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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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Asian Sloppy Joes

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Here is a new twist on a childhood classic and these sandwiches certainly aren’t the Manwiches you grew up with. The recipe comes from Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger Restaurant and combines the best of Asian flavors in a fun form. Sambal Oelek is a spicy chile sauce which adds zip to any dish. If you aren’t familiar with it, try a bit before adding it to your meat mixture. I love it but it is spicy so a little goes a long way. Three tablespoons might add too much spice for your family so add less (or more) if you prefer.

The recipe calls for using a mixture of ground pork and ground chicken but feel free to substitute ground turkey or lean beef if you prefer. You can serve these sandwiches as bite sized sliders or as full-sized sandwiches for a quick dinner.  Like their namesake, these sandwiches are messy so put plenty of napkins on the table, use a fork and knife if you prefer, and dig in. These are a new family favorite in our house.

ASIAN SLOPPY JOES

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 medium red onions, finely chopped

1 cup celery, finely chopped

3 tablespoons Sambal Oelek

3 tablespoons garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground pork

1 pound lean ground chicken

1 cup Hoisin sauce

1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

8 large or 20 small rolls, split

  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers.
  • Add the onions, celery, Sambal Oelek, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper. Combine all of the ingredients then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the ground pork and chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat.
  • Stir in the Hoisin sauce, tomatoes, and lime juice and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.
  • Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Serve on top of the rolls.

Yields: 8 large or 20 small sandwiches.

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

Spicy Orange & Ginger Chicken

chicken

This easy and spicy chicken recipe from Food 52 is the perfect weeknight dinner for those nights when you are craving an Asian inspired dish. Because the chicken needs to marinate for one hour it falls outside of the parameters for my Fast Friday meals but it is fast just the same. If I know I’m going to be pressed for time I mix up the marinade in the morning then toss the chicken into it the minute I walk in the door in the evening. By the time I’m ready to start cooking the chicken is ready for the wok.

The original recipe uses boneless skinless chicken breasts but I am partial to boneless chicken thighs. I think the meat is more flavorful and juicier as well. If you like your food spicy as I do, add in a bit more of the fiery sriracha sauce. Serve the chicken over your favorite grain–I prefer brown rice– and dinner is ready. Enjoy!

SPICY ORANGE & GINGER CHICKEN

1 1/4 cups orange juice 

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

tablespoons grated fresh ginger

tablespoons minced fresh garlic

tablespoons olive oil, divided

tablespoons sriracha

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

teaspoons light brown sugar

teaspoons orange zest

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 1/4pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces

tablespoon cornstarch

Brown rice for serving

1/4 cup sliced green onions

  • In small bowl, whisk together orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, 1 tablespoon oil, sriracha, vinegar, brown sugar, orange zest, and pepper.
  • Place chicken in a large ziploc bag; pour 1/3 cup marinade over chicken. Seal bag and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour.
  • Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade.
  • Heat a large wok over high heat. Add the remaining oil.
  • Working in 2 batches, add chicken and cook each batch 5 to 6 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and has lost its pink color throughout, stirring frequently. Remove chicken from pan.
  • Reduce heat to medium-high; add remaining marinade to the wok and heat to boiling.
  • In small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; whisk the cornstarch mixture into the marinade, and boil 1 minute.
  • Return the chicken to the wok; cook 1 minute or until heated through.
  • Serve over rice sprinkled with green onions.

Serves 4

 

Sticky Apple Date Cake

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What is sweet and tangy, moist and sticky and all around delicious? The answer is, this sticky apple date cake from Brooklyn Supper. I love this cake and it is a real treat for the senses. Filled with both dates and apples it is rich and dense. And when you add in a generous amount of fresh ginger, you are rewarded with a surprisingly zippiness in every bite. The ginger takes you by surprise but its warming flavor completes this cake making it a welcome treat. And by all means, don’t skip the caramel sauce. It makes this already great cake extra special. I love to serve the cake slightly warm; it makes the sauce extra drippy and delicious.

STICKY APPLE DATE CAKE

For the cake:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups copped dates

1 cup water

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

6 tablespoons peeled, minced, fresh ginger

1 1/2 cups sweet-tart apples peeled, cored and cut into a 1/4-inch dice (1 1/2 cups)

For the sauce:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the dates and water to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until dates start to soften, about 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and immediately stir in baking soda. Set aside to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy 3 – 4 minutes.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then add the ginger.
  • Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.
  • Stir in the date mixture and then fold in the apples.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 40 – 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining the brown sugar, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan set over medium heat.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted and the sugar’s dissolved – about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the cream, bring mixture to a gentle simmer, and then turn heat to low.
  • Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened, 5 – 7 minutes. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.
  • Cool the cake for 15 minutes, then remove sides and set on a serving plate.
  • Use a toothpick to poke holes all over cake. Pour half the warm sauce over the cake.
  • Slice, and serve warm cake with a generous drizzle of sauce.
  • Leftovers will store well wrapped at room temperature for 3 days.

Serves 16

Chicken, Apple & Butternut Stew

stew

For me, this stew is comfort in a bowl. The recipe is adapted from  Cooking Light, and it has quickly become a family favorite, making regular appearances on our dinner table and in lunch thermoses the next day. The dish starts simply enough with cubes of boneless chicken thighs which are moister and more flavorful than white meat. A combination of butternut squash and parsnips take the place of the customary potatoes and bring both a sweet and nutty flavor to the dish. But it doesn’t end there. Both sage and ginger add complexity to the dish which is finished off with crisp cider and a generous amount of tart apples which ups the flavor quotient. There are a lot of flavors in this dish but they complement each other with no two bites tasting the same. It encourages you to go back for more. And more…. And more…..

CHICKEN, APPLE & BUTTERNUT SQUASH STEW

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash
1 cup  diced peeled parsnip
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups dry Normandy cider
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 cups chopped peeled Granny Smith apple
  • Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.
  • Add one tablespoon of the oil to a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  • Add half of chicken to the pan and sauté 6 minutes or until browned.
  • Remove chicken from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining oil to the pan.
  • Add the onion, sage and ginger and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the squash and parsnip then cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and cook for one minutes.
  • Stir in the cider and chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits.
  • Stir in the chicken, the remaining salt and the remaining pepper.
  • Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and cook, partially covered for 25 minutes.
  • Stir in the apples and cook for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Serves 4

Twenty-Five Days of Cookies: Spiced Molasses Cookies

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Christmas is just ten days (gulp) away and what better way is there to countdown to the big event than to feature a cookie recipe each day? Think of it as a cookie recipe advent calendar. And to fill that advent calendar I’m featuring twenty five of my favorite holiday cookie recipes that are sure to fill your holidays with cheer. Bake them to fill your cookie trays, bring them to a cookie swap or eat them yourself; they are guaranteed to bring about holiday joy. And if you love baking as much as I do, making them is a fun filled gift unto itself. Enjoy!

No other flavor profile says winter to me more than the warm and fragrant combination of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. And when you add in molasses you are just adding rich complexity to an already delicious and comforting flavor combination. There is just something about this spice blend that invokes images of snowy days spent around a crackling fire. So what could be better than combining all of these flavors into a single cookie?

This recipe is from Williams Sonoma and brings together everything a cookie should be. The flavors are reminiscent of a rich gingerbread while the cookies are crisp on the outside and chewier than a traditional gingerbread cookie. And because the dough is rolled into balls rather than cut out with cookie cutters, they come together in a snap.They really couldn’t be easier. I love to eat these warm and I’m sure you will too.

SPICED MOLASSES COOKIES

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1/4 cup molasses

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt. Set aside.
  • In a separate larger bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
  • Beat in the egg and the molasses.
  • Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, beating until well blended.
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly coat two baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place the sugar on a shallow plate.
  • Using your hands, roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls then roll the balls in the sugar.
  • Place the dough balls on the baking sheet, setting them 2 inches apart.
  • Using the tines of a fork, press the fork into each cookie, pushing down to create a decorative top.
  • Bake until just set and lightly browned, 9-11 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the baking sheets.

Yields: 45 cookies

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