Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lobster Noodle Soup

I spend a lot of my time reading cookbooks and cooking magazines.  This month, two recipes caught my eye. One was from Portland's own chef Joshua McFadden in Bon Appetit and the other from Dale Talde in Saveur. I recently read Dale Talde's cookbook Asian American, and I feel like I'm a better person for it. While I have a Vietnamese mom and dad, my kids have a Vietnamese mom and American dad, with a Sicilian last name. I have one daughter who is obsessed with Dutch Bros, but she has taken on pork blood in congee repeatedly. The other daughter, though, less adventurous, has been eating tripe from the dim sum cart, calling them noodles. I think she really thinks they're noodles though. Meaning that if you serve chicken tenders and french fries in your restaurant, she'll let me take her there.

I love that McFadden's Faux Lobster Pho is an Italian twist on a Vietnamese favorite. What is pho? Noodles, protein, broth, and herbs.  I do things like that all the time in my home kitchen because I like to change things up. I can't wait to try McFadden's food at Ava Genes. I've been told a few times that it is the best restaurant in Portland. 

So this recipe is a spin off of the two recipes. I'm using their lobster, noodles, shrimp paste, and pork to combine some of my favorite ingredients for soup in a very cool summer in the Pacific Northwest. I'm still lamenting the cost of wild caught American shrimp up here, because Barton Seaver still insists on it being the best quality shrimp in his latest cookbook. When I lived in Arkansas, I enjoyed having my own purveyor providing me the same great shrimp for half the price at our Farmers Market. Now I just rebel by buying lobster tails instead. I loved the outcome of my efforts.

  • 4 cups of shellfish shells from shrimp, crab, or lobster
  • 4 (3 oz) lobster tails
  • 1/2 pound of wild caught American shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 pound of ground pork
  • green onions, chopped
  • cilantro, finely choppped
  • shirataki noodles or rice noodles
  • shrimp paste
  1. Place the shells in a medium stock pot and cover with water. Add shrimp paste. Bring up to a boil, then simmer for one hour.
  2. Run a skewer through each lobster tail, then steam for 8 minutes. Separate the meat, and cut into bite sized pieces.
  3. Chop the shrimp, combine with the ground pork, and form small meatballs.
  4. Strain the broth. Add the meatballs and cook until they float to the top. Add the lobster meat.
  5. Serve the broth, lobster, and meatballs with noodles, green onions, and cilantro. Also optional, lime. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Prosciutto di Parma Salad

My husband loves to eat a salad everyday, and I love to eat Prosciutto di Parma almost as often. This thin, silky dry cured ham from Parma, Italy has been a favorite snack of mine since I discovered it. I was waiting tables in an Italian restaurant in Little Rock during my college years when I had my first taste. I made friends with a sous chef behind the line, and soon I was enjoying leftover scraps of prosciutto on just about every shift. Thank goodness I can buy it at my local New Seasons here.

I came up with this recipe by combining some of my favorite ingredients. The first time I had a salad with mint and cilantro in it, I was eating at a place in Little Rock called Loca Luna. I thought that their Thai beef salad bursted with fresh herbaceous flavor. 

Then we had our first Williams Sonoma open in town. They used to carry a lemon olive oil that I loved. The first time I bought it, I wanted to combine it with some prosciutto. In the past I was buying fresh cut prosciutto from Boulevard Bread Company, and it was a struggle to make it out of the parking lot without digging in immediately. There were several days I was driving down Cantrell or Kavanaugh eating the stuff out of the bag. I decided I better try to eat it in a more civilized manner.

So I came up with this salad, and it was a big hit with family and friends. The olive oil and white balsamic ingredients for the dressing can be interchangeable. If I used Sicilian lemon white balsamic vinegar, I use regular extra virgin olive oil. If I use a lemon extra virgin olive oil, I use plain white balsamic vinegar. I have about 9 different oils and vinegars in my pantry. I buy mine from Benessere in downtown Portland. I love the location near Director Park.

Parmigiano Reggiano is perfect in this salad because it is also found in Parma, and I think I read that the pigs that make the Prosciutto di Parma are fed the whey of the cheese. It is also known as the best cheese in the world.

  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
  • Organic mixed greens
  • Fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Thinly sliced white onion
  • Coarsely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp Sicilian lemon white balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar, add salt and pepper to taste, and shake to combine.
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients, and add the dressing.
This will serve 2- 4 people, depending on if you eat it as a side salad or as an entree.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pacific Cod with local garlic salt

When I tell people in Portland, Oregon that I moved here a year and a half ago from Little Rock, Arkansas, they always ask how I like it and how different it is. The similarity is that both are very food oriented communities, utilizing the freshest local ingredients possible in the most sustainable way possible. The biggest difference is probably the fresh seafood available in a city near the great Pacific Ocean versus a landlocked smaller city.

We even have local salt! In many different flavors. These can be sampled at so many local farmers markets, whether you are in the city or on the coast. A banker friend recently revealed that his favorite ingredient in cooking was Jacobsen garlic salt, and so I had to try it! Here's how I used it!

  • Cod filet
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of Jacobsen Salt Co. garlic salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 Green onions, chopped
  • Lemon juice from half a lemon
  • Grated lemon zest
  • Cilantro, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cod onto a parchment lined pan. Season with a pinch of garlic salt. Set timer for 20 minutes.
  2. In a small pan, melt 2 tbsp butter with green onions and garlic cloves. Add lemon juice and stir.
  3. When the cod is finished, top with butter mixture, grated lemon zest, and cilantro.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Italian Summer Salad

My daughter Gianna loves cold food. I keep the fridge regularly stocked with cucumbers and hummus for her after school snacking. She also frequently asks if I can make her some charcuterie or a salad for her school lunch. Considering I was eating Ruffles, Kit Kat, and a Mountain Dew when I was in the seventh grade, I am happy to comply. She inspires. 

This salad was made with some of my daughter's favorite things. And now that summer is here, who else wants cold food?

  • Thick dices of salami
  • String cheese segments or fresh mozzarella pearls
  • Fresh mint leaves, torn
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Baby Spring Mix (our favorite is from Organic Girl)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Sicilian lemon balsamic vinegar
  1. Mix the olive oil and vinegar in a small container. Shake until well mixed.
  2. Combine all other ingredients. Add dressing. Add salt and pepper.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Soft Boiled Eggs

I once read a book about how Heidi Klum lost all her baby weight in like five weeks or something to walk the runway in a Victoria's Secret show. Five weeks after her fourth child!

She had a list of strictly prohibited dietary items that started with A, B, C, and D. But E was fine. She could have any amount of eggs she wanted. She boiled a dozen at a time, and ate one any time she walked into the kitchen. Oh, and she worked out a lot!

So I started boiling a half dozen eggs at a time as a healthy snack. Eggs are a great source of lean protein, vitamins, omega 3's, and minerals such as zinc and iron. And they're inexpensive. I love that Oregon grocery stores offer many options of Grade AA eggs. My egg recipes are 2, 4, and 6 minutes. Fried eggs are cooked in 2 minutes. Poached eggs are done in 4, and boiled done in 6.

Soft Boiled Eggs

  • 6 large eggs
  • water
  • small saucepan
  1. Place the eggs inside the pan. They should be snug without a lot of room to move around.
  2. Place enough water in the pan to just cover the eggs.
  3. Bring up to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low. 
  4. After 5 minutes, remove from heat.
  5. Fill a bowl with ice and water. Place the eggs inside for 10 minutes.
Best way to peel an egg: crack the ends, then roll softly on your counter to gently soften the shell. Start at the bigger end, and peel.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mothers Day

Charcoal Grilled Oysters from The Waiting Room, Portland, Oregon

Happy Mothers Day! It's been a nostalgic day for me because my mom is back home in Arkansas, and I had so many thoughts of her today. She left Vietnam with the 5 of us kids and our dad so long ago, and she's never been back. We arrived in the United States with nothing, and she went to work in a factory Monday through Friday 7 am - 3:30 everyday. But she had dinner for the seven of us every night at 5:30 or 6:00 or so. Some of us kids would help, but mostly me, the baby of the family...

My dad worked long, hard hours too. Swing shift sometimes. Night shift sometimes. But most nights, it was the seven of us Nguyens together sharing food and stories about our day around the same table.

So now that I'm far away, every holiday, every birthday, when I call, they tell me the same thing. They ate really good today. And that means it was a great day. Mom asked if the kids cooked for me today, and I laughed. No, but I had some of the best oysters I've ever had in my life. And she knew that it was a great day for me. She was happy to hear that.

Deviled Eggs from The Waiting Room Brunch
Last summer we had the chance to go home to Little Rock to visit our family and friends. My mother in law had stage four cancer, and we spent as much time as we could with her. She made the best deviled eggs ever. I miss her so much.

It was also such a nice surprise to receive the complimentary Mothers Day Prosecco from The Waiting Room during our brunch today! My daughter Gianna loved our deviled eggs. I did too. We ate there on her birthday two weeks ago, and we knew this was where we wanted to spend my Mothers Day brunch. It's a great place for a special occasion or an "eat like a local" kind of place.

Then we also received a complimentary Mothers Day dessert! I don't often eat desserts, so my ten year old quickly grabbed it and dug in. I should have told our server that. I was very thankful for these Mothers Day gifts, though because my kids also had a chance to enjoy one of the gifts! And they're the ones who make this day so wonderful every year.

I'm so glad we ate at The Waiting Room today for Mothers Day. I know we'll eat again there soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Whole Foods Calamari

I hadn't been to a Whole Foods in over a year, since I moved away from Little Rock. I shopped there ALL the time when I lived down South. But when I moved to the Portland area, I started shopping everyday at New Seasons, because there was one pretty close to my home. And it was something new. A Pacific Northwest original.

Then I got a new Samsung Galaxy S7 phone, and I downloaded the Samsung Pay app. After my first purchase, I received a $30 gift card from my choice of retailers. I chose Whole Foods. OH MY!!

I went to the one in the Pearl district. It's huge, and it's a great example of why this place is the Pacific North Wonderland (PNW). I discovered that at the seafood and meat department, you can have them SEASON your purchase with your choice of seasonings. Wow! I consider 3 benefits of this: (1) savings on out of pocket cost for marinades, and (2) efficient marinade time on your dinner for the night! It's always nice when someone else pitches in, isn't it? Then (3) free tastings of seasonings. I also trust their seasonings not to have artificial stuff that I would not buy if I read the label the way I love to do.

So I went two times in one week. I opted once for the lemon dill seasoning for the dish you see above, going the Mediterranean route with shirataki noodles. The squid cooks up quickly in just a couple of minutes when sauteed, then the drained noodles can be added to just warm them up. Then the garnish of green onions and crushed red pepper add flavor and dimension.    

Another tasty seasoning was the Thai Curry option, which I also paired with shirataki noodles. Garnished with cilantro and green onions, it leaned more toward the Asian style of cuisine. I wonder what I should try next?!