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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Staying Cool with a Vietnamese Noodle Salad

Lately, it seems like 9 out of 10 recipes have been grilling related. It can be somewhat frustrating since I don't even own a grill, although my Le Creuset grill pan has done its job. That finally changed tonight when I found out that we are receiving a brand new grill from my husband's company! In the meantime, let me share with you a refreshing and healthy grilling recipe - the Vietnamese Noodle Salad (also called Bun) with Grilled Chicken.

The trick to making a good Vietnamese noodle salad is to make a really good flavorful sauce. Once you perfect the sauce, it can be used as a dip for spring rolls, salad dressing, marinade... etc. In this recipe, the only difference between the marinade and the sauce is lime juice. Using it just once can prevent an overpowering citrus flavor.

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad (Bun)
This is a versatile dish - enjoy it as an all-in-one dinner or serve it in a smaller portion as an appetizer. It's light and easy to make.

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad

  • 6 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 5 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of garlic paste, or minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp of chili oil (or less depending on preference)
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1lb)
  • 2 tbsp of lime juice
  • 3 tbsp of water
  • 5 ounces of rice vermicelli
  • 2 cups of shredded romaine lettuce or cabbage leaves
  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup of roasted salted peanuts
  1. Combine 2 tbsp of fish sauce, 1 tbsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of garlic, and 1 tbsp of chili oil in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolve. Add chicken thighs and coat well.  
  2. In another bowl, combine the remaining fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and chili oil. Add water and lime juice and stir until sugar dissolves.
  3. Boil water in a large pot. Remove from heat, add vermicelli and let stand until vermicelli are tender (about 4-6 minutes). Rinse vermicelli in cold water until cooled. Drain well.
  4. Grill chicken over medium high heat until cooked (about 6 minutes per side). 
  5. On a large plate, first layer cabbage or lettuce, then scatter mint leaves. Top salad with a handful of vermicelli and 2 chicken thighs. Sprinkle roasted peanuts and drizzle with sauce. 
Serves 2-4

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Different Kind of Italian Dinner

Italians know how to cook. They really do. They know how to bring out a particular flavor and they know the right amount needed.

Sweet Italian Sausages and Roasted Grapes Salad

Over the weekend, I picked up a cookbook by Julia della Croce - Italian Home Cooking. In the book, she introduces her favorites of traditional Italian recipes. The first recipe I wanted to recreate was her Sauteed Sweet Pork Sausages with Roasted Black Grapes. Although she suggested the dish to be served with polenta, I decided to balance the richness of the sausages with a spring salad and some brown rice instead.

Sweet Pork Sausages and Roasted Grapes Salad
Adapted from Italian Home Cooking by Julia della Croce


  • 5 Italian sweet sausages
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 lb of red grapes, stripped from stems (choose small ones that are firm and ripe)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup of cooked brown rice
  • Spring greens (for salad) 4oz
  • Balsamic dressing (1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, 1 clove of chopped garlic, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper)
  1. Use a sharp knife to poke a few holes in the sausages before cooking them. Put sausages and water in a dutch oven over medium heat. When water has evaporated and sausages begin to color (about 12 minutes), reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook for 20 minutes until browned and cooked through. Prick them once or twice (not too much) to release excess fat. 
  2. Preheat oven to 375F. Wash grapes and dry them well. Coat grapes with some cooking spray and roast in oven in a single layer for 15 minutes. 
  3. Make salad dressing and toss with spring greens. 
  4. Place some salad on a plate and add a few small scoops of brown rice. Add sausage (or sausages) and grapes to plate. Serve hot.
Serves 2-4

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weeknight Gratin: Spicy Italian Sausage & Kale

It's finally Friday! It has been a long week, but nevertheless, I made it. I wanted to make a simple one-pot dinner for the two of us tonight. I wanted to eat, share stories, catch up, and enjoy the start of a weekend. We did exactly just that, followed by a scoop of our favorite gelato from Melt.

Spicy Italian Sausage & Kale Gratin
This recipe from LA Times caught my eye a couple weeks ago, but I had forgotten about it until today. It was delicious like a childhood favorite, crunchy like a fresh salad, and creamy like a cheesy casserole.

Spicy Italian Sausage & Kale Gratin
Adapted from LA Times


  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1lb of spicy Italian Sausage (casings removed and crumbled)
  • 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 bunches of kale, torn into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1/3 cup of flour
  • 2 cups of milk (I used nonfat milk and it tasted fine)
  • 4 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese (I used part-skim and low-moisture, it worked out well)
  • 1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp of melted butter
  • 1 tbsp of minced fresh herbs (I used oregano, basil and thyme)
  • 1 puff pastry sheet (optional)
  • Egg mixture (1 egg + 1 tbsp of water) for puff pastry (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in crumbled sausage and cook until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and cook, scraping flavors from the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until the wine reduces and is mostly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium.
  4. Stir in the kale, a handful at a time, and stir with sausage until it begins to wilt and turn bright green. Continue adding kale until it is all added and is just wilted. Be careful not to overcook the kale. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  5. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup of butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes. 
  6. Mix the mozzarella into the sauce until the cheese is just melted and the sauce is smooth. Using a slotted spoon, add the kale and sausage. It will be a little sticky but try to incorporate the cheese sauce well with the kale and sausage. Remove from heat.
  7. Spoon mixture into a gratin dish. 
  8. In a medium bowl, combine Parmigiano-Reggiano, bread crumbs, and herbs. Pour over melted butter and stir until butter is evenly distributed to form topping.
  9. Sprinkle topping over kale and sausage mixture. I added long flat strips of puff pastry sheets across the top of the gratin dish to form a crust. If you prefer to have a crust, brush the strips lightly with egg mixture. 
  10. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's the Unforgettable Chicken Marbella

The Silver Palate Cookbook is famous for its exotic Chicken Marbella, marinated first overnight in prunes, capers, olives, garlic, oil, and herbs, then baked with sprinkled brown sugar and some white wine. I am not a huge fan of capers, so I adapted the recipe and concentrated on bringing out the flavors of olives and garlic. This easily prepared dish will make any night memorable - it is so good.

Chicken Marbella - a variation
Served with Bread Salad with Tomato and Argula
I prepared a Bread Salad with Tomato and Arugula (recipe can be found here on LA Times) that went perfectly with the light and tender chicken.

Chicken Marbella (a variation)
Serves 5-8

  • Chicken Picnic Pack (~5lb bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs)
  • 1/2 head of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp of dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 8 large garlic stuffed green olives, cut in half, with 2 Tbsp of juice
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 2 Tbsp of Italian parsley, chopped
  1. In a large shallow baking dish, combine chicken pieces with oil, vinegar, olives and juice, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper. Cover and marinate overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Spoon marinade over chicken pieces and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Pour white wine around chicken pieces. 
  3. Bake for 1 hour. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and olives to a plate and spoon pan juices over the chicken. Sprinkle some parsley on top and serve.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sour Cream + Blueberry = Waffle!

How practical is a waffle maker, exactly? It makes one thing - waffles. Even knowing that, I still had it on my wedding registry. Surprisingly, I have been using it whenever we have a long weekend or a nice relaxing morning, and it really starts the day right. Seeing and eating waffles would make anyone happy (right?).

Sour Cream Blueberry Waffles with Blueberry Syrup
This time, I made a sour cream blueberry waffle for brunch, with blueberry syrup drizzled all over it.

You can find All-Clad's Sour Cream Blueberry Waffle Recipe Here

Here is the recipe I used for fresh blueberry syrup that is not overly sweet. I used it the next day as an oatmeal topping too!

Blueberry Syrup
Adapted from Taste of Home
  • 1/6 cup of sugar
  • 1 tbsp of corn starch
  • 1/3 cup of cold water
  • 2 cups of fresh blueberries
  1. Combine sugar, corn starch, and water in a medium saucepan. Stir until smooth.
  2. Add blueberries and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Cook and stir for 4 minutes until thickened.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June Gloom's Classic Dinner: Boeuf Bourguignon

I honestly can't recall the last time I made the boeuf bourguignon. It seems like such a fall and winter type of dinner. But hey, June gloom has officially hit Southern California so I have the perfect excuse to reach for Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking once again.

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon
accompanied by Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Our community was hosting an outdoor movie night in the park with some of LA's most wanted food trucks (Sprinkles, Nom Nom, Ludo, Vizzi, Komodo, etc.) and free popcorn! We enjoyed the movie, grabbed some popcorn but still chose the boeuf bourguignon over food trucks for dinner. I served the entree with creamy garlic mashed potatoes. I find that the dish pairs best with a soft creamy starch like polenta or mashed potatoes instead of noodles, sauteed potatoes, or rice.

Here is the delicious healthy recipe I used for my creamy garlic mashed potatoes with 167 calories per serving:

Healthy Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Servings: 2

  • 1 medium russet potato (approx. 1 lb)
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of nonfat milk
  • 4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 ounce of grated Parmigiano Reggiano


  1. Peel and dice 1 medium russet potato. 
  2. Place in a saucepan, add salt, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and maintain a boil until the potato is tender (about 20  minutes). 
  3. Heat the milk and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat until it is simmering. Remove from heat.
  4. Drain off water from potato saucepan and add milk-garlic mixture and cheese. Mash potatoes until all is well incorporated. Set aside for 5 minutes to let mixture thicken. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Taiwanese Zongzi - a Chinese Tamale

I come from a family that celebrated every European and Chinese holiday imaginable, so naturally, I love traditions and customs. It is interesting that while Europeans seem to cherish the atmosphere surrounding an occasion (think Christmas), Chinese seem to emphasize the importance of the actual date and time (think Chinese Dragon Boat Festival).

So Dragon Boat Festival is a special day in the Chinese culture. The legend describes a famous Chinese poet who drowned in a river in his attempt to defend the nation. In order to remember him, people eat something called Zongzi during Dragon Boat Festivals. Zongzi is definitely one of my favorite treats. It is a bit like a tamale where glutinous rice is wrapped in bamboo leaf and then steamed or boiled. The filling can be savory or sweet (I always choose the sweet red bean paste Zongzi). Though many variations exist out there, Taiwan is famous for perfecting Zongzi. Taiwanese Zongzi can be described as either Southern or Northern style. Since I'm most familiar with the Northern style Zongzi, I made a mini-version of it.  

I was pleasantly surprised (and impressed) that hubby is a natural. I will be expecting some sweet ones from him soon! In my version, the raw rice was fried in a little bit of oil and soy sauce along with deep fried shallots. I added meat, shiitake, and cooked salted duck egg to the inside of the Zongzi. I replaced the traditional pork belly with marinated and cooked chicken thigh meat (for a slightly healthier version). The Zongzi were steamed for about an hour and drizzled with sweet chili sauce right before serving. Since it was our first try, they were not the prettiest but they definitely the tastiest. 

Stay tuned for our sweet version! I will include a (picture) recipe too if anyone is interested.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Spice it up, Jalapeño!

I tend to get addicted to one ingredient and crave it for months and months. For now, it's jalapeño or any kind of hot pepper.

Seared Ono with Jalapeño Cilantro Sauce
served with Spicy
Jalapeño Black Bean Salad and Brown Rice
So for tonight's dinner, it is seared ono, which is also known as Wahoo fish in Hawaii, with a jalapeño cilantro sauce. I served the fish with a spicy jalapeño black bean salad and brown rice. Similar in texture and taste to mackerel, ono pairs best with a creamy sauce. I brushed the ono lightly with some olive oil and seasoned it with a pinch of salt and pepper to bring out the freshness of the fish.

If you ever want an alternative to mahi mahi or mackerel, I would recommend ono!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chef Kahn's Red Medicine

It was the perfect evening to celebrate my cousin's exciting summer internship in NYC and we knew we had to go somewhere special. She proposed trying out Red Medicine, Vietnamese fusion cuisine in Beverly Hills.

Chef Jordan Kahn has worked with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry (as his first job!), Grant Achatz, and Michael Mina, so his creation is not only beautifully presented, but has the wildest combination of flavors and ingredients. It was definitely a memorable dinner. The only comment I would add is that Chef Kahn definitely focuses on the sweetness in every dish. I think some more lime, lemon or other citrus flavoring would accent the plates well.

Red Medicine at Beverly Hills
We started with a cold appetizer Green Papaya (pickled roots, crispy taro, tree nuts, nuoc cham). This was light and refreshing, especially with the nuoc cham, or Vietnamese dipping sauce, that was made into a broth.

Green Papaya
We followed the appetizer with Pork Chaud-Froid (crispy chicken skin, lychee, clove, pistachio, spicy herbs). This was one of my favorites, especially with my favorite fruit - lychee. 

Pork Chaud-Froid
Then we ordered a hot dish - Pintade Fermier (slow cooked in caramel, cinnamon, mustard lettuce, coriander, crispy onion roots). I was not as impressed with the flavors of this dish though the presentation was excellent. It tasted much like sweet and sour pork ribs that I often make at home, lacking a certain depth that other dishes had. I do love that they served this dish with steamed rice. The plates at Red Medicine tend to be extremely powerful in flavors and sauces, so almost all would need some sort of starch to accompany them. 

Pintade Fermier
Another hot plate has arrived. Beef Cheek ("cromesquis" cashew, asian pear, raisin, romanesco, bacon x.o.). Words cannot describe how tasty the beef cheek was, especially with all the sides. My lovely cousin phrased it perfectly, "I think that might be the best beef I have ever had." Imagine biting into the crunchy fried ball to find the most tender and saucy braised beef. 

Beef Cheek
Although last served, it was my favorite of the night, and I swear it is not just because it is dessert. Our waiter said that it was his favorite too. Coconut Bavarois (coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory) - very possibly one of the best dessert creations I have ever had. 

Coconut Bavarois
Cheers to a great night and my cousin's brilliant choice of dinner! Have a great time at NYC!