Celebrating Mom’s Birthday with a Rosemary Garlic Ribeye Steak!

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Today we celebrate the birth of a 4’9″ firecracker of a Vietnamese woman who was fiercely loyal, an original hustler, an extraordinary cook, a diehard fashionista, was wholeheartedly stubborn, and a true “Jill of all trades”--our Mom.❤

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It’s always a bittersweet time of year for us as Mother’s Day always falls so close to Mom’s birthday. Our emotions vacillate between sadness to laughter, from deep remembrance to joy, mourning to celebration—and of course, love.

This December will mark the tenth year since since her spirit departed for her next adventure. And although it’s hard to believe that the years have passed so quickly, my siblings and I can attest that she is still so greatly missed.

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There are so many things I wished I asked her, so many stories I wished I had recorded her telling, so many things I wished she would have taught me—and good grief, I miss that woman’s cooking to no end.

So I talk to her all the time–and I believe a few of my siblings do, too. Especially when I’m in the kitchen–bustling around like she did so many times during her life. I have a large portrait of her hanging in my kitchen and I’ll jibber-jabber about everything and anything. Because Mom was a total Chatty-Cathy, a trait that my seester T and I definitely inherited –and I am certain she would be amused by our ramblings.

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When Mom was still with us, we all cooked and prepped with her in the kitchen. But, I for one, definitely deferred to her and leaned more towards on the baking side of the house. But when she passed, cooking became our way of keeping her spirit with us. And since she was the original Foodie, I think we all deep down inside, aim to excel in the kitchen to create elaborate things that we know she would have loved.

You can best believe that I often imagine her scolding us if she saw half the stuff we did in the kitchen. We probably weren’t cutting things right, adding too much salt and likely drinking too much wine/cocktails while cooking. Ok…maybe the latter would be focused at some of us more than others. And yes, those “some” would likely be T and I.

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With that said, it’s no wonder that my rituals for Mom’s birthday all surround food. Like every year, I started this morning off with an early brekkie at Panera Bread inhaling her favorite Spinach and Bacon Egg Souffle. It’s like a rich quiche but with a puff pastry/croissant-like crust. So sinfully caloric to start a day off with but hey–it’s Mom’s Birthday!

And if you’ve read my previous birthday posts for Mom, you know that this little woman loved her some steaks!!! Filet Mignons and Ribeyes all day, everyday! Ok, maybe not everyday—but she would have wanted to at least. In years past, I’ve celebrate her birthday with:

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The filet mignon cuts weren’t looking that great when I was at the market but the ribeyes were gorgeous! So for this year, I’m honoring Mom’s birthday with this Rosemary-Garlic Ribeye Steak. I mean, take a gander at this beauty!!!

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I took the steak, seasoned it with some S&P, and threw it in a resealable bag with some rosemary springs, crushed garlic, and olive oil. It hung out in my fridge for several hours for the flavors to infuse the beef.

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Next came the decision to either grill the steak or cast iron that baby.

I chose the cast iron method because I LOVE how the beef beautifully sears and crusts in the skillet and it gave me the opportunity to bathe the steak in butter while it seared.

Aaaaand…..I also live in a condo where I’d have to hike downstairs to the common area to use the grill.

So that settled that debate.

Aaaaand…..let’s not talk about how that “hike” is actually a 2 minute walk from my front door.

Steak and Potatoes
Did I mention that the steak gets repeatedly spooned over with infused herb butter/oil? Bathed, I tell ya – BATHED!

Now that’s the way to go…..

Grilled Steak
After a quick sear (and bath) on the stove, I threw the entire thing in the oven for a few minutes to finish it off. Depending on the thickness of your cut, as well as desired cook on your steak, you may need to adjust the timing by a few minutes. But a meat thermometer should do the trick.

And if you’re feeling real naughty, after the steaks rest, you can drizzle the leftover infused butter/oil from the skillet over the beef.

HELLO!!!

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I’m quite certain Mom would have loved this steak—because she loved them ALL! But really, I think she would have just loved that I made it for her and she needn’t lift a finger.

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Happy Birthday Mama!

Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying a big ol’ steak today!

We love and miss you!

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Rosemary Garlic Ribeye Steak
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 16-18 ounce ribeye beef steak or two 8-9 ounce ribeye beef steaks
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, smashed
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
flaked sea salt, optional

Season the steak with kosher salt and black pepper. In a resealable plastic bag, add the garlic, rosemary sprigs, olive oil and steak. Rub the marinade all over the beef. Squeeze out as much air as possible and then seal the bag. Refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours. Halfway through the time, take the bag out of the fridge and massage the marinade into the beef.

 

Remove the steak from the plastic bag. Use paper towels to dry off some of the marinade—do not discard the rosemary or garlic. Allow the steak to sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes.

 

Place a cast iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. After the cast iron skillet has heated in the oven for 15-20 minutes and the steak has come to room temperature, carefully remove the skillet and place on a burner over medium-high heat.

 

Add the butter, oil and allow it to melt together before carefully placing the steak in. Add the sprigs of rosemary and crushed garlic from the marinade bag. Sear the ribeye for 1-2 minutes on each side. While the beef sears, repeatedly spoon the butter/oil over the tops of the meat to baste. Once both sides have seared, transfer the skillet with the steak back into the oven.

 

Roast the ribeye at 400 degrees F for 3-4 minutes or until the internal temperature

reaches 135 degrees F for medium-rare. Allow the steak to rest for 5-10 minutes and sprinkle the tops with sea salt to finish (optional). You can also drizzle a few spoonfuls of the herb infused oil/butter from the skillet over the steak as there is a TON of flavor it in it. Serve warm with roasted potatoes, veggies or sides of your choice.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a Tacos Roundup!

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Y’all know my love for Tacos knows no bounds or limits. And it’s rather perfect that I live in a city (SAN DIEGO!!) that enables my Tacos Addiction.

So I can think of no better way to celebrate today — Cinco de Mayo then with a Tacos Roundup! Here are 9 DELICIOSO taco recipes that you’ve got to make TODAY!

Well – if I had it my way, you’ll make them every day!

First up, my Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

These beauties are to die for. Ok…so all of these recipes are to die for. But you’ll just love how quick these babies come together and the shrimp are so wonderfully flavored and succulent. And the game changer? The spicy avocado crema. Seriously–that crema is amazing over everything! Tacos, burritos, sandwiches—even salads.

Swoon….SWOON I tell ya!

Next up – Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cabbage Slaw.

Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cabbage Slaw

How could I live in San Diego and not share a fish taco recipe?

These really are one of the most popular recipes on my sites. Folks adore how easy and quick it is to cook the fish (under the broiler) and how refreshing the bright avocado-cabbage slaw pairs with it. It’s definitely on the lighter side of the house–particularly if you sub Greek yogurt for the crema in the slaw. Perfect for warm, weeknight meals!

And of course, I’ve got to share a Baja style fish tacoChipotle-Beer Battered Fish Tacos!

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

These loaded tacos are filled with cod that have been battered with Mexican beer and chipotle peppers to get a wonderfully crispy exterior with a slightly smoky flavor. I dressed them with a power punch chipotle crema that’s mixed up in a blender, fresh veggies, creamy avocado and a squeeze of lime. Can you hear the ocean calling you?

If you’re looking for something a little “meatier”, you’ll definitely love these Beer Braised Carnitas Tacos.

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas Tacos

This is another fan favorite on the site with spiced pork that has been slowly braised in all types of goodness (yup, BEER!) and then crisped up and caramelized. The flavor and textures are out of this world. I like to serve these “street tacos” style with just a small tortilla, a spoonful of salsa, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. I could scarf down at least 6 of these….and I have.

Looking for something a little more figure friendly? How about some Turkey and Peppers Tacos?

Turkey & Peppers Tacos
I almost always have a package of ground turkey in my freezer (you should too!) and they make a beautiful taco filling. These are quite straight forward—browned red onions, peppers, lots of spices, ground turkey and bell peppers. But they are such a great staple that you can even double the recipe and keep some in the freezer for a rainy day. Perfect filling for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tostadas, salads—-you get where I’m going with this.

And there are always FlautasSpicy Chicken Flautas!

Spicy Chicken Flautas
Flautas are essentially a fried rolled taco and can be filled with a myriad of goodness. This is a mixture of cooked chicken (you can even use store bought rotisserie chicken to cut back on time!), spices, aromatics and lots of cheese. After you fill up the tortilla and roll them up, they’re quickly fried until nice and crispy. I love the crunch from the tortillas and crispy chicken—so good! Dunk them in some sour cream, salsa, guac and you’re ready to roll!

They say brekkie is the most important meal so when you bring Breakfast Tacos to the mix then you know it’s going to be an amazing day!

Breakfast Tacos

Anything goes when it comes to brekkie tacos. But in this gal’s opinion, there must at least be a solid tortilla, ‘taters of some sort, salsa and an EGG! Because everything is better when you throw an egg on it!

Don’t worry my vegetarian peeps, I haven’t forgotten about you! Because I’ve got these tasty and fulfilling Portabello Mushroom Tacos for ya!

Portabello Mushroom Tacos

Portabellos are the meatiest non-meat item  ever!

Yeah….I just said that.

But they’re so wonderful and have so much earthy flavor on its own. And then when you add some extra spices, you’d be hard pressed to miss meat! Wait…did I just say that?! Oh–and if you omit the cheese, this recipe is vegan friendly too!

And finally, one of my favorite tacos ever— Tacos de Papa – Crispy Potato Tacos!

Tacos de Papa

When you mix a Potato Lover, a Tacos Lover, a Lover of Fried Foods, a Cheese Lover, and a Mexican Food Lover together — you get ME!!!!

These gorgeous loves contain nearly every food item I adore (hmm, maybe I should add bacon?) but even if you aren’t me, I cannot fathom that you wouldn’t love these too! Imagine this, a spiced cheese mashed potato mixture enclosed in a crispy taco shell and then topped with fresh veggies, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Heaven right?

Well gang, I hope I’ve got you pumped and excited to make some tacos today and extra points goes to those who whip up a few pitchers of Margaritas to wash them down! There are plenty of different Margs recipes on my site archives if you need some inspiration.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

The Pacific Northwest and East Asia Blend at Family Dinner

April 2016 Fam Din
We’ve got two birthday boys in April — Lucas and Curtis! And as Family Dinner protocol dictates, when it’s your birthmonth, you call the theme for the menu.

Now with our Lucasaurus, he’s pretty laid back. If there’s something yummy and he gets ice cream at the end, well–he’s all set. So it was up to my BIL, Curtis, to give us some direction.

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Curtis
is all about seafood and generally loves Japanese cuisine. He mentioned that he wanted crab and the next thing I knew it, we were in crab boil planning mode. We’ve done crab Boils quite often. Remember this time? Or how about this time?

Can you blame us? Seafood boils are freaking D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!

But this time, since we wanted to use dungeness crab (they’re back in season–YAHOO!), we thought we’d take a different spin. We ditched our beloved spicy Cajun seasoning packets and headed for the Pacific Northwest for inspiration.

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But first–one small order of business.

A few months ago, we decided that while we were prepping/cooking/enjoying Fam Din, everyone would stay off their cellphones or tablets and spend some QT with each other. Only exception? You could use it briefly to snap pics of food or family.

The girls even made a sign for our “docking” station that would rotate from house to house each month.

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So what did we do while off our phones?

We play tennis of of course! Well….Wii Sports but that’s nearly as good.

The pics below may not be as clear as I’d like but I love them. Look at their intense facial expressions.

GAME ON!

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Speaking of GAME ON–check out Lucasaurus. One moment he’s all “sweet face” and the next “100% slugger”.

He’s such a playah’ that he even squeezed in a fast T-Ball game with the homies before dinner was ready.

Stud.

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And what did my seestrahs and I do in between the cooking?

Drank some draannnnkkks of course!

Our cocktail of choice was a concoction that seester T had with her friends one night – Pomegranate Soju with Sparkling Korean Grapefruit Rice Brew.

What does a “sparkling rice brew” taste like? Think of a less sweet, more carbonated wine cooler but a gazillion times better. The whole thing was floral, fruity, and went down dangerously smooth.

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At this point, you may be wondering how this cocktail fits the Pacific Northwest theme.

Well…..that’s where the East Asia meets the Pacific Northwest. At least, the first time for the night.

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Oh–and of course we took a minute or two to snap a few pics.

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CHEERS!

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Meanwhile, Lucas had come back from his game, showered and then decided to show his uncle some of his badass roundhouse kicks.

Did I mention our little man just passed his Tae Kwon Do black back examination?

Yeah…I keep him around as my personal security these days.

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Then at some point throughout the shenanigans, big sis whipped out some appetizers – Shrimp Crostinis!!

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And then we got down to some serious cooking.

How serious?

So serious we had to break out the step stools.

#ShortPeopleProblems

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And then the girls started getting all kinds of silly.

Not sure if they were getting hypoglycemic from all the waiting or if it’s just their true nature.

You’re right….. it’s the Aliens.

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Grab the bibs, refill the drinks, plunk yourselves down in a chair because it was finally DINNER TIME!!!

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Sweet dungeness crab, prawns, clams, corn, new potatoes and crusty bread. The “boil” was made from crab stock, lemons, garlic and an insane amount of fennel and coriander seeds. Very, very aromatic.

Oh–and tons, and I mean TONS of garlic butter to dip it all in.

LET’S GET SEAFOOD WASTED!!!!

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And you bet we sure as heck did! Totally natural–birthday celebrations and all.

Though no matter how full we are, there must be dessert! And with two birthday boys, we had to have TWO desserts. One made specifically for each of boys’ favorite flavors.

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With Curtis, we went for the East Asian flavors because the man loves him some green tea! And after all these years, it’s become quite the challenge to make him a different green tea dessert. We’ve done Matcha Green Tea Icebox Cheesecake, Green Tea Souffles, and Matcha Green Tea Layered Cake filled with Matcha Mousse and the list goes on and on.

Hey–at least he’s consistent.

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So after squeezing my brain to the core, I decided to make him a Green Tea Tiramisu–also known as a Matchamisu!

I used this recipe to make the fantastically easy and light dessert. I took packaged lady finger cookies and dipped them in a mixture of honey and a strongly brewed green tea. It was then layered with a fluffy filling of whipped mascarpone cheese, egg yolks, sugar, clouds of whipped cream and of course, matcha powder.

Oh! Did I mention that I threw in a few splashes of Grand Marnier? It is a type of tiramisu after all.

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It was a WINNER!

Not only was it crazy easy to pull together but it was so well flavored and light. Birthday boy gave me the stamp of approval! So much in fact, that I’m making a bunch of individual sized Matchamisus for his big birthday bash this weekend.

PHEW!

Better start thinking about his next year’s green tea dessert!

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As for Lucas’ dessert – my nephew being MY nephew, LOVES ice cream — mint chocolate chip ice cream. And like me, if it’s isn’t green mint chip then we want nothing to do with it.

So as a nod to the “Pacific Northwest”, I made our little guy a Baked Alaska — something I’ve never attempted before. And guess what? It was really easy too!

First off, I used store bought ice cream (I know, I know–but I was short on time!) and let it set out for about 30-45 minutes to soften. I lined a large metal bowl with plastic wrap (for easy removal) and packed the ice cream in it. Then, I pressed a layer of brownie on top to form the base.

Lukey doesn’t like cake—we’re all a work in progress.

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I covered the top with more plastic wrap and then let the whole thing freeze for several hours. When it was about time to serve, I took the bowl out of the freezer and set it on the counter while we got to making the meringue.

In a stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment, I whisked up 2 large egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, 1-2 pinches cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and until stiff peaks formed.

We then inverted the bowl onto a plate, piped meringue rosettes all over and then brought out the torch.

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Most Baked Alaskas, well—are baked. But instead of placing the whole thing in a high heat oven, I opted to use a kitchen torch. I felt more comfortable with this method for a more even browning.

I think it all came out beautifully well. Fluffy-marshamllowly meringue, VERY green ice cream and a chocolately brownie base.

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It got a thumbs up from this adorable birthday boy….

And if you follow me on Instagram, then you would have saw a video of Lucas face planting into his dessert plate–on his own volition!!!

Silly boy.

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Another delish and FUN Family Dinner in the books!

Happy Birthmonth Curtis and Lucas!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu
Pacific Northwest – East Asian

Cocktails: Pomegranate Soju with Sparkling Korean Grapefruit Rice Brew
Appetizers: Shrimp Crostini
Entrees: Pacific Northwest Dungeness Crab Boil with Prawns, Clams, Sausage, Potatoes & Corn
Sides: Toasted Ciabatta and French Bread
Dessert: Matcha Tiramisu and Baked Alaska with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and Brownie Base

Basil Chicken and Egg Lettuce Wraps

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I’m all about easy to make meals these days…..

Ok, let’s be honest. I’ve always been enamored with low fuss meals–particularly during the weekdays when I’m always short on time. And when those dishes are savory, fulfilling AND on the health conscious then it’s a NGUYEN-WIN!!!

I’ll tell ya, these Basil Chicken and Egg Lettuce Wraps fit that bill perfectly!

And guess what?

It’s PALEO!!! Yup, you read correctly!

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Partnering again with our friends at Safest Choice® Eggs, I took quality ground chicken and stir fried it with classic South East Asian aromatics.  After a few splashes of fish sauce (there are tons of fantastic paleo fish sauces out there), I topped the chicken with ribbons of Safe Eggs. Tons of lean protein, packed with flavor and yet still light on the tummy.

Click here to read my post on Paleo Basil Chicken and Egg Lettuce Wraps and here for the recipe.

Have a fantastic week!

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Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab
More times than not, you’ll find me rummaging around my pantry and fridge without a plan in mind of what to cook.

Odd for a food blogger?

Well friends, if you’ve been with me for awhile—my quirkiness must have seeped through the screen by now. So there’s really no hiding my “offbeat” approach to things.

Flashback to yesterday night when I was on the verge of turning into a gremlin from hunger. A full blown GREMLIN I tell ya! And I knew I only have a few minutes to pull something together before I passed out on the kitchen floor.

I needed a quick pasta — STAT!!!

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab 2
In dire moments when I’m short on time (or just lazy), pasta aglio e olio is heaven sent! It’s a staple pasta dish from Naples where you infuse good quality olive oil with tons and I mean TONS of garlic and a bit of red pepper flakes. After your pasta is cooked, you toss it in the infused oil and add some herbs and maybe some grated cheese. I do versions of pasta aglio e olio all of the time –sometimes adding a bit of anchovy paste or capers or even a bit of chorizo.

But imagine my utter glee when I remembered that I had some leftover Dungeness crab from the weekend. I seriously squealed “YAYYYYY!” when I saw it in the fridge and did a little dance…… yeah, it doesn’t take much to get a happy dance out of this gal.

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I proceeded with my standard steps for pasta aglio e olio and at the end, tossed in some of the sweet crab meat and just a few pinches of grated parm. I piled a huge mound on the plate, sprinkled some more pepper flakes on top, fresh lemon zest, chives and to add that extra level of decadence for a Monday night–a drizzle of white truffle oil.

HUMINAH! HUMINAH! HUMINAH!!!!!!

It was fantastic! The wonderful sweet and sea flavor from the beautiful Dungeness crab mixed with the garlic punch and bright freshness from the lemon zest—along with the earthy oil. It was all somehow hearty and light at the same time.

Considering I was on the verge of turning into a ravenous monster before/during the cooking process, I hadn’t bothered to take step by step photos to blog about it. But once done, it looked, well–damn sexy! So I took about 37 seconds to snap a couple of pics before inhaling it.

Not only did I manage to suppress the gremlin from emerging but I rocked out a pretty awesome dish in about 15 minutes. That’s a rather successful Monday in this gal’s book.

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Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

kosher salt, divided
5 ounces dried spaghetti noodles, or other long strand pasta
3 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, more to garnish
½ tablespoon grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
4-5 ounces cooked Dungeness crab meat
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh chopped chives
white truffle oil to finish*

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the spaghetti noodles and boil for 8-9 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve ¼ cup of the starchy water that the pasta was cooked in.

While the pasta boils, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes to infuse the oil. Swirl the skillet often to ensure that the garlic does not burn. Add the red pepper flakes and infuse for another minute. Carefully pour in the reserved starchy pasta water, turn the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Whisk the items together and then toss in the pasta. Stir and toss for about a minute and sprinkle in the cheese and 2-3 generous pinches of salt.

Remove the skillet from the heat and gently fold in the crab. Plate the pasta between two dishes. Sprinkle the tops of each serving with lemon zest, chives and drizzle with white truffle oil. If you do not have truffle oil, drizzle with some additional quality extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy!

 

Aruba, Jamaica…Oooh I Wanna Take Ya–to the West Indies!

March 2016 Fam Din

I need a vacay in the worst kind of way. Somewhere tropical where I can lounge on soft sand while getting my share of vitamin D from the warm sun, while listening to the sounds of water lapping on the shore.

Yeah, yeah…I live in coastal San Diego where I can pretty much get that 80% of the year but a gal needs options! So with no foreseeable break in my near future, I bamboozled my sibbies into our latest theme for Family Dinner in hopes that our dishes could transport me to a fabulous destination– the West Indies!

Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti, Barbados, and more……they were calling to me!

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So we converged upon our seester’s house and got to cooking –all while I pretended that the palm trees and bistro lights in her backyard were not in Tustin but actually somewhere in the Bahamas.

And of course I had to snap some pics of the kiddos to balance all of the food shots.

I mean, look at Lucasaurus‘ face….that kid just kills me.

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I don’t have a clue what’s going on here but if I had to take a gander, they were practicing to become back up dancers for JT or even the Bad Boy Family Reunion concert!!!

An auntie could only dream…..

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And doesn’t it look like our fur babies could use a vacation too?

Who am I kidding–those two live THE LIFE!

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As for our cocktails, there’s no way we could hop to the Caribbean without a Dark’n Stormy! Okay, maybe more like a few of them….

Dark rum, ginger beer, lots of fresh lime juice over ice—fantastic and goes down wonderfully smooth.

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Since we were in the West Indies, much of our time was consumed with chopping lots of aromatics, herbs, chilies, and toasting spices. Unfortunately I couldn’t wrestle up any scotch bonnet peppers like most of the recipes called for and opted for habaneros instead. Both have similar heat ranges on the Scoville scale so it was a fair substitute and in the end were SPICY, SPICY, SPICY!

March 2016 Fam Din

We ended up fixing two appetizers to nosh on before dinner. First up were my seestrah’s Conch Fritters.

March 2016 Fam Din

Conch is said to be the ultimate Bahamian food and its many iterations are the country’s national dish. You’ll find it in salads, grilled or as a fritter. Fresh conch was difficult for us to get so we ended up resorting to grabbing some frozen ones.

After they were defrosted, seester took a mallet and beat the heck out of them to tenderize the flesh a bit. Conch, after all, is a big ol’ sea snail and can be rather chewy. And if you’re grossed out by sea snails, just forget I called them snails and pretend I said squid or clams.

March 2016 Fam Din

The recipe she used didn’t call for any baking soda or powder but were surprisingly light and fluffy after they were fried up—probably from the egg? She also added chopped red bell peppers for some additional flavor and crunch and served them up with a spicy mayo sauce.

I could have eaten a dozen of them! Um…well, I ate 1/2 a dozen of them but they were barely the size of a ping pong ball! Regardless, they are a keeper!

March 2016 Fam Din

For our second appetizer, I made a batch of Curried Jamaican Beef Patties.

March 2016 Fam Din
I’ve often said that many of the world’s cultures have some form of the a “meat pie” and the Jamaicans are no exception!

This version starts off with a flaky pastry dough filled with butter and flavored with curry powder. I added some turmeric for extra color as well. Despite the instructions on the recipe, you’ll want to pulse the dried ingredients with the cold butter a bit before adding the liquid ingredients in.

March 2016 Fam Din
Next up came the incredibly savory beef filling. Definitely follow the ingredients to get the wonderful layers of flavor—and the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce is a must!

After the dough had chilled and rested and the filling cooled, we began assembly. The recipe said it made six 6-inch patties but that was way off for us. After rolling out the dough into 1/8 inch, we used a 5 inch biscuit cutter to form circles. This yielded about 22-24 perfect patties for us.

Oh–and after a quick egg wash, we sprinkled the tops with some sea salt flakes.

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After they baked, not only was the dough wonderfully flaky and buttery but it had an awesome spiced flavor to it. As for the filling, it was delish. I would DEFINITELY make these again–and in fact, I’d double the batch and freeze them so that I could bake them off any time I had a hankering.

March 2016 Fam Din
And since Nini helped assemble these bad boys, she was forced to pose with them. She’ll thank me years from now….maybe.

March 2016 Fam Din

One of the side dishes we served up was a Trinidad Callaloo. Callaloo is the local name of a leaf vegetable known as amaranth. However, the dish callaloo is made up of slow cooked callaloo (or dark greens), with onions, coconut milk, spices and sometimes seafood. Although found on various Caribbean tables, I’ve been told that the Trinidadian version also uses okra so I used them as well.

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Since I couldn’t procure the callaloo leaf, I opted for collard greens as I figured its sturdiness could hold up to the long cooking and coconut milk. And instead of crabs, I threw in shrimp.

Now before you question how the finished dish looks, let me just say–TRY IT FIRST! It’s rich, creamy, earthy with a few kicks of spice. I also added a few splashes of fish sauce to further bring out the seafood notes since I didn’t use crabs and I found that it paired so well with the heat from the jerk chicken.

For those of you familiar with Hawaiian cuisine,  callaloo is quite comparable to Squid Lu’au.

March 2016 Fam Din
And of course– JERK CHICKEN! It would be silly to have a West Indies inspired meal without some kind of jerk dish!

Seester marinated a bunch and I’m talking a BUNCH of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in a myriad of jerk seasonings. It was hybrid of this recipe and this recipe which created one heck of a juicy, flavorful jerk chicken!

It would be fantastic as a pork marinade too!

March 2016 Fam Din
And of course dessert because it’s not a Fam Din without one–or two!

March 2016 Fam Din

To finish up our meal, seestrah whipped up this Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie that drew upon all the sweet flavors of the Caribbean.

Light, fruity and perfect!

March 2016 Fam Din

And I realize that the pic of the pie below is terribly out of focus but his toothless smile just makes my heart melt.

March 2016 Fam Din

Yes–I may not have gotten my vacay but my belly sure did get transported to the West Indies. And I’ll definitely take that…. FOR NOW!

Until next time!

 

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu
West Indies – Caribbean

Cocktails: Dark n’ Stormy
Appetizers: Conch Fritters, Curried Jamaican Beef Patties
Entrees: Jerk Chicken
Sides: Callaloo, Rice and Beans (not shown)
Dessert: Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie

Bún Tôm Nướng Sả – Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp over Vermicelli Noodles

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp
If you follow me on Instagram then you’ve more than once (okaayyy….more like a thousand times!) heard me rant that basic, everyday Vietnamese dishes aren’t really difficult and are often times quick to cook — but it’s the “mise” that will get you.

We love our condiments and dipping sauces and every dish has its own specific ones to compliment them. Tons of different textures? A MUST! Garnishes? We’re OBSESSED! And I’m not referring to the last minute little sprig of parsley you throw on once you’re done plating. I’m talking about pickled veggies, crispy fried shallots, all kinds of fresh veggies, scallion and chili oils, roasted nuts, savory caramel sauces, and tons–and I mean TONS- of fresh herbs!

We take it to a whole new level!

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp

Which brings me back to my initial statement that the actual “cooking” part of the dish can be about 5 minutes whereas the prep and mise en place could add an additional hour!

Mixing sauces, chopping, mincing, dicing, MORE CHOPPING, roasting–and my least favorite as a kid, washing all the herbs. I know it sounds ridiculous but I really hated being on herb washing duty.

Maybe because we had so much of them all of the time?

Maybe because Mom wanted each leaf perfectly plucked from the stems?

Or maybe because I had to meticulously blot them each dry with a paper towel because wet herbs “watered” things down?

Had I even known that a salad spinner existed, I would have gladly used whatever little money I had at age 8 to buy one. It would have saved me from all the trauma—but I digress……

Vietnamese Mise en Place

I don’t mean to frighten Vietnamese cuisine novices from giving my peeps’ food a try—more of just a heads up. And once you start cooking Vietnamese more regularly, there are a few shortcuts such as:

  • Keep a large jar of basic Nước Chấm (dipping sauce) in your fridge. Just leave out the Sambal and doctor it up to best compliment that particular dish you’re fixing up – ie. fresh chilies instead of Sambal, fresh finely minced ginger, etc.
  • Đồ Chua are the pickled carrots and daikon you’ll find in tons of noodle dishes and bánh mì. My recipe below is a quick method using just carrots as I didn’t have any daikon on hand but if you make a large batch, jarred Đồ Chua can last in the fridge for about 2-3 weeks.
  • Lots of Asian grocery stores these days carry sả bằm (finely minced lemongrass) in their freezer section–often in little plastic tubs or bags. This is perfect for those folks who don’t use lemongrass often or just don’t want to hassle with all the mincing—though a food processor can also address the latter issue.

And of course, if you’ve got some good knife skills, then you’ve just cut the challenge in half (yea, I went there). Since so much prep is about dicing, mincing and slicing—it’ll be a breeze for you.

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp

Bún Tôm Nướng Sả is a relatively low fuss dish I make quite often when I get a hankering for a big old bowl of Vietnamese goodness. I marinate a bunch of shrimp with lots of minced lemongrass (yup, I keep a tub in my freezer!), throw them on the grill (or grill pan or in this case, my cast iron skillet) and then nestle them on top of a mound of cool vermicelli noodles along with a hefty amount of veggies/herbs, Đồ Chua, Hành Mơ (scallion oil) and crunchy peanuts.

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp
The whole thing then gets doused with a generous amount of nước chấm and fresh chilies for an added kicked. The bowl is filled with tons of different textures and crunch, light yet savory with a tremendous amount of freshness from the veggies/herbs and acidity from the nước chấm. If I had some leftover homemade egg rolls in the freezer, I would fry them up and add them to the bowl too! NGUYEN-ing!!!!!

Seriously, my mouth is watering just thinking of it.

And you betcha’ those are my Yoda lightsabre chopsticks below. Because when it comes to mise, Master Yoda would say “Patience you must have my young padawan!”

Yup…anyway to infuse some Jedi lessons…..

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp
This would be just as tasty if you used thinly sliced chicken instead of the shrimp–or a combo of both! It’s your world, get a little crazy!

As for the prep time these days, I kind of like doing it now. Maybe it’s nostalgic, maybe 30+ years later I’ve become a little more patient….. But oddly enough, i find it rather relaxing—especially with some good music in the background and a glass of vino within arms reach. Because yes, vino should always be involved.

Ăn Ngon!

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Bún Tôm Nướng Sả – Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass
Shrimp over Vermicelli Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound shrimped, peeled and deveined
quality Vietnamese fish sauce, divided
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pinches black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 heaping tablespoon finely minced lemongrass
1 cup rice wine vinegar
sugar, divided
1 cup shredded carrots
¼ cup of canola oil
½ cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Sambal chili paste, more or less to taste
cooking spray
2 cups chopped lettuce
1 package vermicelli noodles, prepared according to package directions
1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
¼ roughly chopped roasted peanuts
fresh chilies

In a large bowl, mix the shrimp, 2-3 dashes fish sauce, red pepper flakes, black pepper, garlic powder and lemongrass. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl or shallow plate, whisk the rice wine vinegar and 2-3 pinches sugar together. Add the carrots and allow to “quick pickle” in the fridge.

Prepare the hành mơ (scallion oil). In a sauté pan, slowly heat the canola oil. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

Prepare the nước chấm (dipping sauce). In a small bowl or jar, mix ¼ cup sugar with the hot water until the sugar starts to dissolve. Stir in ¼ cup fish sauce, lime juice and Sambal chili paste. Set aside.

Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator 5 minutes before cooling to take the chill off. Heat your grill pan/cast iron to medium-high and lightly cover with cooking spray (or prepare outdoor grill). Grill the shrimp for approximately 1-2 minutes on each side until it’s opaque and turns pink. Remove to a large plate.

Divide the lettuce and noodles between four bowls. Add the pickled carrots, cucumbers, mint leaves, and cilantro. Top the bowls with the grilled shrimp and generously brush them with the hành mơ. Sprinkle the bowls with the crushed peanuts and serve with nước chấm and fresh chilies.