Sunday, April 30, 2017

Simple pasta with tomato sauce

Among the staples I have in my pantry are the makings of a simple tomato sauce which forms the base of many a dish that is not only hearty but yummy. Like spaghetti and meatballs. Lasagna. Even pizza and eggplant parmigiana. When cooking for a few people, I might attempt a more ambitious dish but when I’m cooking for just myself, nothing beats a a bowl of pasta smothered in home-made tomato sauce.

Friday, April 21, 2017

So are you Grace or Frankie?

When the TV series Grace and Frankie premiered, I was already waiting in anticipation to watch it. Now, in its third season, with a fourth already green-lighted, I am an avid fan. Why does it hold so much of my TV viewing attention? Well, that beach house certainly fascinates me. The outfits on those two women, not to mention TV daughter Brianna’s figure hugging power suits, are also yummylicious. But above all, it’s Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in their roles as seventy-something friends who try to navigate their way through their newly single lives and often cantankerous relationship who make the is series so absorbing.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Vietnamese Beef & Rice Vermicelli Salad

I'm always happy to head into a Vietnamese restaurant, whether in Vietnam itself or even further afield in Melbourne or London. Top on my list of favorites is probably beef pho or noodle soup, especially when it's cold and you want a soothing bowl of hot soup. But when the weather gets warmer and I want something lighter and refreshing, nothing beats a huge bowl of Vietnamese beef and rice vermicelli salad, topped with a huge handful of vegetables and herbs and drizzled with a yummy dressing.

Pickled vegetables
I suppose you can substitute the beef with any meat you want, like pork or chicken, but I love the combination of beef with all the salad ingredients. I've eaten it in several Vietnamese restaurants but I thought I'd attempt it myself. After trawling the net for a recipe, I came up with my own version that suits my taste. Like using palm sugar which I had sitting around from a trip to Vietnam. I also decided to lightly dress the carrots, cucumber and daikon radish (after I julienned them) with a bit of salt, sugar and vinegar.

Don't let the long list of ingredients intimidate you. If you prepare everything ahead, it only takes about an hour. Then you just quickly fry up the beef and pile everything in bowls.


For the dipping sauce:
•    2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
•    4 tablespoons lime juice
•    3 tablespoons fish sauce
•    2 garlic cloves, minced
•    1 1-inch length ginger, peeled and minced
•    1 medium chilli, minced
•    1 bird chilli, thinly sliced (optional)

For the stir-fry:
    •    12 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
    •    1 pound beef, sliced in thin 1/4-inch slices
    •    2 tablespoons fish sauce
    •    1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar
    •    3 garlic cloves, minced
    •    3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, tender centers only
    •    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    •    4 scallions, slivered
    •    1 medium carrot,  julienned
    •    1 small cucumber, julienned
    •    1 3-inch length of daikon radish, julienned
    •    Mixture of coriander sprigs, mint leaves, thai basil
    •    Small handful of bean sprouts
    •    4 tablespoons of crushed peanuts

1. In a small bowl, combine sugar, garlic, ginger, chillies and 1/4 cup water and stir together. Let this dipping sauce sit for 15 minutes for flavors to meld. (May be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated.)
2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add rice noodles, stir and turn off heat. Let noodles soften (5 to 8 minutes, depending on brand), then drain and rinse with cold water. Leave in colander at room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, combine beef, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and lemon grass in a bowl. Massage seasoning into beef and let sit for 15 minutes.
4. Divide vermicelli into 4 large bowls.
5. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. When wok is nearly smoking, add beef and quickly stir-fry until lightly browned and just cooked, about 2 minutes. Work in batches if necessary so meat browns and doesn’t steam. (If you do not have a wok, you may use a pan and work in batches.)
6. Top noodles with cooked beef, scallions, bean sprouts, carrot, cucumber and daikon radish. Sprinkle with herbs, and crushed peanuts. Drizzle lightly with dipping sauce and pass remaining sauce at table.

Friday, April 7, 2017

What I learned about love from sex therapist Dr. Ruth

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, better known as the sex therapist Dr. Ruth, is a diminutive 88 year old who is still dispensing down-to-earth advice on sex. She says the best way for older people to have sex is in the morning after a good night’s sleep. Labelled the high priestess of hanky panky, she exudes warmth and sweetness as a grandmother would, so it’s kind of hard to equate her with sex therapy. I didn't learn anything about sex from her. Certainly not when I showed up at her house many, many years ago for Passover!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Cheat’s Crab Curry

I love curries, whether Indian, Malay or even Chinese. Not sure about Japanese though. Chinese chicken curry is great, especially when served with laksa noodles. Nothing beats a fish curry when it’s given a slightly tangy twist. I’m fortunate to be living in a city where all of the above is readily available. I just had a lovely Northern Indian meal last night, redolent with spices, yogurt and naan breads. But I don’t cook curries. I’m defeated by the complex mix of fresh and dried spices, especially when my pantry only has the very basic spices. When recipes call for coriander and cumin seeds to be freshly ground, that’s when I give up and head for my favorite Indian restaurant.