Vietnamese Salt & Pepper Squid

That dipping sauce might look a little muddy, but trust me, it was delicious!

One of the dishes (among many) that we loved on our travels through Vietnam and Cambodia was Salt & Pepper squid.  Naturally, that squid was ultra fresh, and so very tender it literally melted in your mouth.  Typically served with a bowl of rice, and a pile of greens it is the perfect light dinner.  I love the combination of flavours found in most Vietnamese dishes – fish sauce, lime juice and pepper.  Those show up in so many tasty dishes – makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

SALT & PEPPER SQUID

  • 400 gr squid **
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour (you can substitute corn starch)

OIL – to use for frying – make sure you use a high smoke point oil such as peanut, canola or vegetable. – heat to 350 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a chopstick in there …. once it bubbles all around the chopstick it is ready.

SALAD OR GREENS TO SERVE

Prep whatever fresh vegetables or salad you want to serve.

DRESSING

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped (or chili flakes to taste)
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar (I usually stick with 1)
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp water

If you try anything – make it this dressing! I use it for salads all the time and it is so light and refreshing while adding so much flavour to a simple salad.

** Squid – if you can get it fresh then clean it and slice into rings – leaving tentacles whole.  I’ve only used frozen at this point but you know I will be sourcing some fresh squid!!

Once your squid is prepped, bash up the salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle – bash until cracked and broken but don’t turn it in to a fine grind.  Sprinkle a little directly onto the prepared squid.  Pour the rest into a bowl with the flours and stir until combined.

When oil is hot enough,  put a handful of the squid into the salt/pepper/flour mix and toss to coat lightly and cook in batches in the hot oil.  Do not overcrowd your oil or it will cool down and your squid will absorb more of the oil. 

Remove from oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  

If you like a dipping sauce – just bash up a bit more salt and pepper, mixing it with fresh lime juice.

The dressing couldn’t be easier!  Again, the mortar and pestle comes into action so I hope you didn’t clean it after bashing salt and pepper …… Drop in garlic, ginger, spring onion and chili …give it a good bit of action until you have created a paste.  Add lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and water.  TASTE.  TASTE IT AGAIN.  Every single item can be a slightly different taste profile from what I am using and for your individual tastes.  Adjust if necessary.  It should be slightly sweet, slightly salty, slightly hot and slightly tangy.  

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle then just chop everything quite fine and add in the other ingredients … I have about 3 of them so I love using them but don’t run out and buy one if you don’t love the process!

To serve lightly dress your salad with the dressing, pile the squid on and serve with a side of rice if you like, just the way it is served in Cambodia & Vietnam ….. oh take me back! We bought our pepper from the Kampot Pepper Plantation in Cambodia. Touted as the best pepper in the world we had no choice. It really does make a difference when the pepper is that fresh.

Give that salt and pepper a good bash up, but stop before it is all pulverized, a little texture is perfect.
I wish you could smell this! (even though fish sauce tastes a lot better than it smells)
Ready to be dressed at the last moment – this is so light, partially due to the lack of oil.
At the Kampot Pepper Plantation …. yes, those ladies are hand selecting black peppercorns with tweezers!

Creamy Garlicky Shrimp Tagliatelle

I don’t know about you, but an advertised 20 minute recipe NEVER takes me 20 minutes.  This one was close tho ….. and very easy.  Not only easy, but delicious and I’m more than happy to spend a few more minutes to achieve delicious.

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  • 8 ounces dried tagliatelle pasta (or really, any pasta you like!)
  • 2 tbsp butter (separated, see below)
  • olive oil
  • 10 ounces small, peeled and cleaned shrimp
  • 3 garlic cloves (yes, really)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I like sauvignon blanc but any dry white will work – stay away from sweet tho)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 cup asparagus (cut into 1″ pieces)
  • 1/2 cup minced sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (do NOT use purchased grated!)
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • black pepper
  • more parmesan for serving
  1. Get a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil.  Salt and add pasta.  Cook to one minute short of the cooking instructions …. (in order to finish in the cream sauce).
  2. Before draining, scoop out about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  3. Get a nice flat bottom skillet (non-stick works great here) and melt 1 tbsp butter.  Drain your shrimp and pat dry (you don’t want them to steam) ….. toss the shrimp into the melted butter and sauté quickly – until ALMOST cooked.  Depending on your shrimp size this might only take a minute or two.  There is nothing worse than rubbery, overcooked shrimp.  Well, okay, lots of things are worse including this COVID nightmare we are living through….  Remove from heat and lightly season with salt and pepper.
  4. In the same skillet heat the other tbsp butter and add a splash of olive oil – once melted add the onions, sauté until soft, add mushrooms and cook until just lightly browned, then add the garlic, asparagus and sun dried tomatoes.  Add chili flakes.
  5. Stir in the white wine and allow to reduce slightly, then add the chicken broth, cream and parmesan.  Season to taste ….  I didn’t need to add any more salt but that finishing black pepper is great.
  6. Add your mostly cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to cover.  The sauce will continue to thicken and this is the time to add some of your reserved pasta water a bit at a time, only as needed.  Stir in the shrimp to heat through, toss with parsley and serve with a grating of fresh parmesan and black pepper.
  7. Dig in!
These plump & juicy little guys are barely cooked and will finish in the cream sauce
Easy to make this a vegetarian meal – just stir in as many veg as you like and omit the shrimp.

Alex’s smash hit dressing!

Longer brighter days are coming and I can’t wait. We have a salad almost every night, and with the warmer weather approaching they often take the form of a “meal in a salad”. This dressing hits it out of the park for a delicious flavour bomb to dress pretty much anything with. Give it a try, I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Salad tonight, but it could easily dress a rice bowl or serve over salmon.
  • 1/4 cup tamari (can sub soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • dash of fish sauce (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (unless they are home grown, then maybe 1/4-1/2 a clove) :o)
  • 1″ ginger, grated
  • thinly sliced scallions

Put everything in a jar and shake vigorously – really vigorously. If you use warm water it will help loosen up the miso if it’s straight out of the fridge.

Drizzle lightly and grill – another sure fire winner.

This recipe came from our friend Alex – she is an amazing cook, and agreed to let me post it! #abcooks

The BEST Miso Soup

I gotta say ….. hard to make a bowl of miso soup look exciting … but here it is, the best ever! I didn’t have any seaweed at home so added a few spinach leaves. Delicious!
  • 2 teaspoons dashi granules 
  • 4 cups water 
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste 
  • 1 (8 ounce) package silken tofu, diced 
  • 2 green onions, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch piece

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine dashi granules and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and whisk in the miso paste. Stir in tofu. Separate the layers of the green onions, and add them to the soup. Simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

I think the key to this is the dashi. You can easily make your own dashi at home – just look up a few YouTube videos, but for the amount I use, keep some granules in the freezer and it is ready whenever I need it.

We followed the miso sop with these tasty Japanese dishes ….. chicken karaage with 2 dipping sauces, pork and cabbage gyoza and garlic soy snap peas. Goes without saying that a Japanese inspired dinner needs a serving of rice!

I often serve Miso soup to accompany a few other dishes, and this makes it very easy to prep a bit earlier and just leave it simmering – don’t add the tofu or green onions until closer to serving time.

Coconut Prawn Curry

This sauce is incredibly good.  How, I wondered, did so much flavour show up in 25 minutes?

Garlic Herb Naan 3

I managed to get a few sprigs of cilantro on here for a photo, but it was ready so quickly, and smelled so heavenly there was no fancy plating for a photo!

I’ve made it with some jumbo prawns tonight but you could easily substitute any protein you like, or go straight vegetarian and you will be so glad you tried it.

SHRIMP & MARINADE

  • 1 lb extra large shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed please)

CURRY SAUCE

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp Madras curry powder
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can (13.5 ounce) coconut milk

cilantro for garnish

rice for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a small bowl toss the shrimp with the marinade ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  • While the shrimp is marinating, heat the oil in a medium size skillet. To it add the onion, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Stir in the garlic, ginger, pepper, salt, coriander, turmeric and curry powder. Cook for another minute.
  • Add the diced tomatoes with juices and all, the coconut milk, stir and bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the shrimp with the accumulated juices from the marinade and cook for another 2 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.
  • Serve over hot rice and garnish with cilantro or parsley.

I’d say the only way you could be disappointed by this dish is if your spices are old.  They really aren’t meant to last forever just because they are dry!

Coconut curry 2

Get your prawns gently tossed in the marinade and put in the fridge until you are ready to add them to the curry sauce. (I used chili flakes rather than cayenne pepper today)

Coconut curry 3

Follow the instructions on how to build your flavour base – it really is important in many dishes, but I find especially so in Indian food.

Coconut curry 6

Coconut Curry 5

The next night we still had enough for another meal – so I lightly sauted some fresh vegetables in a sauce pan until just tender crisp.  Then add the sauce and heat only enough to warm through.  This keeps the individual flavour of your vegetables and doesn’t overcook either the remaining prawns or the curry sauce.

Make sure to serve these with Garlic Herb Naan – just what you need to sop up this inviting sauce.

These were my best naan ever!  So tender, with dough that is very easy to work with.  As an added bonus they freeze well so for nights when it is just the two of us I only cook half and freeze the other half …. ready for fresh frying when I am.

 

I have a lot of “authentic” food bloggers I follow for cooking dishes from India, Thailand, and Mexico just to name a few.  This recipe came from a fellow Canadian!  If you haven’t been to Jo’s website …..   http://www.jocooks.com then I recommend you do.  She has specific hints to make everything better, and is well worth a read.

 

Miso Glazed Sablefish

We don’t cook a lot of fish, really only seafood like prawns, crab, or white meaty fish items that are as tasty as this is.  Fish and chips are my specialty and they often show up … Of course, when Grant isn’t home …. salmon might be on the menu!

IMG_2947

Just look at that glistening, tender, flaky sablefish.  Drool worthy.

 

6 6 ounce pieces of fresh sablefish (any meaty white fish will do)

Marinade

  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp grainy dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp creamy dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp wasabi paste (from tube)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 fresh lemon (juiced)
  • 3 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic

Crust

  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp cornmeal
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

Whisk together all marinade ingredients – pour over fish pieces in a shallow pan – make sure all sides are coated.  Cover and marinate for 45 minutes in the fridge.

Combine panko, cornmeal, salt and pepper.

Remove fish from marinate and dip in panko mix.

Heat olive oil in heavy bottom fry pan – once it is sizzling, add the fish.

Cook for about 4 minutes per side, just until fish flakes and is glistening.

This recipe is deceptively simple.  It holds such a flavour wallop. As an added bonus, I make it often just for the two of us, and freeze the excess marinade.  It freezes well and I’ve got all the work done for another night.

Thanks go entirely to the cookbook “Whitewater Cooks” for this amazing recipe (and many more!).

 

Ceviche

Step 1

In a 1 1/2-quart glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion. Use enough juice to cover the fish and allow it to float freely; too little juice means unevenly “cooked” fish. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours, until a cube of fish no longer looks raw when broken open. Drain in a colander.

Step 2

In a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, green chiles, cilantro, olives and optional olive oil. Stir in the fish and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Add the orange juice or sugar. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately. Just before serving, gently stir in the diced avocado.

Make Ahead

Working ahead: The fish may be marinated a day in advance; after about 4 hours, when the fish is “cooked,” drain it so that it won’t become too tangy. For the freshest flavor, add the flavorings to the fish no more than a couple of hours before serving.
This recipe came courtesy of my Food and Wine Magazine – another superb recipe from Rick Bayless.

Mexican Pickled Vegetables (Escabeche)

Escabeche 1

Today’s version included potato slices, onions, carrots, cauliflower and zucchini.

Have you ever noticed those bowls of pickled vegetables at every taco stand you’ve been to in Mexico?  They are easy to make at home, fantastic to have in the fridge and add a flavourful zip to any side dish (or pizza!).  This recipe is perfect, feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand ….. I’d skip broccoli though as I have found that it doesn’t keep either it’s bright colour or crunch.

Ingredients

  • 8-10 jalapenos
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1.5 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon salt (Kosher or sea salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (use Mexican if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 8-10 cracked peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions

  • Give the jalapenos a rinse and then cut into 1/4 inch slices.
  • Peel the carrots and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • Peel and quarter the onion, chopping into thin slices
  • Peel and roughly chop the garlic
  • Heat a dollop of oil in a medium sized sauce pan on medium-high heat
  • Saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes
  • Add the jalapenos, carrots and the spices: ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, 8-10 black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf.
  • Briefly saute and then add 1.5 cups white vinegar, 1 cup water, and 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer
  • Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the jalapenos turn army green
  • Fill each jar with the veggies and top with the brine
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge
  • The jalapenos and carrots will have most of their flavor after a few hours of resting in the brine

I’ve tried a few recipes now from a blog …. “Mexican please”, and they are all great!  This is no exception.  I don’t use quite that many jalapeños (usually 2-3 large ones) and I also put in whatever vegetables I have on hand, cauliflower, zucchini, radish etc.  Just make sure to not overcook the more delicate vegetables.  For items like cauliflower and zucchini I only add them to the cooking liquid for a couple of minutes.  Be mindful of the amount of liquid you have and make sure you have enough to cover the vegetables once you get them into your pickling jars.  It is okay to top up with a bit more vinegar or water if need be.

Japanese Nabe (Hot Pot)

How to describe this?  It’s really not a recipe – just ingredients and an idea of how to put it all together.  Our friend Tom made this the other day and I was immediately hooked.  How can something that just looks so simple end up feeling immensely satisfying and ever so delicious??

Nabe 1

Looks like a pile in a pot ….. right?  But, oh so good!  I could eat this on a weekly basis!

 

The base of this broth is as simple as the kombu you create it with.  Add about a 6 inch piece to 8 cups of water, let it sit for about 15-30 minutes, and then bring to a boil and allow to simmer until the kombu softens.  Some recipes will say to remove it at this point, but I didn’t, and we ate it – a bit chewy but still good!

Prepare all your vegetables while the kombu softens.  and broth simmers.

Keep the vegetables in groups according to how long it takes them to cook.  i.e., cabbage takes longer than snap peas!

I used:

  • savoy cabbage
  • carrots
  • sweet peppers
  • snap peas
  • bok choy
  • red onion
  • asparagus
  • bean sprouts

For a protein I used chicken breast and tofu.  The sky is the limit here, you can easily use whatever you like – just be aware of how long it will take to cook it, and put it in at the right time.  The last thing you want is soggy veg.

Nabe 3

Prepped and ready to go.

Nabe 2

If you have a pint sized helper like Stella, she will add the vegetables in the right order and keep everything moving.  That is teriyaki chicken beside her, and it was fantastic too.

For serving you need:

  • Ponzu (citrus soy sauce)
  • chili oil
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • thinly sliced green onions
  • cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Goma Shabu Sesame Sauce (I don’t have that one …yet)

Prepare Udon noodles while the sauce simmers.

The main objective here is not calling it a noodle bowl.  They finish off the show.  If you have individual mini bowls then each person can have their little assortment of the above condiments and sauces.  Traditionally you would ladle the veg & protein into your bowl, accepting the small bit of broth that comes with it.  You can either dress your bowl with the above, or dredge each bite in the accompaniments – your choice.  The pure joy in this comes from adding your finishing touches so everybody has it just they way they like.  When everybody is finished, then you add the noodles to the hot broth.  Once again, traditionally this would be on the table with a heating vessel to keep everything hot but I found it was warm enough to stir in the cooked noodles once we had finished eating the first “course”.  Those noodles are such a delightful way to finish slurping up your meal.

Shopping List:

  • assortment of veg
  • protein of choice
  • udon noodles (I like frozen best, if you can’t get fresh – over dried)
  • condiment toppings …… ponzu, sesame sauce, chili oil, sesame seeds, cilantro & green onion
  • kombu

Nabe 5

This is the dried kombu I found – you only need about 1/2 of one piece to go with 8 cups of water.

 

 

 

Tom’s Teriyaki Chicken

teriyaki chicken 6

This teriyaki chicken hits all the notes, crispy bits of carmelized chicken, sweet and salty,  tender and juicy – give it a try, you will love it.

Thanks go to our friend Tom for this simple teriyaki marinade that is as perfect as it is easy.  Works well with any protein, just to make it even simpler for you.

Marinade:

  • 1 cup soy sauce (reduced sodium)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 golf ball size knob of ginger, grated or finely minced.

Combine and stir until sugar has dissolved.

2 pounds of bonelesss, skinless chicken thighs – cut into bite size pieces

Garnish:

  • green onions, thinly sliced
  • sesame seeds, toasted until golden brown

Marinate the chicken in the teriyaki sauce for at least an hour and up to overnight.  Remove from marinade and place in hot saute pan.  Do not overcrowd the pan or the chicken will just steam rather than get nice crusty bits of caramelization.  Allow to cook, without disturbing, until you see the colour start to change on top of the chicken and the chicken releases easily from the pan to turn over.

Serve with rice and your favourite greens.

Teriyaki chicken 1

See the marinade bubbling up beneath the chicken?  That’s going to get all glossy and give the chicken nice little bits of delicious caramelization – don’t disturb it while this is happening.

teriyaki chicken 2

You can see some of the browned bits – that is pure gold.

Teriyaki 3

If you’d like a little extra to drizzle over, make a little sauce without the ginger and allow it to thicken.  Adds a fantastic bit of sweet and salty flavour.

Drizzle:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup soya sauce
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch

Combine the water, soya sauce and sugar, stir until sugar has dissolved.  Add in the corn starch and cook over medium heat until sauce has come to a boil and allow it to reduce slightly.  (Corn starch as a thickener has to boil or you will still taste the corn starch!)

Teriyaki 2

Tonight’s dish was a teriyaki bowl – utilizing a combination of chicken thigh and chicken breast with a little shredded carrot for crunch and cilantro for brightness.

Realistically you could use this recipe for any protein you like, or make it with a large assortment of vegetables for a vegetarian dish.  The teriyaki sauce is the star!