Month: July 2008
Since I am moving in just a little over a month, I realized that I had a good bit of canned goods to use up. I will only be purchasing canned items as I need them, no need to stock up! The less I have to move the better.
Anyways, I decided to use up some of the canned beans today by making a Southwest-Style 3 Bean Chili. I absolutely love chili – any time of year! I tend to make it fairly regularly. Not only is it delicious and filling, it’s so easy to make and there’s so many ways to make it!
I don’t have exact measurements to my recipe, so ala Rachael Ray (*puke*) I eye ball everything I put in. Note: I didn’t put any garlic or garlic powder in, because I am actually slightly allergic to garlic. It’s a tragedy, I know! But you should if you like it and can eat it!
1 big Red onion, chopped
1 big Green pepper, chopped
90% lean ground beef (1 lb.)
Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme)
Crushed red pepper
Diced tomatoes – regular (1 can)
Diced tomatoes w/ green chiles (1 small can)
Black beans (1 can, drained)
Dark red kidney beans (1 can, drained)
Pinto beans (1 can, drained)
Whole kernel corn (1 can)
Saute pepper and onion until softened, then add ground beef, cook until browned. Add seasonings. Stir. Add diced tomatoes & paste. Stir. Let sit to simmer for a little bit (5 minutes or so). Add beans & corn. Stir. Add sugar if you want it. Stir. Let sit to simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve & enjoy! Add your favorite shredded cheese or sour cream on top.
If you wish your chili to be hotter, add some Tabasco sauce, chipotle peppers, jalapeno, or cayenne for a kick. Whatever floats your boat. I wanted a milder chili today so none of that for me.
I added Veggie Slices cheese and it melted just fine. (FYI: I’m lactose-intolerant)
One of my favorite dishes at Thai/Laotian restaurants is penang curry, which I usually get with tofu, because, yes, I actually like tofu! Penang curry is characterized by a peanut curry sauce that is absolutely addictive. Last night I was hungering for something Thai, but didn’t want to run out to buy anything, so I attempted to make penang curry without a recipe. Sure, I could’ve looked one up, but part of the fun in cooking is the whole problem-solving aspect.
First, I started by sautéing some crushed garlic, diced onion, and finely chopped fresh ginger– the holy trinity of most Asian cuisine. After the onion became a little translucent, I added both nước mắm (fish sauce) and soy sauce and deglazed the pan with some vegetable broth. Then came the fresh vegetable melange: carrots, which needed to cook for a little bit longer than the others, then diced zucchini, and green pepper. I thought about adding tomatoes, but decided against it since the dish I usually get doesn’t contain them.
To make the peanut-based sauce, I simply stirred in some smooth peanut butter and coconut milk to taste. It needed more spice and I didn’t have any fresh chilies on hand, so I tossed in a healthy amount of ground cayenne pepper, along with pre-mixed curry powder and freshly ground black pepper.
The end result was fairly close to the typical penang curry served in Vientiane Cafe down the street: spicy, thick and nutty. The spice in the sauce was a heat that slowly warmed on the tongue, with the cayenne and black pepper hitting different taste buds. Next time, I plan on adding shrimp or tofu, depending what I have on hand. Also, I need to learn how to make that amazing bamboo-steamed sticky rice!
As a HUGE fan of Vietnam in Chinatown, I was ecstatic to learn that the Lai Family was opening up a satellite restaurant two blocks from my apartment in West Philadelphia. Vietnam Cafe does not offer as many dishes as the one in Chinatown, but in my opinion, that’s GREAT! The items on the menu are fantastic and more may cause too much indecision (on my part, that is!). The food is also cheaper and the restaurant is BYOB. Some may be turned off by the scaled-down approach to Vietnam Cafe, but I think it’s cozy and perfect for a West Philly establishment.
While I haven’t tried everything on the menu, most of the items are delicious and fresh. Having never been to Vietnam, I cannot vouch for the Vietnamese authenticity of Vietnam Cafe, but my discerning palate is most definitely pleased after each meal. A few of my favorite dishes are:
Grilled BBQ Platter: a variety of appetizers, the BBQ platter is served in a giant wooden bowl and is definitely a meal for two starving patrons. The meats are grilled to perfection; the dripping juices soak into the vermicelli-stuffed, self-rolled spring roll wrappers. Fresh mint, cucumber, and pickled radish and carrot are also delicious when paired with the meat. Let’s face it, I’m a sucker for pickled things. The beef wrapped with grape leaves are particularly amazing, almost reminiscent of a Greek kabob. Of course, fish and tamarind sauces are provided for dipping. The BBQ Platter is the first item I tried from the original Vietnam, and I was so happy to see that the Lai’s decided to add it to the new Vietnam Cafe menu.
Pho Tai (Beef Noodle Soup): a traditional Vietnamese staple. Vietnam’s Pho Tai has a delicious broth, which is what makes it stand out from other Asian noodle soups I’ve had. There are a lot of spices going on in the broth: star anise, ginger, pepper, and coriander are a few that I can detect. I’ve never been a huge beef fan, but somehow I am in love with this beef soup. Raw flank steaks are dropped into the broth so that they are gently cooked when the bowl gets to the table. Vietnamese cuisine seems to love the contrast between cooked and raw; the soup is presented with a side of fresh coriander (cilantro), bean sprouts, and jalapeno. I add all the accompaniments, plus a bit of Sriracha sauce to spice things up.
And… since I have such a sweet tooth, I usually get the taro coconut rice pudding, which is smooth, not too sweet, and amazing. They serve it hot, which may surprise some foodies, but I think it’s MORE than successful. The corn one is also delicious!
I almost forgot to mention that the Lai family and the rest of the waitstaff are welcoming, warm, and amazingly helpful. Some of the dishes a tad mysterious and the servers are descriptive with their explanations. I love this place! I usually dine at Vietnam Cafe once a week and I think they know me by name. Woohoo!