Archive for the 'Recipe' Category

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Ruth Reichl’s Dangerously Delicious Apricot Jam

Ruth Reichl's Dangerously Delicious Apricot Jam

Making preserves has always held a fascination for me, but so far I’ve shied away because it seemed like such a to-do. To avoid the fussiness of traditional jam making, Ruth Reichl suggests making small, “dangerously delicious” batches that can be consumed within the span of a few weeks, thus eliminating all need for special materials and specific methods. Win, win. I’m in.

After procuring two pounds of apricots and setting aside an evening without commitments, I set out to make my first lazy man’s jam. First, I pulled apart the fruit using my bare hands, leaving the skins on and removing the pits, then I made a simple syrup and macerated half the fruit in it. More fruit, a whole vanilla bean, and a squeeze of lemon juice later, I had a dangerously delicious apricot jam on my hands. I couldn’t believe how awesomely simple it all was.

The Astronomer and I have been slathering this stuff on everything from traditional toast to gio chao quay (Chinese fried crullers). The crullers’ salty notes play well with the jam’s intrinsic sweetness. Additionally, I’ve been jazzing up my plain Greek yogurt with a generous dollop.

This jam is our jam.

  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 2 pounds apricots
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only

Ruth Reichl's Dangerously Delicious Apricot Jam

Pull apart the apricots using your hands, leaving the skins on and removing the pits.

Ruth Reichl's Dangerously Delicious Apricot Jam

Stir the sugar and water together in a small heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring until clear, 1-2 minutes. Add half the apricots to the syrup. Simmer until they disintegrate, stirring, for about 10 minutes.

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Bún Bò Huế – Vietnamese Beef & Lemon Grass Noodle Soup

Bun Bo Hue

With the help of Grandma and my aunts these past couple of years, I’ve learned how to prepare almost every noodle soup that I giddily slurped as a child and hungrily craved as an adult. Grandma taught me how to tame pho bo and bo kho from her home kitchen, while my aunts showed me the ins and outs of bun rieu and hu tieu through detailed emails and patient telephone calls.

I’ve amassed quite a repertoire of recipes on this site over the years, preserving a small piece of family history in the process and guaranteeing that all future cravings are swiftly satisfied.

Most recently, Grandma and I tackled bun bo Hue, a complex and heady beef noodle soup scented with lemongrass, packed with pork trotters, and littered with congealed pigs’ blood.

While the city of Hue is known for its spicy fare, Grandma’s version of the former imperial capital’s famous noodle soup is quite tame because she’s needed to refine and adjust it over time to placate the palates of her American-born, spice-averse grandchildren. What can I say? My cousins and I were weak when it came to heat when we were younger.

The most magical part of making bun bo Hue happens around hour three when the beef, pork, and lemongrass broth is transformed into the familiar fiery orange soup. Grandma uses a sizzling mixture of vegetable oil, scallions, fish sauce, and paprika to impart the broth with its characteristically bright hue and rich, umami flavor. Never in a million years would I have guessed that a jar of paprika resided in Grandma’s cupboard for this very recipe.

A heavy dose of fermented shrimp paste, along with a touch of sugar and salt, add the finishing touches to the broth. The soup is ready to be served when the slices of beef and the pigs’ feet are both perfectly tender, after approximately 4 hours total.

For broth

  • 2.5 pounds pigs’ feet, cut into chunks
  • 2.5 pounds beef shank
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons salt, separated
  • 9 stalks lemongrass
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, white parts only, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fermented shrimp paste
  • 1 tablespoon monosodium glutamate, optional
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar

For garnish and noodles

Bun Bo Hue

To prepare the broth, begin by cleaning the pigs’ feet under running water to remove any bits of bone debris that the butcher left behind. Don’t forget to run your fingers beneath the skin where unsightly debris may have gotten trapped.

Bun Bo Hue

Place the cleaned pigs’ feet and beef shank in a large stockpot filled with enough water to submerge them and bring to a boil. The shank and feet are full of impurities, so once the water comes to a boil, dump it out and collect the feet and shank in a colander.

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Sườn Nướng – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Ribs

Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops/Ribs

One of the perks of having a mother who works for a meat distribution company are the random acts of kindness meatiness that occur from time to time. I love it when Mom surprises me with pounds of jumbo shrimp, bags of frozen chicken fingers, or most recently, racks of baby back ribs. With Memorial Day, the official start of the summer grilling season, around the corner, the timing could not have been any more perfect. These racks o’ ribs were destined to meet the heat, Vietnamese-style.

Sườn nướng was a mealtime staple growing up. Not only was it served often on weeknights for dinner, but it also made regular appearances at beachside family gatherings—La Jolla Shores, represent. The ease of prepping and cooking the ribs, as well as their intrinsic deliciousness, made them a standby for every occasion.

Comprised of just five ingredients—fish sauce, sugar, salt, black pepper, and shallots—this easy marinade treats pork to a sweet, salty, and wholly umami bath. Soaked overnight, then grilled over hot flames, the ribs’ exterior caramelizes beautifully, while the innards remain tender and flavorful.

The recipe below produces ribs that are savory enough to pair with a heap of rice, the Vietnamese way, but for those looking to eat their meat straight up, ease up some on the fish sauce and salt.

According to Mom, this is the best marinade ever. And she’s absolutely right.

  • 2 to 3 pounds pork ribs, separated
  • 2 large shallots, finely minced
  • 4 ounces fish sauce (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 ounces granulated sugar (approximately 1/3 cup)

Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops/Ribs

To prepare the marinade, whisk together the shallots, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Transfer the marinade to a gallon-size Ziploc bag, along with the ribs, and let the meat and marinade marry in the refrigerator overnight.

Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops/Ribs

Let the ribs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling. Over medium-high flames, grill the ribs on both sides until slightly charred and fully cooked through, approximately 6 to 10 minutes per side. Optional: brush the ribs with leftover marinade.

Once the ribs are fully cooked, transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes.

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Pear and Cardamom Fruit Leather

Cardamom Pear Fruit Leather

It’s that time of year again…

For The Astronomer and my first wedding anniversary, I made two varieties of Vietnamese spring rolls, goi cuon and bo bia, to represent paper. In recognition of our second anniversary, I prepared a feast of cottontail as a nod to cotton. Continuing my streak of edible anniversary gifts, The Astronomer received fruit leather for our latest to signify leather. Next year’s gonna be decidedly less creative with “fruit and flowers” on the docket!

While my initial plan was to make fruit leather using The Astronomer’s two most beloved ingredients, raspberries and cinnamon, the prohibitive price and undependable quality of summer berries in early spring had me searching for a more fitting fruit. After scanning the produce aisle and my long mental list of The Astronomer’s loves and loathes, I happily settled on pear fruit leather spiked with warm cardamom.

Using recipes from Elise and Kirbie as my guide, I successfully transformed fresh pears into candied leather without too much trouble. The only hurdle that I encountered was my oven, which heats intensely and unevenly. This meant that I had to check on the leather rather often to make sure that it hadn’t turned the fruit into chips or, worse yet, burnt it to a crisp!

I tried my darnedest to keep this gift a secret, but knowing my penchant for edible interpretations of antiquated anniversary traditions, The Astronomer figured it out before the big reveal. Oh, well. It didn’t hinder his enjoyment one bit.

Happy Anniversary, Vernon Chaplin!

  • 4 cups chopped pears
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Granulated sugar
  • Ground cardamom

Cardamom Pear Fruit Leather

Rinse, peel, core, and chop pears into bite-sized pieces. Taste the fruit and note how sweet it is. If the pears are very sweet, you will not need to add any sugar. If the pears are a touch tart, you may need to add some sugar in the next step.

Cardamom Pear Fruit Leather

Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add water and bring to a simmer; cover and let cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir. Use a potato masher to mash up the fruit in the pan.

Taste the fruit and determine how much sugar, lemon juice, and cardamom to add. Add sugar in small amounts, one tablespoon at a time, to the desired level of sweetness. Add lemon juice, one teaspoon at a time, to help brighten the flavor of the fruit. Add a pinch or two of cardamom for pizzazz. Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, another 5-10 minutes (or more). Continue reading ‘Pear and Cardamom Fruit Leather’

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