Archive for August, 2009

nuoc mam cham

Posted in Sides on August 26, 2009 by fivepoundpossum

ben thanh big fish 5

nuoc mam cham is a delicious vietnamese dipping sauce often paired with grilled meat. it could also work as a nice salad dressing or dipping sauce for spring rolls, etc.  sometimes, i would just pour it over white rice and dig in. many people are squeamish about fish sauce (nuoc mam) since by itself  it smells like what it is: fish packed into a barrel between layers of salt and left to ferment (or rot) for several months, the liquid drained and poured back over the fish to ferment some more. BUT! when combined with other ingredients, nuoc mam is sublime. it’s all about balance.
i got this recipe from the vietnam cookery center in ho chi minh city, where i took a couple classes last year. if you’re in the neighborhood, i definitely suggest taking one of their classes. great fun and great food.

2 T white sugar
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice (little asian limes are the best!)
2 T fish sauce
.5 t garlic, minced
.5 t  small, fresh red chili, minced

in a small bowl, add lemon juice and sugar. whisk until the sugar is dissolved.

add fish sauce and stir until any remaining sugar is dissolved.

add chili and garlic, stir again and taste. if it tastes too fishy, add more lime juice.

note:  if you can find it, use vietnamese fish sauce. in my experience, thai fish sauce tends to be darker and have a heavier flavor.



nem nuong xa (grilled meat on lemongrass skewers)

Posted in appetizers, Main Course on August 26, 2009 by fivepoundpossum

nem nuong xa

i came across this dish for the first time at a sweaty grill joint in ho chi minh city, viet nam.  there you could get just about any kind of meat (including various preparations of penis and stuffed goat’s udder) grilled either in huge oil-drum grills at the front of the restaurant or in smaller ceramic braziers at the table. i’m not exactly sure what they called  the dish or how exactly they made it, but i made my own version last night it came out very tasty. could be served as an appetizer or a main course.

(makes 10 or so skewers)

.5 lb ground pork
1 lb ground bison (beef would do; i happened to have ground bison)
5 lemongrass stalks, with outer layers removed and cut into 6-7 inch pieces
1 T lemongrass inner core, finely minced
1 T sesame oil
1.5 t ginger-garlic paste
1 t fish sauce
1 t kosher sea salt
1 t lime juice
1 T soy sauce
1 t brown sugar

mix up all the ingredients (save for the lemongrass stalks) in a medium sized mixing bowl. get in there with your hands and make sure everything is well combined.

take small handfuls of the meat mixture and squeeze one around each of the lemongrass stalks. it’s important to make sure that the meat is applied with even thickness (about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch should work well).

place the meat-sticks on a very hot grill, allowing the meat to acquire browned grill marks on all sides (3-4 minutes per side, depending on how hot the grill is)

serve on a bed of baby salad greens with nuoc mam cham (a wonderful dipping sauce-see recent post) and copious amounts of watered down beer.

happy eating,

Tomatoes stuffed with basil and cornbread

Posted in Main Course, Sides with tags , , , on August 22, 2009 by Rosalini

This recipe is in honor of tomato and fresh herb season, which is finally upon us. Any sort of tomato can be used (I even used cherry tomatoes once for a bite-sized version, but what a hassle!), but cooking time may have to be adjusted based on the qualities of the particular tomato. The photos were taken the last time I made this, well before home grown tomatoes were available, so the ones pictured are the organic “on the vine” hothouse type.

I like to make this recipe as a side or pot-luck dish, but it also works for a light meal, especially with a tosses side salad of chopped romaine, pine nuts, goat cheese and garlic lemon vinaigrette. This is the vegetarian version. Try adding a spoonful of crumbled bacon or chopped Tasso ham to the stuffing if you dine on the swine. One could also adapt this recipe to any hollow-able vegetable—red or green peppers, squash, maybe even eggplant.

You will need:

8-10 medium just-ripe tomatoes

½ pan day-old (stale) cornbread

¼ cup pine nuts or chopped pecans

1 medium shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup thinly sliced celery stalks

¼ c. minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest

1 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped (a big handful)

Salt, cracked black pepper and cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon of olive oil

About 3 cups vegetable stock

Balsamic vinegar for drizzle


An hour or two (or even a day ahead), crumble stale cornbread into a large bowl, and then add shallots, garlic, parsley, lemon zest and basil. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic, celery and shallots. Cook until just soft, about two or three minutes. Set aside. Toast pine nuts in the warm skillet. Toss to combine. Gradually add stock until mixture becomes moist, but not runny. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Mix well, cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Before stuffing, mix in pulp from hollowed tomatoes (see below).

Wash and cut the tops off of the tomatoes. Carefully scoop out seeds and pulp with a small spoon or melon ball scoop. Turn the tomatoes upside-down on a dishcloth or paper towel so that the inside of each “cup” can dry out a bit.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a small spoon to scoop stuffing into tomatoes. You don’t want to pack or overfill them because it will make the tomatoes more likely to split when baking. Fill each just to top of the cup, and line up the filled tomatoes on a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Bake the stuffed tomatoes 15-20 minutes, or until they are hot all the way to the center. They get overcooked, they are still delicious but will not be as pretty because the tomatoes are likely to melt and split.

Transfer the stuffed tomatoes to a plate, top each with a fresh basil leaf, and lightly drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

preposterously good panzanella

Posted in salads, Sides on August 22, 2009 by fivepoundpossum

dancing sprout farms tomatoes at the athens farmers market

hooray! at long last i can post. thanks, amber. for my first trick, i’d like to post my panzanella recipe adapted from one the national restaurant was handing out at the athens farmers market a couple months ago. the best thing about panzanella is that almost any tasty vegetable would work in it. so go crazy. here goes…

6 cups of stale-ish baguette chopped crouton style
3 T olive oil
1 T fresh thyme (most fresh herbs work here. more than 1 t is probably better)
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large onions, sliced thinly
2 T capers
1 C torn basil leaves
3-4 C of baby arugula
1 C fresh tomatoes, chopped (halved cherry or sungold tomatoes are perfect)
1/3 C mayonnaise (if you have more bread, add more mayo)
1 T red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (add a little more if you increase the mayo)
toss bread with 2 T olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper–toast
in a 350 degree oven until golden brown, set aside to cool

in a saute pan, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat, add onion and
saute until well caramelized, set aside to cool (to caramelize the
onion, i like to salt the onions once they go into the hot pan and
then sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar on them once the turn translucent)

in a small mixing bowl whisk mayo and vinegar together until smooth

in a large bowl combine everything and then add the mayo mixture

that’s it! happy eating…

Larb, wonderful larb

Posted in Main Course, salads, Sides with tags , , , , on August 1, 2009 by Rosalini

Larb, a sour and spicy Thai- or Laotian-style salad, is my new favorite summer dinner. There is no one way to make larb, which makes it versatile and easily suited to one’s personal tastes, preferences, and food taboos. I’ve seen recipes for larb made with chicken, fish, duck, beef, tofu and pork, raw and cooked, served cold or hot, with various combination of herbs, spices, and vegetables. This recipe which calls for lean ground turkey breast and lots of chili paste is adapted from one I found on and adjusted quite a bit. I was very satisfied with it, and will definitely make it again. I think next time I’ll try it with extra firm tofu. It is wonderful cold or hot.

THE SAUCE (whisk the following together in a bowl and set aside)

  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 generous tablespoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chili paste)

THE BODY (instructions follow)

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1.5 pounds lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)
  • 4 shallots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced into half-rings
  • 3 tablespoons very finely minced lemongrass
  • 2 tablespoons fresh serrano chilis, sliced into paper-thin rings
  • 1/2 cup each of roughly chopped fresh cilantro and mint
  • 3 tablespoons of toasted white rice, roughly ground

In a heavy skillet or wok, bring broth to a simmer, then crumble ground turkey into the pan. When the turkey is cooked and well crumbled, add toasted rice, green onions, shallots, lemongrass, and serrano chilis. Cook until veggies are just tender, then remove from heat and let rest about 10 minutes, then add sauce, cilantro and mint. Taste when herbs have wilted, and adjust chili sauce to your preference.

Larb can be eaten with a spoon right out of the pan, served on a bed of fresh greens, or wrapped in lettuce leaves, but my favorite way to have it is wrapped in green cabbage and radicchio leaves. Vegetarians should substitute tofu for the turkey, and a good vegetable stock for the chicken stock, and I think it will be just as nice.