  I chose to omit those because I felt the truffle salt had enough flavor on its own.  If you don’t have truffle salt, you should get some… it’s fantastic!

In a wide frying pan over high heat, crumble the ground beef and cook, stirring often and breaking into smallish chunks, until browned. Drain excess fat, but leave a little to sauté the onions and peppers (or mushrooms).  

Add onions and peppers (or mushrooms) and cook about 5 minutes over medium heat until onions are softened. Add the salt and pepper at this point and make sure the mixture is well seasoned, it’s easier at this stage than trying to season later on while the eggs are cooking.

Add the garlic and the spinach and stir to wilt the spinach, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the eggs and stir for another 1-2 minutes and then add about ½ cup of grated parmesan.  Cook eggs until soft set, they will continue to set up while you are getting it on the plates and then onto the table.

Top with more parmesan cheese.

Side Dish Inspirations
Here are some ideas:
        Sourdough toast is ideal for scooping it up!
        Green salad, if you’re serving it for dinner, but it does have lots of veggies in it, so you could even skip that!

What else would this technique work on???
You could easily use this technique on:
        A mixture of ground beef and sausage
        Ground turkey
        Crumbled tofu, for those wanting to avoid the meat but are OK with eggs and cheese.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

It’s a cold and wet day in the Pacific Northwest, and frankly, I was running out of time and inspiration for dinner. I had thawed some ground turkey, so I started wracking my brain to think what I could do that wasn’t the same old thing and didn’t take too long.

I remember seeing Rachel Ray make a mozzarella stuffed meatball on the Food Network and thought how easy and yummy.  Her recipe uses sausage and doesn’t add anything extra to the meat mixture, but concentrates on a special sauce and garlic mashed potatoes.  All yummy and done in 30 minutes, but hers is still more complicated than mine.

1 ½ lb pkg. of ground turkey, ground beef, pork or sausage (Better yet, a mixture!)
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
½ med onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
10-12 Mini mozzarella balls, drained

16 oz jar of your favorite Pasta Sauce
Fresh veggies to add to your sauce if you like- Suggestions include spinach, mushrooms, sautéed onions

Saute the onions in a tablespoon of olive oil until transparent and starting to take on some pale golden color.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey with the breadcrumbs, egg and Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Add the sautéed onions and mix thoroughly.

Taking a small bundle of meat, a little bit larger than a golf ball, flatten out to a rough patty and place the mozzarella ball inside.  Wrap the meat around the cheese, and make sure to round out the meatball completely covering the cheese. 

Place the meatball on a baking sheet and continue until all the cheese and meat mixture is used.  Try to keep the balls uniform so that they all cook in the same amount of time.  I found myself pinching a bit of meat off the balls here and there,  to make sure I had enough to cover all my cheese balls and had uniform meatballs going into the oven.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Turkey doesn’t brown too much, but you might find that ground beef does.

I tossed my pasta with my sauce and made a bed for the meatballs and served it up hot.  You could add parmesan cheese if you desired.

Side Dish Inspirations
This a main course kind of meal, but here are some ideas to serve with it:
  • Green Salad and crusty French bread
  • Serve the meatballs on their own, with sides of mashed potatoes and a vegetable

What else would this technique work on???
You could easily use this technique on:
  • Serve it as an appetizer instead of a main course.
  • Use cubes of any cheese (cheddar cheese with a Mexican meat mixture???) instead of mozzarella.
  • Use a mixture of ground meat, or your favorite meatloaf recipe.

If you want to test your seasoning of any raw meatloaf type mixture to make sure it’s to your liking, take a rounded tablespoon of the meat and microwave it for 15-30 seconds.  It should be sufficiently cooked through (but HOT!) to taste and make sure you like it before you finish cooking the entire meal.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower with parmesan and almonds

Here's a simple little recipe for my Vegetarian friends and readers but it also makes an incredible side dish for everyone to enjoy.  I wish my pictures did justice to the wonderful tastes, but hopefully you can imagine.

(Not shown- Red onion and Green onions)
1 head cauliflower
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2-3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup of parmesan, grated
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Break the cauliflower into small uniform flowerets and slice the onion.  Toss uniformly with olive oil, probably should take 2-3Tbsp.  Don't over do it, it will make a mess of your oven.  Make a even layer of cauliflower and onions on a medium baking sheet.  Add the salt and pepper.

Bake for 20 minutes, giving it a stir after about 10 minutes.  Make sure that you start to get some browned bits (hmmmmm, carmelization makes it taste great!) on the edges of your cauliflower and onions.  You can see from the photo below that I was over anxious to get this on the table, and really, my sheet pan could have used another 5 minutes to get some browning.

While the veggies are roasting, slice the green onions and zest the lemon and set aside.  Juice the lemon, and have ready to add to the veggies once they come out of the oven.  I added the cauliflower to a bol and basically dumped all the other ingredients on top.  I gave it a toss and then added more salt and pepper.  Serve hot, but this is good at room temperature too.

Main Dish and Side Dish Inspirations
This could be a main dish for a vegetarian meal, adding enough protein with the parmesan cheese.  It makes a hearty side dish for any grilled meat, you really don't need a starch, it's that satisfying.

Round Two cooking… make more and use it for:

If you added the almonds as you served it you could use any leftovers for soup by blending with some stock and re-heating.

What else would this technique work on???
Broccoli, but any winter veggies would be great!

Monday, January 17, 2011

White Bean Chicken Chili

I love any kind of chili, and this one is very easy and more healthy than most. I know that Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, so I figure some of you might be interested in a good, easy to make meal for the game.  I was going to post this as "Lowfat white bean chicken chili", but I didn't want to turn anyone off of it!  It is an almost no-fat chili that is so lean and good for you. I made a crockpot full and it's entirely gone after feeding my husband and I, and three roving teenage boys.

After years of trying to cook dry beans without success, I finally found a foolproof way to cook them in the crockpot.  You can use canned beans, they are super convenient, but they do cost about 3-4 times more than using the dry beans, so why not give this a try.  You can cook any kind of beans like this in a crockpot.

1 1-lb bag of small white beans, great northern are good
1 16oz. chunky green salsa
8 cups of water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 6oz. can of diced green chilies
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
1 Anaheim chili, minced (optional)
1 Tbsp chicken bouillon paste, or 2 cubes
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp cumin
Juice of one lime
Salt to taste, but probably about 1-2 Tbsp
2-4 cups of chicken, cooked and chopped.
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Plan ahead - You need to start this recipe about 6 hours before you want to serve your chili.

Add the dry beans to your crockpot, add the 8 cups of water, the jar of salsa and the chopped onion.  Cover and cook on high for about 4-5 hours, testing a bean to see if they are cooked enough.  Add the garlic, minced chilies, lime juice, the seasoning and the chicken and let it cook another 45-60 minutes.  If the chili seems too watery at this point and you want it to be thicker, you can chop up some corn tortillas and add to the last hour of cooking.  These tortillas break down entirely and will add some thickness and flavor. Add the cilantro right before you serve it, so you you get a bit of nice bright green to add a little zip to your bowl. This is great served with corn bread, or tortilla chips.  You could add grated cheese and sour cream, if you wanted to make it richer.

Chicken Note:
I've used a rotisserie roasted chicken for the meat in this recipe, it makes it very easy and I love to be able to make chicken stock out of the chicken bones.  The roasted bones from the rotisserie chicken make an excellent stock.  Just throw the bones into a stock pot, cover with water and add a couple carrots, celery stalks and a onion, quartered, skins an all.  Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and cook for about 2 hours.  Let it cool and strain.  Refrigerate and use within the week.  It makes the best soup...

Side Dish Inspirations
This a main course kind of meal, but here are some ideas to serve with the chili:
  • Cornbread
  • Green Salad
  • Tortilla chips... you could even serve this as a dip with your chips.
Round Two cooking… make more and use it for:
If you plan it right, you could make some extras for another meal. 
Here's some ideas:
  • This freezes very well, so if you have enough leftovers, freeze for another meal. Otherwise, use for lunches.  

What else would this technique work on???
You could easily use this technique on:
  • Pork instead of chicken, you could add cubed raw pork and cook it alongside the beans,
  • Black beans with beef is nice, and you could add canned tomatoes instead of the salsa. I'd also add chili powder too.
  • Vegetarian chili, omit the chicken and the bouillon and add chopped carrots, bell peppers and other veggies.  Beans make a complete protein when combined with rice, so if you're worried about getting enough protein, add the rice. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lemon White Chocolate Tart

I’m just going to admit it, I view most rules as mere guidelines.  This can sometimes get you in trouble… especially if you are baking. I will tell you that this story ends happily, and all enjoyed this light and intense lemony tart.

I bought some Meyer Lemons the other day at Costco, it’s a big container, but I was intrigued by the “Meyer” name and it was a $1 cheaper than the regular lemons, so I got them!  Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, but it seems to be pretty subtle to me. There are 14 big, juicy lemons in there… oh wow, I am going to have to get busy thinking of lots of lemony things to make.  Right on the package was this little recipe for a Meyer Lemon White Chocolate Tart.  It looked SO easy, and I knew I had all the ingredients. My problem started when I did not read the instructions all the way through.  I thought I knew what to do…

It all ended well, and though this is not the recipe that I thought I was making, it was very well received at a family dinner last night! I’ll give you the ‘version’ of what I could have done if I had followed the recipe.  I think either version would be great.

3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 large lemons, juiced (Use Meyer if you have, otherwise, regular lemons are FINE!)
2/3 cup real white chocolate chips

My issue came about because when I took my whipping cream out of the fridge, I noticed I didn’t have quite a full cup.  Thinking it was no big deal, I promptly added some 2% milk to make it the required amount.  That’s when I noticed that I was supposed to WHIP the cream into soft peaks…. Hmmm, now what?  Because I knew this cream would never, ever whip up, I needed to think up a ‘plan B’.  Go back to the store you say? Never…. I like the challenge of finding a way out of my troubles (that I created!).  In re-reading the recipe and instructions, I could see that essentially I could make a rich pudding-like filling out of the same ingredients.

First, get a small tart pan (about 8-9” inches), if you don’t have one with a removable bottom, use a quiche dish or a regular pie plate. Use a regular pie crust (my recipe is below) or even a graham cracker or cookie crust would work too. Make sure your crust is pre-baked, cooled and ready to go.  You will need to immediately pour the filling into the crust when it is done.

In a heavy saucepan, beat the 3 eggs with a whisk. 

Add the lemon juice and the sugar and cook over medium heat.  Whisk constantly… if you stop you could have a burned mess or strange brownish bits floating in your custard!  If this frightens you, you ought to use a double boil as the original recipe called for.  You’ll see the mixture start to thicken up pretty quick.  Gradually add the cream, whisking constantly.  It will continue to thicken as it cooks. Add the 2/3 cup of white chocolate chips and mix until melted.  Pour into the pre-cooked tart shell.  Chill for a couple hours in the fridge. 
***If your mixture looks like it's not thickening, you can add a tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water.  Add to the mixture and whisk and cook another 1-2 minutes to cook the cornstarch.

***If you want to make the package recipe, do all steps above except adding the cream.  Instead, whip the cream and fold into the cooled lemon mixture, then add into your tart pan. This version is probably much more light and fluffy than what I made.

Looking at my tart, I thought it was a bit… well, pale.  So I spruced mine up by doing the following:

Very thinly slice another lemon (removing all seeds), add to ½ cup water and ½ cup sugar and simmer on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes.  Remove the lemon slices and place on wax paper to cool.  The slices will be essentially be “candied” and you can arrange them as you like on top of the tart.  Once the lemon slices are candied, you can eat the whole thing, peel and all, if you like. 

Pie Crust

Okay, okay…. I will admit I used to shamelessly use those pre-made pie crusts that you can buy at any grocery store.  I would defend these crusts and tell people they couldn’t tell the difference and it was “so easy”.  But, we all know, while they are easy, they really don’t taste that great… now, do they?  I’ve since found the perfect recipe that is so easy and tasty, AND you can even premake it and have it in your fridge when you need it most.  I usually make 2-3 batches of this recipe about a week or two before Thanksgiving and Christmas so that I can easily make a pie or two a night until the ‘big day’. I’ve now been using this method for about 3-4 years and I am totally reformed!  I found out many years later, that a certain sister never asked me to bring pies because I used those pre-made pie crusts… how sad was I?

This is adapted from the Mary Engelbreit’s Sweet Treats Dessert Cookbook (which is very good, by the way!). Makes 2 pie crusts, or one double crust pie.

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp Sugar (can be omitted for savory pies, like quiche)
½ tsp salt
1 cup of cold butter*, cut into ½ inch cubes
5-6 Tbsp very cold water

* Unsalted butter is best, but really, I use regular butter mostly because I don’t always have the unsalted on hand… I still question WHY I would use unsalted and then add salt…? I know all the reasons that cooks give, but I really don’t think there’s really that much difference.

There are a couple ways of preparing this, either by food processor or by hand.  By hand is really better, because the less you handle the pie crust, the more tender it will be, BUT, that being said, a food processor is waayyyy easier, and anyway you do is way more tender and better than the store bought pre-made stuff.

If you decide to use your food processor, be sure to use ‘pulse’ to mix it and that way you can control just how much mixing the pie crust gets!

If you don’t have a food processor, this is quite easy by hand too!
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Use a pastry blender, or your finger tips to cut in the butter until the crust resembles coarse corn meal. Drizzle in about 5 Tbsp of the water and mix, or until it starts to come together in clumps.  Use one more Tbsp of water if its not coming together. 

Divide the dough in half and place on a large piece of plastic wrap… it will look a little crumbly still, but that’s OK! If you can make it stick together with your fingers (as shown above) it will be OK! Pull up the edges of the plastic wrap and smash the dough into a disk shape. Make sure each disk is well wrapped and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to a week. The reason you need to refrigerate the dough is to develop the gluten content which helps it to form and stick together… just do it, it’s only 30 minutes.

Baking the crust…
Take the crust out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you are ready to roll it out. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes for a pre-baked unfilled crust, otherwise follow the instructions for your regular pie recipe.

How simple is that?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Larb Gai, Thai Turkey Salad

My all-time favorite Thai dish is Larb Gai, so tangy, fresh, spicy and healthy.  It’s the only dish that I insist on ordering when we go out, let the others haggle over their favorite curries and pad Thai noodles… nothing matters when I have my Larb Gai.  Well, maybe I do need to admit, I also need my Tom Yum soup, but that’s another blog and will need to wait!!!

I researched a bunch of recipe sites for recipes for Larb Gai, and I need to admit right away, that this one is NOT authentic.  No kidding, and I am not of Thai descent either!
I thought I’d better get that disclaimer out of the way before the comments started to come in.  I am sure that my Thai friends have a very particular way of doing this, and this recipe of mine may be too simple for them. 

I buy the four pack of ground turkey at Costco regularly because it seems to be cheaper than the grocery store, and more convenient.  Lots of people do it, but I use ground turkey for many recipes instead of ground beef.  I put one in the fridge to use right away, and freeze the other three packs.  The packs take a couple of days to thaw in the fridge, so it might be a good idea to take out a couple of different frozen meats on Sunday night, then you are ready for whatever the week throws at you.

Many of the recipes lor Larb Gai called for “roasted rice powder”… hmmm, pretty sure I don’t have any of that hanging around!  Even though I read up on how to do it myself, which isn’t too hard, it was just a bit fussy for a Tuesday night.  I made the decision to hit the ‘easy’ button on this one and skip it entirely!  I might try toasting my own rice and then grinding it up someday, but right now, I have too much to do!

This whole dinner came together in way under 30 minutes, and with a fellow chopper and dicer in the kitchen, you could be eating this in under 15 minutes!

½ of a green cabbage, cut into wedges
1 ½ lbs of ground turkey
½ of a medium red onion, diced
3Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
½ cup of chopped cilantro
3 Tbsp. Fish Sauce, Asian section in most grocery stores
3-5 Tbsp lime juice, depending on your taste.
1- 2 Tbsp chili garlic paste
Salt and Pepper

Slice the green onions and chop the onion, cilantro and mint. Set aside to add to the cooked turkey. 

I’ve shown a picture below of how I chop green onions because when I see people do it the “long” way, it makes me crazy! Here's a fast way to get your slicing done quickly; first, make one chop in the middle, then put both ends side by side and slice the whole group all at once.  I usually slice up the whole bunch and put any extra’s in a small bowl in the fridge.  This little trick will make you very happy when scrambling eggs on Sunday, tossing a mixed green salad or wanting to give a dull dish a little green and crunchy accent. It's all about the garnish, baby!

Brown the ground turkey over medium high heat.  I use my potato masher to make sure that the meat is broken up evenly, but I know that a whisk works pretty well too.  Thoroughly cook the meat and turn off the heat.  Some recipes called for draining the meat, but there wasn’t much in there, so I left it! Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix.  After tasting this, my husband and I decided we liked more lime juice, salt, pepper and some extra red pepper flakes!  You decide!

Pictured above is the serving platter of the Larb Gai, and below is a photo of an individual serving of the appetizer assembled and ready to eat.  It kind of looks like a little taco, or lettuce cup from PF Changs.  This is how my local Thai place serves it, but it’s up to you.  Below you’ll find some other ideas of serving it.

Main Dish and Side Dish Inspirations
This salad could be an appetizer, a salad or main course depending on how, and when, you serve it:
  • Serve it with cabbage “cups” and fill each with the turkey mixture, a great, but slightly messy appetizer.
  • Finely shred the cabbage, place a bed of cabbage on a plate and top with the Larb Gai.  Nice main course salad.
  • Serve over white rice, with, or without, the cabbage.

Round Two cooking… make more and use it for:

  • You could throw the leftovers into some sort of noodle soup too.
  • Make extra and pack for your lunches. Here's a photo of two lunches ready to go, that is, unless some teenage boy devours them for a midnight snack.

What else would this technique work on???
You could easily use this technique on:
  • Ground chicken
  • Ground Pork.
  • Tofu... I don't know, might be great!