September 13, 2016 § 2 Comments
Over the years (decades really) I’ve experimented with various herbs. My first set of cooking explorations were with dried basil. Which evolved to other dried herbs like oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, sage, etc. As my cooking skills improved I moved on to fresh herbs and even grew my own. I eventually moved on to experimenting with less common culinary flavorings like rose water, sumac, and galangal. With the melting pot of produce available these days I’ve been able to explore a whole new world with fresh ingredients. My latest…Lemongrass.
I’ve always enjoyed the lemongrass flavor in southeast asian cuisine. I tried using dried lemongrass but found the flavor never truly carried through and the hard splintery pieces often ruined the texture of the food.
I am certainly not an expert in utilizing lemongrass but below is a recipe that I’ve made several times and the results have been consistently good. To help infuse the flavor of the lemongrass into the marinade I slice the stalks lengthwise and hammer it with a meat tenderizer. I keep the chunks big enough so any chewy strips can be easily picked out.
NOTE: I like to serve this with two toppings – a fresh chopped herb combination and fried shallots (recipes below). You can also spice-up this dish with Korean Bi Bim Bap sauce as a condiment.
Lemongrass-Cilantro-Lime Marinade (for chicken or pork)
¼ cup Lime Juice
2 Tbls. Fish Sauce
1 Tbls. Soy Sauce (use gluten free soy to make this a GF recipe)
1 Tbls. Sherry or Brandy
1 tsp. Brown Sugar
1 Tbls. Garlic, chopped
2 Tbls. Cilantro, fresh chopped
1 Tbls. Scallions, chopped
1 stalk Lemongrass, fresh crushed*
1 to 1 ½ lb. Chicken, boneless breasts or thighs
1 rack Pork Baby Back Ribs
1½ to 2 lb. Country Style Ribs, or bone-in pork chops
* Crush lemongrass by slicing stalks into 3-4 inch pieces, then slice them lengthwise and hammer it with a meat tenderizer. This will help the flavor blend into the marinade better.
Marinade – In a bowl, combine lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, sherry or brandy, brown sugar, garlic, cilantro, scallions, lemongrass, and white pepper.
Pour mixture on meat, coating well. Place chunks of lemongrass between meat to help the flavor disperse. Let it marinate at least 1 hour to overnight.
Grill meat – Grill chicken on medium high heat with an open lid. Meat should be browned and cooked through. Thin pieces generally cook in 10-15 minutes.
Grill ribs on low heat with a covered lid. Depending on the thickness of the ribs, it will take about 20-30 minutes on each side. Monitor grilling because fatty areas of ribs may cause flame to flair and cause charring of ribs.
Alternately, chicken can be cooked using a grill pan and ribs can be baked in an oven.
TOPPING 1: FRESH HERBS
¼ cup Basil, fresh chopped
¼ cup Cilantro, fresh chopped
¼ cup Mint, fresh chopped
1 Tbls. Scallions, chopped (optional)
In a bowl, combine basil, cilantro, mint, and scallions, stirring herbs until they are mixed evenly.
TOPPING 2: FRIED SHALLOTS
2 lg. Shallots, sliced
1 cup Vegetable Oil (or Canola)
Heat oil in small pan so oil is about ½-inch deep. Carefully add 1/3 of shallots into hot oil and cook until light brown. Remove cooked shallots with slotted spoon onto paper towel. Repeat with each third. Shallot flavored oil can be saved for use in other dishes.
Serving suggestions – Serve meat on cooked sushi or long-grain rice. Sprinkle herb mixture and fried shallots on top. If you like a hot kick to the dish, add Korean Bi Bim Bap sauce (seasoned red pepper paste). You can also make a side dish of Spicy Cucumbers – Slice cucumbers tossed in some Bi Bim Bap sauce.
NOTE: Below is a photo of the ribs without fried shallots. I forgot to take a plated photo of the chicken version (sorry).
July 15, 2016 § Leave a comment
When I started this blog it was all about creating new memories of warmth and familial bonds. Many of my recipes take time to prepare – time to infuse your passion into each herb you chop, each concoction of ingredients you stir, each pot of simmering elixir wafting through your home. Today I want to step back in time when something simple and obvious was exciting and new…
I won’t say what year it was but I was 14. I was thinking of becoming a nurse so I decided to volunteer at the local town hospital to see what it might be like. To give you some perspective of time let’s just say I was called a candy striper. Regular duties would include helping at the front desk, sorting internal mail, delivering flowers to patients, and sometimes helping out in the cafe (not the large cafeteria but the little cafe that patient visitors would often go to if they need a cup of coffee or a small bite and some quiet time).
I always felt at home in a kitchen so I loved helping out in the cafe. The customers in the cafe were people who were visiting their sick loved ones. Usually tired and emotionally drained. Some had been sleeping in a chair all night. They wanted a quiet place to refresh themselves. That’s where volunteers like me stepped in. We weren’t there for the tips. We served them coffee and gave them a smile.
The cafe served simple fare – coffee & tea, donuts, eggs & bacon, and sandwiches. When I say sandwiches I don’t mean what you would find now-a-days like grilled panini’s, banh mi sandwich, or even a foot-long hero. They served ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, egg salad, and something I had never heard of…ham salad.
I know, you’re thinking “Seriously? This blog is actually about ham salad?” Well, yes but it’s also so much more. This simple concoction of chopped ham and pickles was something I never had in my then, 14 long years of life! It was new and exciting. Sure, I had plain ham before but not this combination of sweet and salty and sour and soft and crunchy all at the same time goodness!
To this day, every time I have leftover baked ham I have to make ham salad. Maybe it’s the taste, maybe it’s the memories. Maybe it’s because it brings me back to a time when the simple act of pouring someone a cup of hot coffee and handing them a sandwich with a smile could make a difference.
The head chef in the cafe I’m sure thought it was quite hysterical that this little girl was so fascinated with how to make ham salad. If I recall correctly his recipe was – chopped ham, relish, and mayonnaise. Over the years I’ve improvised. I vary between chopped Dill or Bread and Butter pickles. I sometimes add fresh herbs. I’ve tried different types of mustard to give it a little spicy kick. The one thing I always do…I never measure my ingredients. So here is a basic recipe that can be improvised to your personal taste.
Pickles, chopped (Dill or Bread and Butter is recommended)
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
Sprinkle of dried Dill
Ground Black Pepper
Chop pickles and ham to 1/8-inch pieces.
Place all ingredients in a bowl and combine well.
My first ham salad sandwich was made with cloud soft Wonder Bread. As my recipe evolved so have the many ways I consume this simple salad. As photographed above, any type of bread works but it’s not only for sandwiches now…
Ham Salad on Salad.
Ham Salad in Cucumber Cups.
Ham Salad in Lettuce Wraps.
Ham Salad in Tomato Cups.
Always served (and eaten) with a smile.