Sunday Family Dinner – Summah’ Grilling and Chillin’

June 2015 Family Dinner

 Sunday Family Dinners in the summer are all about dining al fresco. Long days, warm and beautiful weather…it’s perfect.

June 2015 Family Dinner

I love summer family dinners where the pace is a little bit slower and we really get the chance to catch up with what’s new with each other.

June 2015 Family Dinner

A big topic of conversation at June’s fam din?

Backyard decor… obvi.

June 2015 Family Dinner

Seester just got a new set of fantastic patio furniture. And after lounging in the new chairs for a bit, I realized that something was missing. They need a brick pizza oven—STAT! A brilliant idea!

It got quickly vetoed.

Party poopers.

June 2015 Family Dinner

Our inspiration for dinner was not so much a “theme” but started off with an idea that the main dish should feature all kinds of skewers. Because who doesn’t love meat on a stick?

Plus, if there’s grilling involved, the boys get a hand in things.

June 2015 Family Dinner

And because y’all know us so well, you know that there were cocktails. In fact, we had a few different types that night (it’s how we roll), but Seester came up with this one after watching an episode of Tiffani Thiessen’s cooking show.

It consisted of an iced fruit tea, ginger simple syrup, lime juice, mint, tequila and fresh fruit.

Light and refreshing.

Kelly Kapowski apparently knows cocktails.

June 2015 Family Dinner-Cocktails

To munch on before dinner, my niece Nina fried up a batch of Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies. I loved the salty, smokey flavor the andouille gave to the hush puppies. To serve with them, I whipped up a quick sauce from random things I found in the fridge and luckily, it turned out great. Though–I kind of blew it and didn’t jot down what it consisted of but it had things like sour cream, mayo, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, fresh dill, garlic and pixie dust.

The last ingredient is not optional.

The recipe for the hush puppies can be found at here.

June 2015 Family Dinner-Hush Puppies

Then we put the boys to work! Fire up the grill, Dudes!

June 2015 Family Dinner

We did three types of skewers:

June 2015 Family Dinner-Skewers

Why three different skewers? Why not?!

Plus, we generally have a hard time just choosing one thing.

June 2015 Family Dinner- Skewers

To serve with the skewers, I whipped up a quick Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad which is a great accompaniment to any BBQ. It’s fresh, light, and essentially guilt free.

Though, I rarely experience guilt with food.

Carpe diem!

June 2015 Family Dinner: Watermelon-Feta Salad

We also made a bunch of Elotes – Mexican style street corn. Super simple to make and you can find out how from a previous post here.

Elote {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn}

And lastly–dessert!

Now, most of us admitted that we underestimated this dessert. Don’t get me wrong–eldest seester can definitely bake but we didn’t really have a good point of reference for an icebox pie. But after one bite, we knew what fools we had been.

The texture was incredibly creamy and smooth which resulted in somewhat of an ice cream pie texture. She also tweaked the originally recipe that can be found here by:

  • Substituting mango schnapps with mango extract (she also used the extract in the whipped cream);
  • Used ataulfo mangoes as they generally yield a much sweeter and aromatic fruit;
  • Used about 1 cup of mango puree versus the listed 3/4 cup;
  • Used graham instead of saltine crackers for the crust and doubled the amount.

June 2015 Family Dinner: Mango-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie

And after all the food was eaten and the dishes were washed–there was nothing else to do but get in some jacuzzi time!

June 2015 Family Dinner

Now if that’s not a fitting Summer Fam Din, I don’t know what is.

Stay tuned for the wrap up of July’s Family Dinner with all 5 Nguyễn siblings!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Spiked Ginger Iced Tea
Appetizers: Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies
Entrees: Jerk Spiced Shrimp, Buttermilk Chicken Tandoori with Raita Sauce, Steak Skewers with Scallion  Sauce, Elotes, Watermelon-Feta-Arugula Salad
Dessert: Mango-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie


Stone Fruit & Prosciutto Salad

Stone Fruit & Prosciutto Salad

Dear Summer,

Please don’t ever leave.

I love how you bring the bright, radiant sun out to warm us.

I love how you encourage me to wear flip flops every day (even to work).

And I love how you bring out the incredible sweetness and intense flavor to stone fruits. It makes me want to eat them all the time! Nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots….oh, the endless possibilities!

Stone Fruit & Prosciutto Salad

And Summer, you also inspire me to eat light and fresh dishes. So I decided to take your hint and threw some delectable stone fruits into some greens. A salad filled with all types of mixed greens to give that peppery verdant flavor, a needed savory element with the thin prosciutto slices, a salty & nutty profile from the parmesan cheese and much needed texture from the chopped pistachio nuts.

I don’t even bother with a vinaigrette. Instead, I opt for a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice for acidity and a drizzle of EVOO for that needed richness.


So Autumn, please push the snooze button a few more times to allow my Summer to stay a bit longer.



Stone Fruit & Prosciutto Salad
Serves 1


2 cups mixed greens (arugula, romaine, baby spinach, etc)
¼ cup sliced peaches
¼ cup sliced nectarines
¼ cup sliced plums or pluots
2 thin slices prosciutto, torn into pieces
1 tablespoon roughly chopped pistachio nuts
1 ounces parmesan cheese shavings
juice of 1 lemon wedge
1 tablespoon quality extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches kosher salt
2 pinches coarse black pepper

Plate the first seven items on a serving dish. Squeeze the lemon juice over the plate, followed by the drizzling of olive oil. Season with the kosher salt and black pepper. Enjoy!

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

I’ve received a bunch of recipe inquiries about the salad we gobbled up during our last Family Dinner.

And I can’t blame ya because it was DEE-LISH!

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

My niece and seester prepared the dish using Ina Garten’s recipe for a Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad and it was a WINNER! It packed a huge punch of flavor from the abundance of herbs, feta cheese and citrus. It was extremely bright and would be a fab dish to enjoy on a warm day with a glass of pinot grigio and chunk of freshly baked bread. MMMMM!

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

We didn’t have fresh basil on hand and ended up omitting it. Truth be told, I didn’t really miss it—but I’m sure it would be wonderful with it.

Oh that Ina…..she knocks it out of the park—AGAIN! Think she needs a new bestie in the form of a quirky Vietnamese gal?


Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad
Serves 6


10 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded, cored, and 1/2-inch-diced
1 hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and 1/2-inch-diced
1 can or jar (12 to 16 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil
8 ounces good feta cheese
Place the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, parsley, mint, and basil in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion.
Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing gently to coat all the vegetables. Add the feta, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss gently.

Recipe from Ina Garten

Spicy Crab & Avocado Salad

Spicy Crab & Avocado Salad

More times than not, I’ve got a lot to say about everything. And when it comes to food– fuggedaboutit!

But then there are times when I take a bite of something and there are really just no words needed. Like with this Spicy Crab and Avocado Salad. MMMMMMM!!!!!!

Spicy Crab & Avocado Salad

TONS of sweet lump crab meat, paired with the creaminess of avocado, a slight crunch from the serranos and a kick of spice. Perfection!

Okay, okay. Maybe I do have a few words but trust me, one bite and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

By the way, in case you’re wondering–Why do I call this a “crab salad”? Well…the same reason why they call chicken salad, “chicken salad”. And yes, I may be trying to avert the question. :)



Spicy Crab and Avocado Salad
Serves 2


5 ounces cooked lump crab meat
1 scallion, diced
1 teaspoon finely minced serrano pepper
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon hot sauce
½ tablespoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon Old Bay Seasonings
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 large avocado, halved and seeded
garnish with chives and additional Old Bay Seasonings

In a bowl, gently combine the crab, scallion, serrano pepper, mayonnaise, hot sauce, lime juice and Old Bay Seasonings. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper. Refrigerate the crab mixture for 30 minutes.

Spoon half of the crab mixture into each of the avocado halves. Sprinkle with a dash of Old Bay Seasonings and top with chives. Enjoy!

Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad) & Giveaway Winner!

Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad)

Ever had Gỏi?

Gỏi is a general term for “salads” in Vietnamese and can come in all forms using a variety of ingredients. Lately, my favorite Gỏi utilizes thinly sliced Banana Blossoms. I combine it with grilled proteins, pink grapefruit, creamy avocados, a ton of herbs and a healthy douse of Nước chấm “vinaigrette”. It’s absolutely delicious and epitomizes the balance in Vietnamese cuisines.

If you’ve never used Banana Blossoms before, they can be somewhat tricky the first time around. It’s best to remove the outer few petals as they’re quite tough (though you can save them as garnish), use a really sharp knife so you can get thin slices, and be sure to soak the cut blossoms in cold water that has been mixed with some type of acid–citrus juice or vinegar does the trick. The later helps removes some of that chalky flavor that the Banana Blossoms can sometimes have.

And although it sounds a bit laborious—it’s totally worth it and delicious!


Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad)

And now to announce the winner of a fabulous Nambe Pasta Cradle Bowl

Drum Roll please………….

CONGRATS Serena Kim who said she would serve Shrimp Pesto Pasta in the Nambé Bowl. Sounds yummy and will look gorgeous in your new bowl! Serena, we’ll be sending you an email shortly so we can get your new Nambé artwork shipped out.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated! And THANK YOU Nambé !


Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad)
Serves 4-6

Nước chấm (Sauce):
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely minced
chili paste, to taste

Gỏi (Salad):
cups chicken breast, grilled and shredded
cups prawns, shelled and grilled
2 medium sized avocadoes, cubed
1 cup Ruby Red Grapefruit segments
4 cups banana blossoms, julienned
¼ cup loosely packed fresh Vietnamese Mint (rau răm), chopped
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1 cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup fried shallots
¼ cup roasted peanuts, crushed
cold water
black pepper to taste

Prepare the sauce. In a medium sized bowl, stir the sugar and water together until completely dissolved. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir until combined. Set aside.

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the rice wine vinegar. Peel off the dark colored and tough outer leaves of the banana blossom. Use a sharp knife or mandolin to julienne the blossoms. You can either discard the “baby bananas” or chop them up finely. Submerge the banana blossoms into the bowl of water/vinegar after they have been julienne. Allow the banana blossoms to sit in the vinegar water for 15-20 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the shredded chicken, prawns, avocados, herbs, and freshly cracked black pepper. Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce until the items are lightly coated. Drain the banana blossoms from the vinegar water and squeeze out any excess liquids. Add banana blossoms to the other ingredients and spoon in some additional sauce. Gently toss the salad with the fried shallots and plate. Sprinkle the top with crushed peanuts and serve.

Refreshing Greek Salad…..Opa!

Greek Salad

It’s been unusually warm these past few weeks — not your typical fall weather at all. Not that I’m really complaining but it does make me turn to lighter dishes instead of slaving away in a hot kitchen.

The other day I picked up a bunch of produce at my weekly farmer’s market and decided to make a refreshing Greek Salad for lunch.

Greek Salad

The salad is full of bright flavors from the fresh veggies, feta and the olives. Delish! And the leftovers were the perfect accompaniment to the Spanakopita I made the next day.

Up next, flaky and buttery Spanakopita!


Greek Salad
Serves 4


3 Cups Cucumbers, diced
2 Cups Grape Tomatoes, diced
2/3 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped
½ Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Cup Feta Cheese, cubed or crumbled
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
½ Cup Quality Olive Oil
¼ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced
¼ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, garlic, and oregano. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad, and toss to coat.

Gỏi Mít Trộn (Vietnamese Young Jackfruit Salad)

Gỏi Mít Trộn (Vietnamese Young Jackfruit Salad)


When our clan gathers, you can be sure that there will be a massive array of delicious food. One can always count on the usual favorites such as Bánh Ít (sticky rice dumplings), Bún Bò Huế (spicy beef noodle soup),and Cua Rang Mui (salt roasted crab). And intermixed with all the Vietnamese goodies would often be a sprinkling of “American” dishes such as mom’s Turkey.

Growing up, each dish became linked to one of the aunties or Mom as they each refined the recipes to make it their own. But as my generation grew older, the proverbial baton was passed and we in turn began to make these iconic family favorites.

And I find comfort in knowing that these dishes that my siblings, cousins, and I create will pass on my family’s traditions through food.  It’s kind of remarkable to think that the Phở Gà I’ll make for my kids will be exactly the same recipe my mom would have made for them.

Incredible, really.

One dish that I hope to continue is Gỏi Mít Trộn. At the heart of the salad is Mít Non—young, unripe jackfruit. The flesh of the young jackfruit is tender and mild in flavor. In the states, Mít Non is sold both canned and frozen. However, if you use the frozen type, you’ll need to boil it for a bit.


Gỏi Mít Trộn (Vietnamese Young Jackfruit Salad)


After being washed and well drained, the Mít is stir fried for a few moments before it’s tossed with shrimp, pork and several herbs like Rau Răm (Vietnamese Cilantro).


Gỏi Mít Trộn (Vietnamese Young Jackfruit Salad)


The Gỏi Mít Trộn is then topped with fried shallots, crushed peanuts and accompanied with nước chm (dipping sauce).


Gỏi Mít Trộn (Vietnamese Young Jackfruit Salad)

It’s best served with Bánh Đa – crispy rice crackers flecked with black sesame seeds. Want to know something funny? When I was little, I used to think that the black sesame seeds in these were ants and stayed clear of these crackers for many years :)



 Bánh Đa


I like to eat Gỏi Mít Trộn by drizzling nước chm with lots of chili on top of the salad with a healthy squeeze of fresh lime juice. Then I take a piece of the Bánh Đa and use it to scoop up the goodness. YUM!


Gỏi Mít Trộn (Vietnamese Young Jackfruit Salad)

The layers of flavor and textures in this Gỏi really rock it out. Extremely savory from the proteins and fish sauce with bright herbaceous notes from the Rau Răm, mint, and cilantro. With each bite you get a lovely crunch from the rice crackers and peanuts that balances so well with the tender Mít.

If done correctly, everything is in perfect harmony.

I doubt my Gỏi Mít Trộn will ever be as good as my mom’s or aunties’. But one thing is for certain— in due time, our kids will be trying their hand at it, too :)



Gỏi Mít Trộn (Vietnamese Young Jackfruit Salad)
Serves 8


3 Cans (20 ounces each) Young Jackfruit
1 Pound Shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 Pound Pork Loin, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons Shallots, finely diced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, finely diced
½ Cup Scallions, chopped
1½ Cups Rau Răm Leaves (Vietnamese Cilantro), roughly chopped
¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro, roughly chopped
¼ Cup Fresh Mint, roughly chopped
ước Mm (Fish Sauce)
Ground Black Pepper
Vegetable Oil

Bánh Đa (rice crackers)
ước chm (dipping sauce)
Fried Shallots
Crushed Roasted Peanuts
Lime Wedges
Thai Chilies

In a large bowl, combine shrimp, pork, ½ tablespoon garlic, 1 tablespoon shallots, and a few dashes of fish sauce. Mix and season with black pepper. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes.

Drain the cans of jackfruit. Remove any seeds (including the shell layer surrounding the seeds) and cut off and discard any hard sections. With a sharp knife, thinly slice the jackfruit and transfer to a large bowl that has been filled with cold water. Repeat until all the jackfruit has been cut and rinsed. Using clean dishcloths, gently squeeze out the excess liquid. If too much moisture is left, your salad will be really wet and mushy. Set the jackfruit aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over a medium flame. Add pork and shrimp and sauté until cooked, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Using the same skillet, add another 1 tablespoon of oil over a medium flame. Add the remaining shallots, half the scallions and sauté until softened before adding the rest of the garlic. Stir and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the jackfruit and remaining scallions and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes before seasoning with a few dashes of fish sauce and black pepper. Remove from heat and mix in the shrimp and pork. Toss in the Rau Răm, mint, and cilantro. Taste and adjust accordingly, keeping in mind that additional Nước chm will be used. Plate the contents to a large dish. Sprinkle the tops with fried shallots and crushed peanuts.

Serve the Gỏi Mít Trộn with Bánh Đa, Nước chm, limes, and chilies. Enjoy!




**This is my submission to Delicious Vietnam #15, a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine which was started by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of  Ravenous Couple. For more information, please visit Delicious Vietnam Thanks to Angry Asian Creations for hosting this month!**