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.





Farmers’ Market Report – August 25th, 2011

25 08 2011

A roadside farm stand in the Niagara region

As we near the end of August, farmers’ markets in Ontario are stacked high with summer’s bounty. With the exception of a few spring vegetables, pretty much anything that grows here is now available. It’s almost too much to keep up with! Here are a few of the highlights from my recent market visits:

Tomatoes

I’ve been pleased to discover that this has been a pretty good year for tomatoes in Southern Ontario. Thanks to a hot, dry July, this year’s tomatoes have good flavour. Eatocracy recently did a story about the Best Sandwich in the Universe: a tomato sandwich, simply prepared with white sandwich bread, sliced ripe tomatoes and mayo. It only works in the summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. I don’t disagree that a tomato sandwich is a thing of beauty but my personal favourite is a BLT. The crisp bacon and crunchy lettuce elevate the tomatoes to new heights, in my humble opinion. For more great ideas using tomatoes, check out the Tomato Archives.

Corn

August is the peak month for corn in Ontario

Corn has been plentiful this summer but I’ve had a bit of an issue with some of it. I bought some nice looking cobs at the market a couple of weeks ago and used them to make a pasta dish. Unfortunately, the kernels were a little too sweet (if that’s possible!) and tasted more like sugar bombs than corn, which didn’t really enhance the recipe. However, I bought some cobs last weekend that were much better – still sweet but they had a decent ‘corn’ flavour as well. Simply boiled and dressed with butter, salt and pepper, it was a true taste of August. Why not make some Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers or try Corn Scallop, a delicious side dish for grilled meats.

Peaches

Freshly picked Niagara peaches

Peaches are a staple at Ontario markets this time of year. This year I’ve found them to be flavourful but a little on the small side, which one of the growers told me was because of the dry weather in July. Peach Cobbler is a classic and Peach Tiramisu is a unique twist on an Italian standard. If you’d rather something more savoury, Peach Chutney is a great accompaniment to pork or chicken.

Summer Squash

Zucchini and patty pan squash were abundant at the last market I attended. Luckily the zucchini were still young and tender – they can get watery as they grow large. Smaller summer squash tend to be sweeter and work well in pasta dishes such as Summer Squash with Egg Pasta. Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting is a great way to finish the meal – it’s moist, flavourful and the cream cheese frosting makes it special.

Potatoes

Ontario baby potatoes

Baby potatoes are one of my favourite things. They can be prepared very simply: give them a quick boil or steam and dress with a little bit of butter, salt and chopped parsley (add a little sour cream if you want to be decadent!). Or you could whip up a batch of Baby Red Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette, a mayo-free, zippy potato salad that’s a nice change from the usual (you can use regular white potatoes in place of red).

Basil

Fresh basil is a fragrant summer treat

It has been a good year for basil, at least for farmers (my personal pot of basil didn’t make it through the heat wave). Every time I have purchased some at the market this summer, people on the street and the bus have commented on how incredible it smells – a taxi driver even asked me for a leaf so he could see what it tasted like! Pesto is one of the most common ways to use a lot of basil. Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto is impressive and surprisingly simple to make. This month’s Saveur magazine has a full feature on pesto with a number of delicious recipes, from Pesto-Rubbed Chicken with Panzanella to Crispy Calamari with Pesto Mayonnaise. Caprese Salad is another way to use fresh basil – and it’s a great showcase for perfect tomatoes too!!

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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





Garlic Scape Butter

8 07 2011

Garlic scape butter

A couple of days ago I wrote about finding garlic scapes at a farmers’ market in Bala, Ontario. I prepared a delicious and simple pasta dish with some of them but there were still a few scapes left over. At $1 for a good sized bunch of scapes, they’re a pretty good deal!

I decided to make some garlic scape butter and used it to make garlic bread to accompany the pasta. It only takes a minute to whip up and is very versatile. In addition to broiled garlic bread, you could use the butter on corn-on-the-cob, to finish steamed or grilled vegetables, with pan sautéed fish, on baked potatoes or just serve it with plain bread.

Garlic bread made with garlic scape butter

Garlic Scape Butter

Makes about 1/3 cup

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 garlic scapes, each about 20″ to 23″ long – discard the flowering ends and cut the scapes into 1″ pieces
  • 1 oz. (28 grams) parmesan cheese, grated (will equal about 1/4 cup once grated)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice or dry white wine
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  1. In a food processor or the chopping cup of a hand blender, add all ingredients. Pulse until the butter is smooth and the ingredients are thoroughly combined, stopping to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula as nessecary.
  2. Butter will keep covered in the fridge for a few days.

To make garlic scape bread:

  1. Slice a baguette or ciabatta loaf lengthwise down the middle. Spread a generous amount of butter on each half. Heat the broiler and place the oven rack in the highest position.
  2. Place the buttered bread slices on a baking sheet and broil until browned and bubbling (watch carefully – it only takes about a minute!).

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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

Ciabatta loaf with garlic scape butter





Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

6 07 2011

Garlic scapes at the Bala Farmers' Market

It’s finally July – the month when the summer markets really start to hit their stride. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time traveling over the past few weeks, including spending a wonderful few days in the beautiful Muskoka region of Ontario. One of my favourite things about driving through rural areas in the summertime is stopping at roadside markets and fruit stands. As luck would have it, the community of Bala was having a farmers’ market the day we were there so of course, I had to check it out.

In addition to strawberries, asparagus, peas, blueberries and rhubarb, I was excited to see garlic scapes at the market. Garlic scapes are the tops of the garlic plant and can sometimes be found at farmers’ markets in last spring and early summer (unfortunately, you probably won’t see them at supermarkets). They are long and curly and have a sweet, garlicky flavour. Scapes are very versatile and can be used like garlic in dishes such as stir fries, egg dishes, pastas and salads. They can be cooked or eaten raw and you can use the flowering ends as garnish.

Fresh peas are another early summer favourite of mine. They add a sweet burst of flavour to dishes or can be eaten simply cooked with a dash of salt and a bit of butter. The key to fresh peas is to cook them quickly and simply (they are also delicious raw) so don’t overcook them! When shelling peas, discard any peas that have grown large and have split – I find they can have a slightly off, ‘metallic’ flavour. Unfortunately, peas aren’t terribly efficient: I shelled 45 pods to yield just under a cup and I found a few pods with only one pea in them! However, their delicate flavour it worth the effort if you’re looking for a taste of summer. You can always use frozen baby peas to save time. Avoid canned peas – they don’t have the right sweetness or texture!

Cosmo's Smoked Meats - they make a fantastic dry smoked back bacon

A Few Helpful Tips:

  • This recipe is all about the quality of ingredients so use the best you can find. The sauce lightly coats the noodles – it’s not drowning in sauce. You can reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water before draining to add to the pasta if it looks a little dry. The entire dish comes together very quickly once you have your ingredients prepped.
  • I used a dry smoked back bacon from Cosmo’s Smoked Meats and it had a nice dry texture and smoky flavour. You can use any kind of double smoked slab bacon or smoked ham. Of course, regular strip bacon will work in a pinch but won’t have quite the same flavour or texture.
  • I also used fresh fettucine from the refrigerated case at the supermarket. For 500 grams/1.1 lbs. of fresh pasta you can substitute about 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta of any shape you prefer.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Makes about 4 to 5 servings

  • 1 lb. (500 grams) fresh long pasta such as fettucine or linguine (or use 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 oz. (142 grams) smoked slab bacon or smoked ham, cut into a 1/2″ dice
  • 3 garlic scapes, each about 23″ long, chopped – reserve the flowering ends as garnish
  • 3/4 cup fresh shelled peas (from about 40 to 45 pods)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 oz. (28 grams) parmesan, grated (will equal about 1/4 cup packed when grated)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat a large pot of water to cook the pasta. While the water is heating, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the bacon or smoked ham and brown until slightly crisp around the edges, about two to three minutes (if you’re cooking raw bacon, it will take a bit longer). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Put the pasta into the boiling water to cook according to package directions. Drain once cooked.
  4. Add the chopped garlic scapes and peas to the skillet and sauté for one minute. Pour in the chicken broth and cook for another minute. Add the butter and stir until melted and return the bacon to the pan.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Stir in the grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a garlic scape if desired. Suggested accompaniment: Bread with Garlic Scape Butter.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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





Sully’s Favourite Strawberry Shortcake

27 06 2011

When local strawberries appear at the markets, why not make strawberry shortcakes?

It’s finally summer!  When I was a kid, the beginning of summer meant the end of school, warm days at the beach and the start of strawberry season. My grandfather, Ralph (Sully) Sullivan had a camp on Washademoak Lake in New Brunswick and we would pick strawberries nearby. One of his favourite desserts was strawberry shortcake and my mom would whip up some biscuits and whipped cream to enjoy with the freshly picked berries. There is a reason why it’s a classic dessert – the combination is unbeatable!

Sully’s Favourite Strawberry Shortcake

Makes 6 shortcakes (there will be extra biscuits so just prepare more strawberries and cream for a larger yield)

Biscuits:

Makes 12 to 15 small biscuits – extras can be frozen

  • 2-1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the countertop
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup milk or buttermilk

Strawberries:

  • 6 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • Sugar, to taste

Whipped Cream:

  • 1-1/2 cups whipping cream (35% M.F.)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To Prepare the Biscuits:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt and 2 Tablespoons of the sugar. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Using a wire pastry cutter (or two sharp knives), cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles small pebbles.
  4. In a measuring cup, add the egg and milk and whisk together with a fork until smooth. Pour the milk/egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir briefly until it just comes together as dough.
  5. Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto a clean countertop or pastry board. Turn the dough out onto the counter and gently knead for about ten seconds. If the dough is very wet, add a bit more flour.
  6. Gently pat the biscuit dough into a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) thick. Using a cookie cutter or the top of a wine glass, cut the dough into 2″ circles. Re-shape the leftover dough and cut out more biscuits.
  7. Place the biscuits in a pie plate so they’re just touching each other. Sprinkle the tops of the biscuits with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Let the biscuits rise at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  8. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes in a 450 degree oven or until the tops are browned.
  9. Extra biscuits can be frozen and thawed at room temperature before using. (They’re also great with jam for breakfast!)

To Prepare the Strawberries:

  1. In a large bowl, add the berries and sugar to taste (the amount will depend on how sweet the berries are). Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before using. Note: You can mash them slightly with a potato masher if you prefer a juicer sauce.

Whipping the Cream:

  1. Place a metal or glass bowl (do not use plastic) and beaters in the freezer to chill about 30 minutes before beating the cream.
  2. Just before assembling the shortcakes, remove the bowl and beater from the freezer and pour the cream into the bowl. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip the cream on high until it begins to froth.
  3. Pour in the vanilla and add the sugar, one teaspoon at a time, while continuing to whip. Continue whipping the cream until it forms still peaks. Do not over beat.

To Assemble the Shortcakes:

  1. Split six biscuits in half through the middle and place the bottom of each in bowls. Spoon a half-cup of the sweetened berries over each biscuit bottom.
  2. Place the top of the biscuit on the berries and top with another half-cup of the strawberries.
  3. Spoon a generous dollop of whipped cream over each serving. Garnish with a strawberry if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

A version of this recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.

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Strawberry Shortcakes are a summer classic





Corn Relish

2 09 2010

Corn relish preserves a taste of summer

Every summer when I was a kid, my mom would make homemade pickles. By the end of August it became a ritual and her amazing dills, bread-and-butters, chow-chow and sweet pickles would last us through the winter.  It was quite a production and the house would smell of spices and vinegar before everything was sealed into mason jars and put into the cold room for the winter.

Preserving has become a bit trendy in the past few years as people re-discover how delicious and economical homemade pickles and jams can be.  I’ve been wanting to try it but unfortunately I don’t have anywhere to store the finished product. However, this week I had some leftover corn on the cob and decided to try my hand at making some corn relish.  I worked out a recipe that produces a small batch so I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to store it.  However, if you’d like to make a larger batch for canning, the recipe can be multiplied (see below for a link about safe canning procedures).  This relish is especially delicious on grilled sausages and hot dogs.

Corn Relish

(VEGETARIAN)

Makes about 4 cups

  • 1-1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons prepared (yellow) mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups raw corn kernels, cut from about 5 cobs
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 small or 1/2 large red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (about 1/2 a large pepper)
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 Tablespoons cold water
  1. In a large sauce pot, add vinegar, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, prepared mustard, dry mustard, celery salt, turmeric and red pepper flakes.  Whisk together and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
  2. Once the vinegar mixture has come to a simmer, add the corn, celery, onion and diced peppers.  Stir to combine and reduce heat to medium-low.  Gently simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. In a glass mixing cup or mug, whisk together flour and water until fully combined and free of lumps.  Pour flour mixture into the relish mixture and whisk well.  Turn the heat to medium-high and simmer the mixture until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  4. Let the relish cool and place into jars.  It will keep in the fridge for about a week. If you want to can the jars to store, you can follow these instructions for safe canning procedures: Canning Pickles.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

18 08 2010

Cherry tomatoes on the vine

It’s mid-August and we’re just coming into tomato season in Southern Ontario. It’s been a great year for tomatoes because we’ve had hot and dry weather for most of the spring and summer.  Some of the tastiest tomatoes that can be found at grocery stores and farmer’s markets are cherry tomatoes (bonus: they’re grown in greenhouses during the winter so high quality cherry tomatoes are usually available year-round).  They can be used in salads, pasta dishes sandwiches, roasted or just eaten on their own.

Roasting cherry tomatoes concentrates their flavour

This pasta dish is one of my most popular recipes on Suite 101.com.  It’s easy, delicious and only requires a few ingredients.  The sauce coats the noodles lightly but it’s very flavourful so a little goes a long way.  The spaghetti is delicious served with a green salad and a glass of wine.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Makes approximately 6 main dish servings

(VEGETARIAN)

To roast tomatoes:

  • 4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 40 tomatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Parchment paper

To finish sauce:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil + more to finish, if desired
  • 2 cloves chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to garnish
  • 1 lb. / 500 g dried spaghetti
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, add cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt and sugar and toss to coat all of the tomatoes. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.
  3. Pour tomatoes onto the baking sheet and roast for 25 to 35 minutes or until they collapse and their skin begins to char.
  4. Remove tomatoes from the oven and let cool slightly. Carefully lift the parchment paper and pour the tomatoes and all their roasting juices into a large bowl. Set aside. (Tomatoes can be roasted in advance and refrigerated until ready to use).

To finish sauce:

  1. In a large skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the roasted tomatoes with their juices and oregano. Use a spoon to break up the cherry tomatoes and cook until heated through.
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions (for al dente results, it’s usually cooked for 9 to 11 minutes). Reserve 2 Tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and drain spaghetti.
  3. Add pasta and 1 Tablespoon of the pasta waster to the tomato sauce. Stir to thoroughly coat the spaghetti. If it seems a bit dry, add the remaining tablespoon of pasta water and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a grating of fresh parmesan to serve.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.