Steak Salad

April 22, 2010

Coming home late, along with the intention of working after dinner, we had to come up with a quick meal.  So we figured steak salad, Vietnamese style–which also means served with rice.  Strikingly tasty dish, though simple and easy.

No time to write up our own recipe, thus a referral:  the following recipe from does a decent job.  Though a few things to note:  jalepeno pepper in SE Asian food just sounds weird, so go with Thai chili peppers, if you want real spice.  Otherwise leave it out.  The combination of soy sauce and fish sauce is counter-intuitive, double up one or the other.

Also, this might NOT work for this recipe, but a technicality:  many English-language recipes will call for sugar to sweeten fish-sauce–what they don’t tell you is that VN cooks actually boil the fish sauce to bring in the sugar.  And then let cool before serving.  Adding the garlic, lime, peppers, and mint leaves as the sauce cools.

This recipe can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.

Yield: Serves 2


1/2 head romaine
1/2 small English cucumber
1 small shallot
1 small fresh jalapeño chile
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
a 1 1/4-inch-thick rib-eye steak (about 3/4 pound)
1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves


Tear romaine into pieces into a bowl. Halve cucumber lengthwise and seed. Thinly slice cucumber crosswise and add to romaine. Chill romaine mixture, covered. Mince shallot, jalapeño, and garlic (wear rubber gloves when handling jalapeño) and in a large bowl stir together with lime juice, soy sauce, 1 tablespoon oil, fish sauce, and sugar until sugar is dissolved.

Pat steak dry and season with salt. In an 8- to 10-inch heavy skillet heat remaining tablespoon oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté steak 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes.

While steak is standing, stack mint leaves and thinly slice. Toss mint with romaine mixture and all but about 2 tablespoons dressing until combined well. Divide salad between 2 plates and slice steak. Toss steak with remaining dressing and arrange on salads.


Fish Tacos for Dinner

February 28, 2010

We found some fresh mahi mahi and figured we’d make some fish tacos for dinner.  The marinade for the fish consisted of oregano, cumin, ancho  chile powder, chopped cilantro, and olive oil.  Sliced red pepper soaked in red wine vinegar was also a key ingredient.  The x-factor ingredient would be Mexican crema.  We didn’t feel like making it ourselves, and were surprised to find it at the ever-evolving Kroger’s (Kroger also has its own brand of tortillas that come in nice packets of 10 and not the ginormous family sizes.)  It was the Nestle brand–imported.  Perhaps a bit scary, but somehow a delightful find.  (Details of recipe and source below picture.)

Another good recipe rom the reliable

After the prep and marinating, it takes less than 20 minutes to make this:

  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • About 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 pound flaky white fish (such as mahi mahi or cod), cut into 4 pieces
  • Salt
  • 8 fresh corn tortillas
  • Mexican crema, homemade or store-bought
  • Fresh Tomato Salsa
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters

Marinate the Onion
Put the onion in a small bowl and pour in enough red wine vinegar to cover well. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or up to several weeks.

Marinate the Fish
Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and add the ancho chile powder, oregano, cumin, chopped cilantro, and jalapeño. Mix well. Place the fish on a dish and pour the marinade over it, making sure to coat the fish well on both sides. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes.

Cook the Fish
Heat a nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Remove the fish from the marinade and place in the hot pan (there is no need to add more oil). Season the fish with salt. Cook the fish for 4 minutes undisturbed, then turn over, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and flake the fish into the pan with a fork, making sure to mix in all the marinade that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Set aside.

Heat the Tortillas
Place four of the tortillas on a plate and sandwich them between two slightly dampened sheets of paper towel. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Place the warm tortillas in a towel-lined basket or plate and cover. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Assemble and Serve
To assemble the tacos, place a heaping spoonful of the marinated flaked fish onto the center of a tortilla. Top with the marinated onions. Serve accompanied by Mexican crema and salsa.

Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs.

Dinner: Mussels alla Diavola

February 24, 2010

Mussels seem to be aplenty these days in Nashville’s grocery stores.  So we brought some home for dinner and used the recipe below–an easy, 35-minute recipe.  Each bag sold only has 2 lbs. of mussels, and though the recipe calls for 3 lbs.–there were more than enough mussels for us.

  • 12 garlic cloves, minced (1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup drained bottled capers (1 1/4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives (3 oz), pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 lb dried linguine
  • 3 lb mussels (preferably cultivated), cleaned (see cooks’ note, below)

Cook garlic and red pepper flakes in oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with purée, tomato paste, herbs, capers, olives, and wine and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes, until sauce is thick, about 15 minutes.

Cook linguine in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

While pasta cooks, increase heat under sauce to moderately high and add mussels, then cook, covered, until mussels just open wide, checking frequently after 3 minutes and transferring to a bowl. (Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes.)

Serve linguine with mussels and sauce.

Cooks’ notes:

· Just before cooking, clean mussels by scrubbing them well with a brush under cold water and scraping off any barnacles with a knife. If beard is still attached, remove it by pulling it from tip to hinge or by pulling and cutting it off with knife.
· Tomato sauce, without mussels, can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered.

This Pickle decided to treat her Fried to some morning decadence.  I searched online to find a recipe that combined his favorite ingredients: crab, eggs, and avocado.  I passed on all the sushi combinations and crabs Benedict.  Finally I found just the recipe to whet his Cajun appetite:  Crab Avocado Frittata.

The mix of Gruyère chees, lump crab, avocado, eggs, and heavy cream was to-die-for.  I plated the frittata atop arugula with a shallot vinaigrette.  The recipe took only 20 minutes plus another 20 minutes in the oven.

Dinner: we saw some good-looking snow peas and decided to make use of them in a stir-fry, recipe–one of the best we’ve come across.  (We got a small tenderloin, which was wonderfully flavorful and tender, from Whole Foods.)  The details count, and yet still simple:

  • 1 tablespoon medium-dry Sherry
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 3/4 lb boneless pork loin, thinly sliced, then cut into 2- by 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
  • 1/2 lb snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup salted roasted cashews
  • Accompaniment: rice

Stir together Sherry, cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce, then stir in sesame oil. Add pork, stirring to coat well, and let stand 10 minutes.

Stir together sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce.

Heat a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat until a bead of water dropped on cooking surface evaporates immediately. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil, swirling wok to coat evenly, then stir-fry 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Add bell pepper and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add snow peas and cashews and stir-fry until snow peas are crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.

Heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil in wok until just smoking, then stir-fry remaining ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Add pork and stir-fry, separating strips, until browned and barely cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add vegetables and sweetened soy sauce, then stir-fry until vegetables are just heated through, about 1 minute more.

Last night called for an impromptu dinner party, so we went to one of our favorite recipes:  “Steamed Cod with Ginger-Garlic Mustard Greens.”  Quick, healthy, and easy (less than 15 minutes), the dish comes from a New York Times recipe, but it doesn’t appear to be online anymore.   The recipe originally calls for flounder, but all of Nashville didn’t seem to have any fresh flounder, so we used Trader Joe’s frozen cod. If fresh flounder was available, we would have preferred that. But alas:

-1 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil

-1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil (optional)

-3 garlic cloves, minced

-1 1-inch-thick slice peeled fresh ginger root, minced

-2 small bunches mustard greens, cleaned, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces

-1 tbsp soy sauce (optional: for drizzling)

-One packet of Trader Joe’s frozen cod (must be defrosted according to packet instructions. Otherwise, the fish will become too soggy.)

-Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

1. Heat oil in a very large skillet (we used a large Le Creuset “French Oven”). Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mustard greens, soy sauce and 3 tbsp water, and saute until greens start to wilt, 2 more minutes.

2. Spread greens out in pan. Season cod with salt and pepper, and place on top of greens. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium, and let fish steam until just cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. If pan dries out before fish is cooked through, add a little more water, a teaspoon at a time.

3. Uncover pan and transfer fish to serving plates. If greens seem wet, turn heat to high to cook off excess moisture. Serve greens on top of fish, drizzled with a little more sesame oil and soy sauce, if desired. (If you forego the sesame oil, some crushed red pepper can add some spice.)

We served this dish with a wild rice blend. In addition, as I was picking up the mustard greens at Harris Teeter, I saw some beautiful, wild, not-yet-frozen shrimp from the East Coast (with head on) for $5.99/lb. So I bought a pound to supplement the fish, in case one Trader Joe’s packet of cod wasn’t enough for four people (I was right). I deheaded and peeled the shrimp, marinated them in Cajun spices, sauteed them in butter with garlic and chives, and served them with the main dish. Our second course was a green salad. All paired with the Lonely Cow (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc. Voila. The total time to cook this entire meal was about 30 minutes.

Post-Xmas Tree Din-Din

December 7, 2009

After purchasing and hauling an Xmas tree into the house, I went to 12th South Tap. Consumed half a dozen oysters and wanted to do some quiet reading. Instead, I was sandwiched between a talkative Jacksonian democrat and a mother-and-daughter duo with pink hair. One of the most interesting and unexpected experiences in the neighborhood.

This left little time for dinner, so we assessed the provisions in the fridge and decided to make some pad thai–akin to the Jasmine’s recipe. Shrimp were from Whole Foods for $7.99/lb.

Now to the tree…