Thai Inspired Steak Salad

It’s hard to spot the salad underneath, but it’s there! A tangle of wheat noodles and crunchy salad greens is the base of this – go ahead and use rice noodles or just omit the noodles entirely.

I love a full meal deal salad! This tangle of vegetables, both fresh and grilled, served mixed with noodles and garnished with steak and nuts is just the best. It’s on repeat around here. Go ahead and splurge for the best steak – you don’t need much to make it a complete meal.

This dressing is the star of the show – it is light and bright with just the perfect amount of zing.

  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2-3 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (reduced sodium)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp raw sugar (or honey)
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh Thai basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds **
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil
  • kosher salt to taste

** I’m a big fan of toasting nuts or seeds as it adds so much flavour. Watch closely because they go from deeply toasted (my personal favourite) to black …. beware. (yes, I speak from experience)

Whisk all the ingredients, except the oils, together in a bowl. Once combined, slowly drizzle in the oils and continue to whisk until well blended. This is the part where you taste, and adjust if needed – sometimes you need a bit more lime juice, salt or sweetener. If you prefer your dressing on the spicy side, add in a bit of Thai chili or chili flakes.

This recipe is just as versatile as whatever you have on hand. Tonight this dish included:

  • Chinese wheat noodles (cooked)
  • salad greens
  • mint leaves
  • basil leaves
  • cilantro leaves
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • bean sprouts
  • grilled red pepper
  • grilled zucchini
  • steamed baby bok choy
  • grilled beef tenderloin
  • toasted cashews
  • toasted sesame seeds

I like to make a salad out of the cold cooked noodles and fresh vegetables, and pile that in the bottom of my bowl. Arrange the cooked vegetables around the sides along with the grilled steak. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle the cashews and sesame seeds over.

If you have time, and have a steak that needs marinating, just use a bit of the dressing. This works equally well with chicken, pork or tofu. If you want to use shrimp make sure to only give it a quick marinade.

When grilling the vegetables, drizzle with a little of the dressing before and after grilling.

When you start with a fresh salad as the base, everything is tastier!!

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

Coconut Shrimp

Couldn’t wait to dive into these. Every time I make them it surprises me how easy and how incredibly delicious they are.

Just like you get in the tropics….. minus the palm trees and ocean breeze. That dang Covid thing is still keeping us at home, during a time of the year when we’d so much rather be in the land of palm trees & sunshine, ocean bobbing and munching coconut shrimp. Never mind the beach, I’d happily settle for just being able to cuddle my granddaughters!!! Enough whining, here is the perfect recipe to make you feel like you’ve escaped to the beach.

  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten well (can just use egg white if you like)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat (350-360 degrees)

Set up 3 dredging bowls:

  1. flour
  2. egg
  3. panko/coconut mixture

Season shrimp with salt and pepper, then working with one shrimp at a time, dredge through flour, then egg, then panko/coconut. Press into the panko mixture to make sure the shrimp are well coated. Set aside until you have them all coated.

Working in batches, add shrimp to hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning as necessary until they are crunchy and looking irresistible – around 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix well to combine. If you think of it, mix this ahead of time and set in fridge to allow flavours to meld beautifully.

I can’t promise you will smell the ocean when you make these, but it might make you feel a little better about staying home!

You can get these prepped ahead of time and just keep in the fridge until ready to fry.
Served tonight with rice and curried vegetables. This would disappear in a hurry if served as an appetizer also.

I originally got this recipe off Damn Delicious website, and she’s right – they are damn delicious! The dipping sauce is my own concoction and it’s yummy!!

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!).

 

Best Asian Noodle Soup

noodle soup 2

This big beautiful bowl of soup is all you need for a great family dinner!

Can a person every have too many soup recipes???  I think not …. The best part of this recipe is that it is just a guideline for making an amazingly tasty soup out of whatever you have on hand.  The focus here is on the vegetables, so make sure you prepare way more than you think will fit in the pot!

The flavour base is what makes this soup such a keeper.

  • 3 scallions, cut in 3 large pieces
  • 1/2 inch knob of minced ginger
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 6 cups chicken stock/vegetable stock/beef stock/6 inch piece of kombu

 

  • chicken breast/prawns/tofu
  • any amount of vegetables, as many as you think you can get in the pot
  • bean sprouts
  • cooked rice noodles or Chinese wheat noodles

Garnishes:

  • cilantro
  • green onion
  • sesame seeds
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • soy sauce
  • peanut sauce
  • chili oil

Start with a big pot, cover the bottom with a neutral oil and once it has heated up add about a 1/2 inch knob of minced ginger and 3-4 scallions (green onions).  Saute until they have generated a bit of colour and become nicely caramelized.  This is where you start, but from here the sky is the limit.

Add the oyster sauce and heat through, then add your broth.  If you are using the kombu, allow it to soften for at least 30 minutes.

When the broth is hot enough, add any protein you want to use – if using meat, slice it thinly.

Add the vegetables according to how long they take to cook – as in cabbage or bok choy will take a little longer than snap peas or thinly sliced sweet peppers.

I like to serve the noodles prepared and separate from the soup so people can add them as they wish, and that way they don’t get soggy.

This should all come together really quickly once the broth has heated – as in maybe 5 minutes!  When ready to serve stir in bean sprouts and serve with the garnishes so everybody can create the soup bowl of their own dreams.

noodle soup 1

Serve with a basket of crispy scallion pancakes for the perfect meal.

 

Vietnamese Rice Bowl

Vietnamese Bowl

Lime juice is used in so many dishes in Vietnam and Cambodia, and we loved it.  Tonight I sautéed the green vegetables with garlic and ginger, once tender I just squeezed fresh lime over and used a generous sprinkle of fresh Kampot pepper – they were so good and fresh.

We’ve just returned from a month in Cambodia and Vietnam and can’t seem to leave those fresh bright flavours behind us.  This rice bowl (or use rice noodles if you like) is delicious – use a variety of different textures and flavours to get the right balance, but whatever you use – make it your own.  The only actual recipe portion of this is the Vietnamese sauce, Nuoc Cham, the rest of it is more of a guideline.

You will need:

  • cooked rice
  • grilled steak (or chicken/prawns/tofu)
  • pickled fresh vegetables
  • sauteed vegetables (tonight I used broccoli, baby bok chow & snap peas)

Garnish:

  • toasted peanuts
  • slivered spring onions
  • rough chopped cilantro/basil/mint
  • toasted sesame seeds

Nuoc Cham Sauce:

  • 2 – 2/12 tbsp sugar (I used palm sugar but you can use white, or maple syrup or honey)
  • 3-4 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup very warm water (warm helps the sugar to dissolve)
  • 2 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3-4 tbsp fish sauce

Stir sugar and lime juice together, then add warm water and stir until sugar has dissolved.  Add rice vinegar and fish sauce.  I always start with the lesser amount of sugar, lime juice and fish sauce … adjust as needed when you have it all together.

To assemble, place your rice or rice noodles in the bottom of a bowl, then layer on your other ingredients.  Drizzle Nuoc Cham over and sprinkle with garnishes.  This dish is just as versatile as you want it to be.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 1

This time the Vietnamese bowl featured rice noodles and chicken.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 2

Quick pickled vegetables and Nuoc Cham sauce ready to dress up your bowl.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 3

Put everything out on the table and let everyone create their own bowl.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 4

Good to the last drop!

 

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.