Category Archives: cilantro

Cambodian Noodle Soup

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With the exception of my travels through the Balkans, I have yet to visit any metropolitan area where I didn’t stumble upon a pho shop.  With their steaming bowls of noodles, broth, and an endless variety of add-ins, these Thai noodle soup shops have a cult like following that make them both universal and hard not to like.  In grad school my favorite lunch was a steaming bowl of pho from the student union.  The options were endless so I could eat there every day without repeating the same bowl of soup twice.

I had never made pho before but decided to give it a try when my craving for the hot broth covered noodles got the best of me.  In browsing through recipe options I came across one in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Splendid Table is my favorite radio program on NPR.  I can even stream their broadcasts online meaning I can get my Lynn Rossetto Kasper fix while living overseas).  I was set to give the pho recipe a try then I turned the page and saw the Cambodian twist on the soup which sounded even more intriguing.  Unable to decide which version to make, I combined the best elements of both recipes to form what I present here.  You can also add or substitute ingredients as your palate or pantry dictates.

The verdict?  This soup is delicious but a lot more work than popping into your local pho shop. But if you don’t have one in close proximity to you, make this soup.  You won’t be disappointed.

CAMBODIAN NOODLE SOUP

For the broth:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 two inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced

6 whole cloves

1 star anise

Freshly ground black pepper

7 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

For the soup:

8 ounces linguine-style rice noodles

6 ounces thinly sliced top round steak

1 1/2 cups winter squash, diced

1 cup unsweetened pineapple chunks

1 medium tomato, diced

For the table salad:

10 sprigs fresh cilantro

8 sprigs Thai or other fresh basil

8 mint sprigs

Generous handful bean sprouts

2 Serrano chiles, thinly sliced

1 large lime, cut into wedges

Add-in sauces:

Asian hot sauce

Hoisin sauce

  • Place a rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler and then pre-heat the oven.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and evenly distribute the onion, garlic, ginger, cloves, star anise, and five grinds of black pepper over the baking sheet.
  • Broil for 5-6 minutes until the spices are fragrant and the onions begin to brown.  Scrape the mixture into a large soup pot.
  • Add the broth, sugar, fish sauce, and squash to the pot.  Cover the pot tightly and bring the entire mixture to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  • Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large pan and cover with very hot tap water.  Allow to soak for 20 minutes or until the noodles are tender.  Drain, rinse with cold water, then divide evenly between two large soup bowls.
  • Thinly slice the steak into bite sized pieces.  (Hint:  For easier slicing, place the steak in the freezer before you begin making the soup.  Allow it to sit for 20 minutes then remove it from the freezer and slice).  Evenly divide the meat between the two soup bowls.  The hot broth will cook it to a medium-rare
  • Arrange the table salad ingredients on a medium-sized platter and place on the table.
  • When the squash is tender, add the pineapple and tomatoes to the broth and stir well to combine.  Cook for 1 minute to allow the broth to return to a simmer.
  • Ladle the broth over the noodles and meat and serve immediately topped with the table salad and sauces of your choice.

Serves 2

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Chicken Korma

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It isn’t quite spring around here but the tease of warmer weather and definitely longer days has me thinking about ways to lighten up my menus.  On sunnier days stick to your ribs stews are loosing their appeal and have me seeking out lighter fare. But lighter doesn’t have to mean less flavorful as this quick dish from the  Noble Pig attests to.

The rich and tangy flavors of cilantro, cumin and ginger add spice to ground chicken (you can substitute turkey if you prefer) while the peas and fresh cilantro add brightness and the necessary vegetables that make this a complete dinner option. Its fast, delicious and sure to please.

CHICKEN KORMA

1 large red onion; 1/2 chopped, 1/2 sliced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt plus more for garnish
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
4 pitas, for serving

  • Combine the chopped onion, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin  1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup of water in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse  until a thin paste forms.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until golden, 4 minutes.
  • Add the ginger paste and cook, stirring, until most of the water is cooked out, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the chicken and cook until opaque, breaking up the meat.
  • In a small bowl mix the yogurt with 1/4 cup water, add to the pan and simmer over medium-low heat until the meat is cooked through, 2-3 minutes more.
  • Add the peas and the cilantro and season to taste with additional salt if desired.
  • Meanwhile, heat another skillet over high heat. Brush the pitas with oil, season with a tiny amount of salt and toast in the skillet, about 1 minute per side.
  • Divide the chicken mixture among the pitas.

Serves 4

Guacamole

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A party isn’t a party unless there is guacamole on the table. Or at least that is how I feel. But then again, I love all things avocado. There is something about guacamole that everyone seems to love. It is simultaneously smooth yet chunky, spicy yet mellow and takes corn tortilla chips from ordinary to extraordinary. And guacamole is versatile. Sure it is a natural pairing for chips but I also love to use it as a dip for fresh vegetables and smeared on top of a cheeseburger. I’ve also been known to eat it as is by the spoonful. Yes, I like it that much and judging by the speed at which it disappears when I make it, others agree.

The key to a good guacamole is ripe avocados. You want your avocado to be soft yet not mushing. Peeling a perfectly ripe avocado can be a messy endeavor. To make the process easier, I like to split the avocado in half lengthwise and pop out the pit. Holding each half in the palm of my hand I score the flesh through to the skin in a grid pattern. Holding the avocado over a bowl, simply invert the skin and use a fork or spoon to scrape out the flesh. And here’s an added tip: if you don’t plan on serving the guacamole right away, and it tastes best if it sits for at least half an hour, place the avocado pits directly into the dip and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. The pits will keep the avocados from turning brown.

GUACAMOLE

3 ripe avocados, cut into chunks as described above

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup finely minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

Salt & pepper

  • Place the avocado in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork until it is slightly chunky or has reached a consistency you prefer.
  • Add the shallot, garlic, chili pepper, lime juice, cilantro and cumin powder. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the avocado pits to the guacamole, cover tightly with plastic warp and refrigerate.
  • When ready to serve, remove the pits, taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Yields: 2 cups

Avocado Skillet Chicken

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With our busy schedules, weeknight dinners need to be fast. From refrigerator to table and yes even clean up, during the week I don’t have a lot of time to fuss over preparations. There are bonus points for dishes that are truly delicious and loved by everyone in the family. And as the cook and pan washer it is even better when the entire meal can be cooked in a single pan. And that is why this super fast and tasty dish from Cooking Light has quickly become an all around family favorite.

Preparation is fast and when I use my cast iron skillet cooking and clean up is a breeze. The chicken is seared on the outside then it finishes cooking in the oven ensuring that the meat is juicy and flavorful. And my family loves spicy flavors so the peppers and cilantro are palate pleasers. You can adjust these seasonings to satisfy your own palates. Any way you cook it, this is a delicious midweek keeper.

AVOCADO SKILLET CHICKEN

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
Cooking spray
2 small ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rings
4 green onions, trimmed
1 poblano pepper, sliced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 to 3 tablespoons water
8 cilantro sprigs
4 lime wedges
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the oil to pan, swirling to coat.
  • Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt, the black pepper, and the chili powder.
  • Add the chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes. Turn the chicken over; cook 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan.
  •  Coat pan with cooking spray and increase the heat to high.
  • Sprinkle the avocados with the sugar.
  • Add the avocados to the pan, placing them cut side down. Cook for 2 minutes or until charred. Remove avocados from pan.
  • Re-coat pan with cooking spray. Add the red onions; cook 3 minutes or until charred. Turn the red onions; add green onions and poblano, cooking for an additional  3 minutes.
  • Separate the red onions into rings and toss with green onions and poblano.
  • Stir in the lime juice and the soy sauce.
  • Return the chicken and the avocado to the pan, nestling it between the onion mixture.
  • Place the pan in oven and bake for 7 minutes or until chicken is done.
  • While the chicken is cooking, combine sour cream and water in a small bowl until thinned to a saucy consistency.
  • Drizzle sour cream mixture over chicken and avocados.
  • Garnish with the cilantro and lime wedges as well as the remaining salt and paprika.

Serves 4

Tomato & Jalapeno Salsa

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Nothing completes a great Mexican dish more than a side of freshly made salsa. And despite what you may think fresh salsa is incredibly easy to make; so easy that you’ll never go back to the jarred version again.

I love to use grape tomatoes for this dish since they are so sweet, have minimal seeds and easy to cut up. If you prefer you can use another type of tomato but you may want to remove some of the seeds before adding them to the bowl. The same goes for the jalapeño pepper. If you prefer a more fiery dish there isn’t any need to remove the seeds before mincing the pepper. You can also add an additional if you like (I usually do).

This salsa is perfect with tacos or fajitas, as a dressing for a salad or filling for an omelet or as a dip for tortilla chips. Actually, it is pretty darn good regardless of how you use it. Enjoy!

TOMATO & JALAPENO SALSA

1 quart grape tomatoes, quartered

1 jalapeño pepper, minced, more to taste

1 small shallot, minced

1 bunch cilantro,minced

1 lime, juiced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl, mixing well to combine.
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
  • Stir well, add additional salt if needed and serve.

Yields: 1 1/2 cups

 

 

Duck & Pear Wontons 

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I recently found myself craving wontons and decided that the best way to find ones I liked was to make them myself. I had always been intimidated by the prospect of making these bite sized morsels but much to my surprise, and delight, while time consuming, they are incredibly easy to make.

As wontons are small items and you want to experience each of the flavors and ingredients in every bite, you want to make sure each of the ingredients is finely chopped. Never one to waste a delicious ingredient, I used my rendered duck fat as the oil for sautéing the remaining ingredients. If you don’t have duck fat you can substitute vegetable oil. (But I think that duck fat adds more flavor to the dish). Because the wontons taste best when they are freshly steamed, you can make them ahead of time then cook them when you are ready to eat.

And now that I’ve made them, they are sure to make a regular appearance in my kitchen. Simply put, they are delicious.

 

DUCK & PEAR WONTONS

2 skin-on duck breasts

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or duck fat)
2 pears, peeled cored, and diced small
1 cup Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2  cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
40  wonton skins

1/2 cup of your favorite soy or dipping sauce

  • Place the duck breasts, skin side down, in a cold cast iron skillet set over low heat.
  • Slowly render the fat off of the duck breasts until the meat is medium rare. Remove the duck from the pan and allow to cool.
  • Heat the duck fat in the skillet set over medium-high heat. If you don’t have enough fat add additional oil to total 2 tablespoons.
  • Add the diced pears, Chinese cabbage, garlic and green onion to the pan and saute for one minute.
  • Sprinkle the mixture with Chinese five spice mixture and cook for an additional minute.
  • Remove from the heat and add in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper.
  • When then the duck is cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the meat and dice the breast.
  • Add it to the cabbage mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Working with one wonton wrapper at a time, place a small amount of the duck mixture in the center of each wrapper.
  • Moisten the edges of the wrapper with a small amount of water then bring the edges together to form a pocket, pinching the edges to seal.
  • Set aside and repeat until all of the wonton wrappers have been used.
  • Working in batches, (be careful not to crowd the wontons) steam the wontons in a steaming basket until the wontons are translucent. This should take about 4-5 minutes per batch.
  • Serve immediately dipped into your favorite sauce.

Yields: 40 wontons

 

Cilantro Shrimp w/ Apple-Raisin Sauce over Curried Polenta

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This meal only appears complicated but in reality is fast.  There are three components in this dish but each cooks in a matter of minutes and when combined on the plate create a satisfying Indian-esque meal. The original recipe from Cuisine at Home used sea scallops but I substituted shrimp with tasty results.  Fresh steamed broccoli completed the meal.

CILANTRO SHRIMP w/ APPLE-RAISIN SAUCE over CURRIED POLENTA

For the sauce:

1/2 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith apple

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 teaspoons minced orange zest

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Combine the apple, raisins, orange juice, broth, onion, zest, honey, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the apples are tender.
  • Stir in the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Keep warm while you make the remaining meal components.

For the shrimp:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 pound fresh or frozen raw shrimp

1/3 cup minced cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan until it shimmers.
  • Pat the shrimp dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the shrimp to the oil and tossing occasionally,  saute until cooked through, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Off the heat and stir in the cilantro.

For the polenta:

4 cups whole milk

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped scallion greens

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Combine the polenta and curry powder and slowly whisk it into the milk.
  • Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth, 4-5 minutes.  Be sure to mix continually otherwise lumps will form.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, tomatoes, and scallions.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves: 4

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