Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Off to England Soon!

It's that time of year again. It's almost England.

We leave on Thursday for our yearly family visit. This year, we are adding a little excursion to the front end of our trip and spending a couple of nights in Edinburgh before we go to Scunthorpe where Andy's family is.

We thought we were so clever when we booked a 9 o'clock flight on Friday morning to Edinburgh. Turns out we actually booked the flight for 9 PM. Now we have something like 14 hours to kill before flying from London to Edinbugh. Crap!

Do we hang around Gatwick Airport for the whole day? Do we get a hotel near the airport and hang there all day? Do we try to exchange the tix for an earlier flight? Actually, the answer to that last question is no, we tried that.

The plan is to hop on a train and go to Brighton for the day. It's a 25 minute train ride and 8 pounds for a round trip ticket. We'll be tired, having been up for hours, but we'll be wired as we usually are that first day.

That is called making lemonade out of idiot juice.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Vietnamese Inspired Noodle Bowl

I first had this dish at Mekong, one of my favorite restaurants in Richmond. They usually make it with pork or shrimp or tofu and cut up spring rolls. I do a vegan version and serve it with peanut sauce rather than the traditional fish sauce. My Janine twist on this is the addition of tart apple cut into matchsticks. It looks pretty, tastes fresh and smacky and goes great with peanut.

Most of this dish is prep work. There's very little actual cooking, except a few seconds to cook the rice noodles and the making of the peanut sauce.

I make the sauce first.

In a small saucepan, heat up a cup of vegetable broth. Add 3 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of molasses, 2 tablespoons of rice or cider vinegar, pureed garlic and pureed ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes. If you do not have to worry about sodium, use soy sauce instead of molasses. Heat all this stuff until the peanut butter's all melted and everything's incorporated. Then take a little of the mixture out, dissolve a couple teaspoons of cornstarch in it and stir it back into the sauce. The sauce will become thicker and it will suddenly look all creamy and emulsified.

Yep, it's magic. Set the sauce aside.

Then I just layer all the stuff in the bowls. First, napa cabbage cut into very thin slices.

Then fresh mung bean sprouts and roughly chopped fresh Thai basil. Don't skip the basil! It's a very important flavor component and it tastes divine. Then julienned zucchini.

At this point, I like to drizzle a bit of peanut sauce or some hot sauce, like Sriracha.

Next, I add a layer of rice vermicelli. Then julienned carrot, matchsticks of tart apple, scallions, more peanut sauce and crushed peanut. Oh, what the hell--add a few more Sriracha polka dots.

This may seem like a strange blend of flavors, but the crunch of the raw vegetables, the incredibly aromatic Thai basil, the sweet tartness of the apples and the peanut sauce all work together to throw a gala in your mouth. Enjoy the splendid flavors and textures. You're welcome.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day!

We awoke to half a foot of snow today--enough to send poor Richmond into a tailspin! We took a trudgy long walk down to Forest Hill Park, where I knew there would be tons of sledding going on! The joy was palpable.

Favorite little doggy down the street. I have no idea what his name is. I call him Petey.

This day reminded me so much of growing up in Michigan.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guatemalan Breakfast for Dinner

We were looking through one of our favorite cookbooks, World Food Cafe 2 by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott, and we spotted this Guatemalan breakfast and decided to have it for dinner. At first glance you think it's going to be like Mexican because it's eggs, salsa, guacamole, refried beans.

But upon closer inspection, the ingredients and combinations are very different, and very delicious!

The beans were black beans, cooked with lots of red onion and garlic and a blob of butter. Who can stay mad at butter? I simmered them until they were very tender, then pureed them with a glug of olive oil and served with chopped fresh cilantro.

The salsa had no tomatoes or tomatillos. It was made with carrot, red onion, garlic, hot fresh chillies, cilantro and lime juice. It was processed into a very fine consistency, and tasted ever so smacky and fresh.

The guacamole had fresh basil and finely chopped celery, a combination I'd have never considered. It was divine, and I will make it again. Maybe tomorrow.

The scrambled eggs were even a little special, seasoned with allspice, black pepper and oregano leaves.

We served all this plain flour tortillas scorched in a hot dry pan.

I didn't take piccys, but if you want to see a generous sampling of this lovely book and the actual recipes that we used, click here.

The combination of flavors was a fiesta in my mouth!