Saturday, August 30, 2008

Healthy mashed potatoes

I love mashed potatoes (I put ketchup on mine, people think that's weird), but I don't love the pounds of butter and cream that are usually in them.  These have no butter at all, and they taste awesome.  I was too lazy to roast garlic to mix in, so I used a little garlic powder instead and they were still really good.  I happen to have a pot of fresh chives in the kitchen, so I used those, but this recipe would still be just fine with only salt and pepper.
This was also the first time I used my potato ricer.  I love it!

makes 3-4 servings
1.5 lbs potatoes (I used small white ones, but Yukon Golds are great!)
3 cups unsalted chicken broth (vegetable broth would work too)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch garlic powder
2 tsp chopped fresh chives

Cut the potatoes in quarters and put in a large saucepan. 
Add the broth, and boil for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Drain, reserving the broth.
Put the potatoes through a potato ricer (or just mash them up), and beat in about 1/2 cup of broth with a wooden spoon. Add a little more broth if needed to make the texture creamier.
Stir in the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chives.
Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Everyone else did it so I had to too...

This has been floating around a ton of food blogs lately...I just had to join the fun!

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding (and I LOVE it!)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush (a favorite)
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses (had to look this one up - I would love to try this!  It's a cheese from France)
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese - no thanks!
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda - not yet but I want to!
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (too many! I used to work in a bakery that specialized in these)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar (BONUS - It was a Cuban cigar! We were in Thailand)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
(can you make it through 4 years of sorority life without this?)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (I wish! I was in Uganda during the wrong season, otherwise I would have been all over the grasshoppers)
43. Phaal (I had to look this up too - It's a really spicy Indian curry)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (but I hate whisky)
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
- never again!
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer - I just made some for the first time!
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine

60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin - it's clay?  why would I eat it?
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost 
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare 
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

So I have tried 65 out of 100...what about you?

Espresso Toffee with Chocolate and Cashews

I was planning to make some pistachio macaroons this morning, but ended up with cashews instead of pistachios (long story).  I remembered some espresso toffee bars that my grandfather made a few Christmases ago and decided I needed to try and re-create them.  I found a basic toffee recipe on and tweaked it a little bit to make these beauties. 
I like the slight bitterness that the espresso contributes, but if you are more of a toffee traditionalist, you can definitely omit it.  I added some cream in with the chocolate to soften up the texture a little bit (a nice contrast with the crunchy toffee) but it's fine to omit that too.  I think almonds would also be delicious here.
Candy is a wonderful thing to make because it just boils away on the stove, making the kitchen smell fantastic, and you don't need to do much more than keep your eye on the thermometer.  

(adapted from

1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup golden syrup (or corn syrup)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp instant espresso
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted cashews

Combine sugar, syrup, butter, vinegar, water, espresso, and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat, and let boil until a candy thermometer reads 290F.
This may take a little while
Alright, we're boiling.
Getting closer!
Just about there!
After it reaches 290F, your kitchen may be smelling a little like burnt sugar but don't worry, you haven't ruined your toffee.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. This will cause some serious bubbling so stand back!
Pour into a greased 13 x 9" metal pan and tilt it to distribute evenly.
Once it has set (20-ish minutes), melt the cream and chocolate together in the top of a double boiler and stir until smooth.
Spread evenly over the toffee, then sprinkle the cashews over the chocolate.  Chill about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate has firmed up, then break into pieces to serve.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Garbanzo Burgers

Let me preface this post with one important point: Heidi Swanson is my hero.  I first became addicted to her blog ( a year ago.  Then she put out the brilliant cookbook Super Natural Cooking.  I am working my way through each and every recipe, and I love pretty much every single one.
So here is one of her amazing ideas: Make a veggie burger, then cut it in half so it becomes the bun, with filling inside.  I know, what could be better? I ate mine with sprouts and tomato inside, slathered with some nonfat yogurt.  My husband had his on a piece of toast with mayo.  To each their own.  I just know I will definitely be making these often!

(from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson)
2 15 oz cans garbanzo beans, drained
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 onion, chopped
grated zest of one lemon
1 cup alfalfa sprouts, chopped
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
lettuce, tomato, avocado, onion etc. (whatever you prefer) for filling

Combine the garbanzos, eggs, and salt in a food processor and puree until the mixture is the consistency of a very thick, slightly chunky hummus.  Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in the cilantro, onion, zest, and sprouts.
Add the bread crumbs and stir, then let sit for a couple of minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture.  At this point, you should have a moist mixture that you can easily form into 12 1 1/2 inch thick patties (I made mine slightly thinner).  
You can add more bread crumbs a bit at a time to firm up the dough if need be.  Conversely, a bit of water or more egg can be used to moisten the batter.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add 4 patties, cover, and cook for 7-10 minutes until the bottoms begin to brown.  

Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes.  Flip the patties and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden.  Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties.  
Carefully cut each patty in half, insert your favorite fillings, and enjoy immediately.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Asian Slaw Salad

A beautifully simple recipe for a mild but wonderful twist on traditional coleslaw.
I made it using just cabbage, but for variety, you could throw in bean sprouts,  julienned carrots and celery, some peanuts or sesame seeds, a squeeze of lime... Be creative! Then tell me how creative you were so I can be inspired!
You will taste the cabbage in this recipe.  It's not like eating a mouthful of raw cabbage, but the flavor is definitely there in the background.  If you have a serious dislike of cabbage, I would steer clear of this recipe.
I used about a quarter of a cup of red cabbage because it's pretty, but if you only have regular cabbage (or I'm sure Napa cabbage would work just fine also), this will still be great (just slightly less colorful).

2 to 3 cups thinly sliced cabbage 
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sugar (use less if you don't like sweet coleslaw)
a pinch of salt
a pinch of white pepper
some thin slices of green onion, for garnish

Toss all ingredients well, then taste.  If it tastes really plain, add more vinegar or salt.
I like it best when it's left at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thai Chicken Pizza

Pizza. I adore it.

I'm also not very picky about it.  I've had "the real thing" in Naples, and enjoyed it just about as much as the 2 for 1 pies from the place down the street. 
For awhile, I tried to be a purist.  I denounced places like CPK.  You can't put bacon and avocado on pizza!  Pizza is Italian!  It must be kept pure and authentic!
Yeah, that didn't last long.
I've had some pizza dough in my freezer for a few weeks now, and in my quest to branch out and work my way through more of my cookbooks, I kept it off my weekly menu.  But then I made Thai food, and that got me thinking about Thai chicken pizza, which I feel like I shouldn't love, but I do.  Oh, so much.
So thanks to my friend Google, I stumbled across this recipe and it's divine.  I didn't change too much about it, and it came out really well.  It has just a light sprinkling of cheese, which I prefer, but you could always use more.  I think next time I might add some chopped peanuts, but other than that it's hard to beat!

(adapted from
Crust: use your favorite (homemade or not) - you will need enough dough for two 10" pizzas.  I used 1/3 of this recipe .

3 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons brewed tea
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Siracha
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 medium boneless skinless chicken breast, cut in 1/4-inch strips
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tbsp thinly sliced green onion

Preheat oven to 500 F and prepare crusts.
To make peanut sauce: combine peanut butter, tea, vinegar, soy sauce, Siracha, ginger, honey and sesame oil in a blender and process until smooth.
Sprinkle the chicken with a pinch of salt and saute in a saucepan coated with nonstick spray over medium-high heat.
When the chicken is just about done, turn the heat down to low and stir in two tablespoons of the peanut sauce.
Cook, stirring, for about a minute, then remove from heat.
Spread a few tablespoons of peanut sauce over the surface of each of the doughs. 
Distribute 1/2 of the cheese over the sauce. 
Repeat with other pizza. 
Distribute 1/2 of the chicken and 1/2 the carrots over the cheese. 
Repeat with other pizza. 
Place the pizzas in the oven (on a pizza stone if you have one, otherwise just use a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat). 
Bake until crust is crispy and cheese is bubbling (8-10 minutes). 
Remove pizzas from the oven and sprinkle each with green onions and cilantro.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Greek-inspired salad

It's painfully un-authentic, but to me anything with Kalamata olives and Feta is Greek. As you can probably conclude, I've never been to Greece and I've only had real Greek food a handful of times.

But anyway, I love this salad because it is so fresh and crisp, and the flavors are simple and wonderful.

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, seeded, cored, and diced
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, cut in thin strips
1/2 green bell pepper, cut in thin strips
1/4 cup Kalamata Olives, quartered
4 oz Feta, crumbled
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil

Soak the onion in cold water for about 15 minutes, then drain.
Combine onion, celery, tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, olives, and feta in a bowl and toss to combine.
Add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and a little salt and pepper and mix well.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Today I was struck by an overwhelming urge to bake. I am pretty sure this is genetic - my mom says the same thing happens to her on occasion. I immediately thought of the Reeses Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake over at  Annie's Eats.   
Using her recipe as inspiration, I opted to make cupcakes with a peanut butter frosting filling, and then coated them with milk chocolate ganache.  In the end, I didn't end up using any peanut butter cups at all, but I still think the finished product is delicious.
I made a few changes to the recipe:  I used 3 eggs instead of 2 eggs plus 2 yolks, and I omitted the melted bittersweet chocolate.  For the frosting, I used 2% milk instead of the heavy cream the recipe called for.  When making the ganache, I started with 1 cup of milk chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of heavy cream, but it was too thin so I added another 1/4 cup chips, and the consistency was perfect for spreading.
I don't think I'm going to get over this filled cupcake kick I've been on for a LONG time.  

(adapted from Annie's Eats)

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the cake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. 
Place paper liners in a 12-cupcake pan and 2 ramekins.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients). Mix each addition only until it is blended into the batter. Scrape down the bowl and divide the batter between prepared pans.
Bake at 350 F for about 2o minutes (the larger cupcakes in the ramekins will take slightly longer) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
When cool, use a serrated knife to cut out the center of each cupcake.

(adapted from Ina Garten)

5 tbsp softened butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix until smooth.
Pipe the filling into the indentations of each cupcake. Reserve some of the frosting for decoration.

1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream

Melt the cream and chocolate chips together in the top of a double boiler set over medium heat.
Stir until smooth, then remove from heat and cool, stirring for about 5 minutes.
Spread on each cupcake, then decorate with remaining peanut butter frosting.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Korean Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables

This was my first attempt at making Korean food at home, and my second attempt at eating and enjoying kimchi.  (I HATED it the first time I tried it, but this time I really liked it.  Amazing the difference a couple years makes).
I LOVE the presentation, and how it lends itself to customizing your meal.  It takes a little longer than a simple stir fry, but once you get going on the blanching and sauteing, it moves pretty quickly.  The list of ingredients looks a little daunting, but everything is pretty easy to find, and you could always omit components you don't care for.

(from Growing up in a Korean Kitchen by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall)
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1 green onion (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
3/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin 3" strips
1 lb summer squash, sliced into thin 3" strips
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into thin strips
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1/2 lb white mushrooms, shredded
1/2 lb napa cabbage (stem only), cut into thin strips
1 cup kimchi
1 pound Asian wheat noodles
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes

To make the seasoning for the chicken, in a bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, green onion, garlic, lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add the chicken, toss well, and set aside.
Place the summer squash in  bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. 
Let sit for 15 minutes.
Using a kitchen towel, squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 
In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. 
Add the squash and saute for about 2 minutes. 
Season with a pinch of pepper.  
Place on serving plate.
In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat until hot.
Add the chicken and saute for 3 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through but still moist.
Transfer to the tray next to the squash.  
In the same skillet, heat 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot.
Add the jalapeno and bell pepper strips and saute for 1 minute.
Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper and transfer to the tray next to the chicken and squash.
In a large saucepan, boil 4 cups of water with 1 tbsp white vinegar and a pinch of salt.
Blanch the mushrooms for 10 seconds, or until barely wilted.
Scoop out the mushrooms and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.
Reserve the blanching water.
Drain the mushrooms in a colander and, with a clean kitchen towel, squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  
Set aside on a work surface.
Add water to the saucepan and bring to a boil again.
Add the cabbage, blanch for 3 minutes, and plunge in ice water and squeeze out the liquid (as with the mushrooms).  
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 tbsp sesame oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.  
Add the mushrooms, mix well, and transfer to the serving plate next to the chicken, peppers, and squash.
In the same bowl, repeat with the cabbage and transfer to the serving plate.
Combine the kimchi with 1 tbsp sesame oil and transfer to the plate.
In a large stockpot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add the noodles.
Cook according to package directions, drain in a colander, and transfer back to the same pot.
Add 1 tbsp sesame oil and toss well.
To serve, divide the noodles into individual bowls. 
Each person can then distribute the cooked ingredients over the top of their noodles, and garnish with sesame seeds and pepper flakes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pot Stickers

I have made these quite a few times and I love them.  I find the repetition of filling and folding them is soothing, and they taste amazing!  They would not be complete without the soy-vinegar dipping sauce, which you see in the photo above.
The filling is primarily composed of ground pork and blanched bok choy.  For the first time ever, I ground the pork myself, using the meat grinder attachment that came free with my KitchenAid mixer.  I love this thing!  I'm going to look for more ways to use it, including to make my own sausages some time in the near future. 
Recipe adapted from The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo
makes about 25-30 pot stickers

1 quart water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 lb bok choy, cut into 1/2" pieces (stalks and leaves separated)
1/2 lb lean pork, ground
1 finely sliced green onion
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 medium egg, beaten
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
pinch freshly ground white pepper
25-30 pot sticker wrappers
2 tbsp peanut oil
cold water

To blanch the bok choy, place the water, salt, and baking soda in a pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. 
Add the bok choy stalks, stir, and cook for 1 minute.  
Add the leaves, stir, and cook for another minute. 
Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
Squeeze in a towel to remove excess water.
Combine the bok choy, pork, and remaining ingredients (through white pepper) and mix well.
To assemble: spread about 1 1/2 tsp of filling in the center of a wrapper.
Dip your finger in water and trace around the outside of the circle.
Fold the wrapper in half, containing the filling inside.
Pleat the edge to seal.
To pan-fry: heat 2 tbsp peanut oil in a large frying pan over high heat until very hot.
Place the pot stickers in the pan, touching lightly.

Cook for 3 minutes, then pour 1/2 cup of cold water into the skillet and cover.
Cook until the water evaporates.
Lower the heat and continue to fry until the dumplings are lightly browned on the bottom and nearly translucent on top.
Shake the pan while cooking so they do not stick.
Remove and drain on paper towels, then repeat with remaining dumplings.
Serve with rice vinegar and soy sauce mixed in a one-to-one ratio.

Things I love about my kitchen

According to my mom, the kitchen in the house where I spent the first 7 years of my life was perfect.  She even wrote down all the dimensions so that if my parents ever had the opportunity to build their own house, she could exactly replicate the kitchen.
My current kitchen is not perfect, but today I realized there are a few things I absolutely love about it.  The counters may be too low and we may be lacking a garbage disposal and dishwasher, but I am still pretty attached to my kitchen.
 Here are some of my favorite things:

The little soccer outfit thing I got in Chile that now adorns the window:
The view of the yard:
The pot of chives, a housewarming present from my wonderful friend Hillary:
My KitchenAid mixer attachments, which conveniently hang on the wall:
Spanish magnetic poetry on the fridge:
The spice shelves - everything within easy reach:
The ibrik hanging on the wall - for my Turkish coffee addiction:
The beer stein full of kitchen utensils:
The shelf of cookbooks (moderatley convenient as they are in the kitchen but I have to climb up on the counter to get them):
So, what do you love most about your kitchen?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bok Choy Chicken Soup

This is a great, comforting chicken soup.  It's a  wonderful recipe from my favorite Chinese cookbook; I can't believe I've made so many things from the book but never this!

(adapted from The Chinese Kitchen by Eilenen Yin-Fei Lo)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
pinch white pepper
2 tsp cornstarch

2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
3 cups chicken broth
a 1/2" piece of ginger, lightly smashed
1/2 lb bok choy
2 tsp Chinese rice wine

Combine the chicken and marinade ingredients in a bowl.
Mix well, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.
Separate the bok choy stems and leaves, and cut both parts into thin slices.
Put the broth and ginger in a pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  
Add the bok choy stalks, stir, and return to a boil.
Lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes or until the stalks become tender.
Turn the heat back to high, add the leaves, stir, and return to a boil.
Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the chicken and marinade and stir well.

Bring to a boil and cook for a two minutes, then add the wine.
Cook, stirring, until the chicken is done.
Transfer to bowls and serve.

My favorite appetizer

Allow me to introduce you to my favorite appetizer of all time

Since I first tasted these little beauties at a Vietnamese restaurant in Portland about 7 or 8 years ago, I've been in love with them.  I always thought they were way too involved to make at home, but I was wrong.  My mom makes these a lot, and I have discovered they are pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

Instead of a recipe, I'll give some ideas for success.  Just know that the "learn by doing" philosophy really works here.  I prefer more vegetables and fewer noodles, but my husband is the opposite.  Some might prefer vegetarian salad rolls, but I like mine with shrimp.  Experiment and find your ideal salad roll. You will not be disappointed.

You will need 
- spring roll wrappers like this:

I like the square ones because I think they are more user-friendly, but you can use the round ones if you prefer.
Then, it's up to you what else you include.  Here are my favorites:

- Cooked rice vermicelli
- julienned carrot
- green leaf or butter lettuce
- julienned cucumber
- bean sprouts
- cooked chicken, cut in thin strips
- cooked shrimp, cut in half lengthwise
- green onion, julienned
- cilantro leaves
- Thai basil leaves

Put about 1/2" of water in a 13 x 9 pan.
Soak one spring roll wrapper for about 20-30 seconds, until it is very flexible but doesn't tear.
Put it on a plate, and add the filling ingredients.  Less is more here!
Fold the bottom corner up over the filling, fold in the side corners, and roll up, burrito style. 

Cut each spring roll in half on the diagonal to serve. 
I like to dip them in hoisin sauce mixed with chopped peanuts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chile pepper fried rice

When you leave your husband alone for five days, he might order some takeout Chinese food.  So you may come home to a little takeout container of cooked rice, sitting in the fridge.  Really, the only logical thing to do in this situation is to make fried rice.  Particularly this fried rice, because it's so delicious and spicy and downright good.

(adapted from Thai Cooking from the Siam Cuisine Restaurant)

2 dried chiles de arbol
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced (easy to do this when they are frozen)
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 jalepeno, cut lengthwise in quarters
2 cups cold cooked rice
1 tbsp fish sauce
3/4 tsp sugar
20 fresh Thai basil leaves
6 sprigs of cilantro, leaves only
10 half-slices cucumber

Soak the chiles in hot water for about 15 minutes.  Remove the stems and chop finely.
Get all your ingredients ready to go:
Heat the oil over high.  
When it is hot, add the chiles de arbol and garlic.
Stir fry until garlic is just turning light brown, then add the chicken.
Stir fry until most of the pink is gone, then add the oyster sauce and jalapenos and stir fry until well-mixed.

Add the rice.  
Break up the clumps so it is evenly distributed. Stir fry for about a minute.
Add the fish sauce, sugar, and basil leaves and stir fry until the leaves are nicely wilted.
Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the cilantro leaves and slices of cucumber.