Vietnamese-Style Rice Noodles with Spicy Pork

4 09 2011

Vietnamese-Style Rice Noodles with Spicy Pork

It may be September but don’t be fooled by the calendar – it’s still summer and many areas continue to be hot and humid! A refreshing Vietnamese-inspired noodle dish with crisp vegetables, fresh herbs and spicy pork is the perfect dish to cool down with.

A Note About Ingredients

When I first started this site, just over three years ago, my goal was to present recipes with ingredients that were accessible to most people in North America, whether they lived in large cities or rural areas (like most of my family does). At the time, that meant that anything remotely exotic had to be excluded. However, over the past couple of years, even grocery stores in small towns now carry ingredients from around the world (well, not every small town, but the situation is improving in most places!). The ingredients for this recipe should be readily available anywhere with the possible exception of fish sauce (nuoc mam), rice vermicelli (banh pho) and oyster sauce. Any city with a large Asian population will have markets where you can buy these items; in smaller centers check the rice isle and condiment section (some stores also place imported items under ‘Ethnic Foods’).  A Taste of Thai and Thai Kitchen brands are often carried in large supermarket chains. For substitutions, check out the Cook’s Thesaurus: Asian Condiments.

Some Vietnamese and Thai pantry basics: (from left) Thai fish sauce, rice vermicelli (banh pho), Three Crabs brand fish sauce, Thai rice stick noodles, oyster sauce.

Note: This recipe should be suitable for gluten-free diets, however, check the label of the fish sauce and oyster sauce to ensure that no gluten was used in their preparation.

Vietnamese-Style Rice Noodles with Spicy Pork

Makes 4 to 6 servings

This recipe is a little long and requires a bit of prep work but it’s very simple if you take it step-by-step. You will need about three limes total for the juice and garnish. Be sure to use fresh herbs to garnish – they will make the dish come together.

Dressing:

  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce (preferably Three Crabs brand but any kind will do)
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil (canola or safflower work well)
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 3 Tablespoons very finely minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, add all ingredients and whisk until combined. Set aside until ready to use.

Spiced Pork:

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 450 g / 1 lb. lean ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 3 Thai bird chiles, finely minced or 1-1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 3 X 1” pieces lemongrass (eliminate if you can’t find it)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  1. In large skillet, heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Add the ground pork and use a spatula to break it up. Cook for one minute.
  2. Add the garlic, shallot, chiles and lemongrass pieces. Stir into the pork until thoroughly combined. Cook the mixture until the pork is just past pink, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the lime juice, oyster sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and pepper. Stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for another two minutes. Remove the lemongrass pieces and discard.
  4. Season the pork mixture with salt and set the mixture aside until ready to use.

Noodles and Vegetables:

  • 12 oz. / 340 grams dry rice vermicelli noodles (banh pho – about 3 mm wide – if these aren’t available any kind of flat rice noodle will work)
  • 1 medium English cucumber
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium red pepper
  • 1 cup bean sprouts or ½ cup shredded lettuce
  1. To prepare the noodles: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop in the dry noodles and cook for about 3 minutes or until just tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to halt the cooking. Place in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
  2. To prepare the vegetables: Slice the cucumber into rounds, about   1/8“ thick. Discard the ends.
  3. Peel the carrots and cut into thin matchsticks and cut the red pepper into thin strips.

Garnishes:

  • Fresh cilantro
  • Fresh mint
  • ¼ cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
  • Fried shallot rings (see below)
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Fried Shallot Rings:

  • 1 medium shallot
  • Vegetable oil – enough to cover the bottom of a small saucepan about ½” deep
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Peel the shallot and slice into thin rings. Heat the oil in a small saucepan on high. Add the shallot rings and fry until golden and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Make sure you don’t overcook them or they will become bitter.
  2. Use a slotted spoon to remove the rings from the oil and set them aside on a piece of paper towel. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set aside until ready to use.

Putting it All Together:

  1. Place the softened noodles in a large bowl. Add the sliced cucumber, carrot and pepper strips and bean sprouts.
  2. Pour in the dressing and toss until everything is coated and thoroughly combined.
  3. Plate the noodles and top with the spiced pork. Garnish with torn fresh coriander and mint, chopped peanuts and fried shallot rings. Serve with lime wedges on the side to squeeze over the dish when served.
  4. The dish can be served warm or at room temperature.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

2 08 2011

Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

Farmers’ markets are at their peak right now and almost anything that grows during the summer is now available. To take advantage of the bounty, why not make this lasagna which is packed full of summer herbs and vegetables? It’s the perfect dish for entertaining because you can assemble it in advance and bake as guests arrive. The various components take a bit of time to pull together but it’s pretty straightforward and the effort is well worth it. The recipe can also be adapted to suit vegetarians.

Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

Serves 6 to 8

For a vegetarian version, omit the sausage and double the vegetables.

Pesto Sauce:

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Sausage and Vegetable Sauce:

  • 3 mild Italian sausages
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced eggplant (about ½ small eggplant, cut into a ½” dice)
  • 1 cup diced zucchini (cut into a ½” dice)
  • ½ small red pepper, diced
  • ½ small yellow pepper, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28 fl. oz. (796 ml) can whole tomatoes
  • 5.5 fl. oz. (156 ml) can tomato paste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt to taste

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 cups whole or 2% milk
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt, to taste

For Assembly:

  • 3 to 5 fresh lasagna sheets (or more to fit the pan)
  • 5 oz. mozzarella, grated (equals about 1 cup loosely packed when grated)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

To Make the Pesto Sauce:

  1. In a food processor or processor cup of a hand blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Make the Sausage and Vegetable Sauce:

  1. Remove sausage meat from casings. Heat olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet or enameled cast iron pot. Add sausage meat and cook until just browned, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove sausage from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add eggplant, zucchini, peppers and onion to the pan and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chopped basil and red pepper flakes and cook for another two minutes.
  3. Pour in tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Add tomato paste and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes until it is thick (béchamel can be prepared during this time – see below). Season tomato sauce with a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Set aside until ready to use. Sauce can be refrigerated up to two days.

To Make the Béchamel Sauce:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat butter on medium-high until just melted. Add flour and quickly whisk into the melted butter. Reduce heat to medium and cook flour mixture for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
  2. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk until smooth. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken and add another cup of milk. Continue until all milk has been added. Add nutmeg and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste and set aside until ready to use.

Assembling and Baking the Lasagna:

  1. In the bottom of a baking pan measuring 7” X 11” X 2” (2 quarts), spread a thin layer of pesto sauce. Cover with a thin layer of tomato/sausage sauce and top with a drizzle of béchamel.
  2. Place a fresh lasagna noodle on top, cutting sheets to fit the pan as necessary.
  3. Repeat the process: pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel, noodles/pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel, noodles/pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel. Top with shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. Lasagna can be refrigerated until ready to bake, up to two days.
  4. To Bake: Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake lasagna for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and beginning to brown. Let cool slightly before serving.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!
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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.





Stuffed Red Peppers

9 09 2010

Stuffed red peppers make a hearty late summer meal

This week’s markets were awash in vivid colour as peppers hit their seasonal peak in Ontario.  I saw everything from mild poblanos to fiery hot habaneros but the most abundant were red bell and shepherd peppers.  Shepherd peppers are more elongated than bell peppers but they taste very similar and are basically interchangeable in recipes.

A red bell pepper growing in a garden near Picton, Ontario

Red peppers are just green peppers that have ripened.  However, once they turn red, the peppers become much sweeter, making them ideal for stuffing with meat, cheese, rice, grains or seafood.  This version was adapted from a recipe from an old issue of Bon Appétit magazine featuring the foods of Provence.  Stuffed vegetables are very popular in the South of France and are an excellent way to use up extra peppers or zucchini.

The recipe calls for slicing the peppers lengthwise in half and hollowing them out, however, they can also be stuffed by slicing off the top and filling the entire pepper.

A note to vegetarians: Check back soon for a meatless version!

Stuffed Red Peppers

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 sweet or mild Italian sausages
  • 1 small zucchini (about 1-1/2″ in diameter and about 6″ long)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 large red bell or shepherd peppers
  • Rosemary sprigs to garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove the casings from the sausages and place the meat in a large bowl (see Removing Sausage Casing for tips on how to do this efficiently).
  3. Trim the stem and end from the zucchini and grate it into the bowl using a box grater.  Add the onion, garlic, herbs, breadcrumbs, egg and parmesan to the bowl.
  4. Using your hands, work the ingredients into the sausage meat until the mixture is thoroughly combined.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Slice the red peppers lengthwise down the middle.  Trim out the stem and any seeds and ribs.
  6. Spoon the sausage mixture into each pepper half.  Place on a baking sheet or in a shallow pan and bake for 45 minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown. Garnish with rosemary sprigs if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers

26 07 2010

Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers, made with fresh corn and sweet summer peppers.

When I was a kid, one of my favourite soups was corn chowder.  My mom made it using canned creamed corn, green peppers, onions, potatoes and milk.  It was simple, delicious and comforting.  I took the basic concept and dressed it up a little with fresh corn and added some red peppers, a hint of jalapeno, some garlic and fresh thyme.  It’s a great way to use up corn on the cob and can be a summery starter or a hearty meal on its own.  You can add some protein such as shellfish, chicken or ham if you’d like.  It can also be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock in place of chicken in the base. Serve the chowder with fresh bread or biscuits.

Click here to get the recipe from Suite 101.com: Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!