Vietnamese Vermicelli Beef Salad

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This is one of my favorite quickie weeknight meals.  The only tedious part is chopping up all the veggies (which I do in a big batch and keep in separate containers so I have enough to last me for lunches later on in the week), but this takes about as long as it does for the beef to brown, so if you do those two things at the same time, you’re golden.

My favorite veggies to use are the following, but any crunchy, colorful vegetable will do:

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • lettuce
  • radishes/daikon
  • fresh herbs: cilantro, mint, Thai basil

Slice up the cucumbers very thin, and shred the carrots and daikon in the Cuisinart to save some time.  Boil some water and pour it over a handful of vermicelli rice noodles in a bowl, let that sit for about 5 minutes, then drain the water and let the noodles cool.

In the meantime, brown 1 pound of ground beef in a skillet, and once the pink is gone but the meat still has some moisture in it, pour in some Le’s Kitchen stir fry sauce, then continue to cook until liquid has evaporated and beef is slightly crispy.

As this is finishing up, make the dressing by whisking the following together in a bowl:

  • 4T brown sugar
  • 3T rice vinegar
  • 4T lime juice
  • 2 pressed garlic cloves
  • 1 inch minced ginger
  • 2 minced chiles (jalapeno, green bird, etc.) or 1T chili paste

To assemble the bowl:

Put a handful of the vermicelli noodles in the bottom of the bowl.  Then, arrange all the veggies in little pods around the circumference.  Put a big spoonful of the beef right in the middle, sprinkle with herbs, fried shallots, and crushed peanuts, and then pour a healthy dose of the dressing over the top.

Thai Beef Salad

 



Super Simple Ramen

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http://sixdollarsaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/glazed-chili-tofu-with-ramen.jpg

I added chopped oyster mushrooms, upped the amount of broth and water because this was way too salty (and not enough broth to make the size batch I wanted).  I cooked 2 bundles of soba noodles separately, and spooned the broth over them in the bowls immediately before serving.

For the tofu, I pan-fried thin slices in our blue steel skillet for a few minutes, then put the whole thing in the oven at 400 degrees until the edges started to brown.  Then I spooned the chili sauce (doubled the quantity) over each slice and let it bake a few minutes longer, added to the bowls at the end.


Nuoc Cham for Vermicelli Noodle Bowls

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Assemble a bright and colorful bowl with vermicelli rice noodles, a salty, caramelized protein, the brightest, crunchiest vegetables you have on hand, and this sauce poured over top immediately before eating; then top with crushed peanuts.

  1. Combine 4T brown sugar, 3T rice vinegar, 4T lime juice; stir to dissolve
  2. Add 4T fish sauce, 2 garlic cloves, 1 inch minced ginger, 1 medium chile, 1/2c water
  3. Let sit 15 minutes for flavors to meld

Kung Pao Stir Fry Sauce

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From Bon Appetit’s Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts

  1. Mix cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. water in a small bowl until smooth.
  2. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add 3 garlic cloves and 2T ginger and cook, stirring often, until garlic is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add 2T chili paste and cook, stirring, until darkened, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add 6 dried (crushed) chiles de arbol, 1/2c soy sauce, 3T sugar, 2t rice vinegar, and ½ cup water and bring to a boil
  5. Stir in cornstarch slurry. Simmer, stirring, until sauce coats spoon, about 2 minutes.
  6. Let cool slightly and toss with your stir-fry!





Burger Week

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Burger Week is kind of a big deal in Portland.  It’s this one week in August where about 20 local restaurants feature one crazy-ass burger, like this or this or this, for only $5, and it lasts for exactly one week.  Last year, we only made it to one of the spots, Foster Burger, on the very last night (also the day our little Tuckaluck was born!).  This year we had grand plans to hit up at least three or four — and I had made my shortlist of the ones I was the most excited about.

Alas, this happened to be the third week in a row that Jesse was pulling double headers at work — finishing up at his regular job site around 5, and then heading over to a second house in Southeast to put in an extra 3 hours fixing up a new house for one of his longstanding clients.  I rode the coattails of his work stamina and stayed at the shop until 7 or 8 each night myself, finally catching up on all the multitudes of postponed projects on my own list from this busy summer.

Needless to say, the last thing either of us wanted to do at the end of our day was go wait in line and fight over the last of one of these burgers as they were about to sell out — which apparently was happening left and right this go-round, as Burger Week has gained such an insane following.

But, that’s not to say burgers weren’t on our brains.  In my regular routine (that is to say, when we’re not in summer crazy-town mode of camping every weekend, barbecuing and bluegrassing every night, biking home along the Springwater Corridor at 3:30 in the morning blasting the playlist from my recent half-marathon), I like to read Sunset and Bon Appetit whenever I’m eating alone, take photos of whatever recipes I want to try, and then each Sunday, go through this foodie to-do list and plan my menu for the week.

Usually, it’s heavily influenced by what I know we already have in the freezer, or the perfect way to use up that leftover half-can of plum tomatoes that’s about to go bad, or the fact that this week’s produce run was at Fubonn, the gigantic Asian market, instead of at our nearby farm stand.  Mondays are reserved for errands and appointments, and that’s when I can always swing by Safeway and pick up anything random or extra that might make or break that recipe I really want to make.  Like pistachios.

So it was no surprise that, during this week’s rifling through of recipes, these pistachio-lamb-beef burgers caught my eye.

I’ve never actually made burgers before, but these seemed different enough to warrant an attempt.  The recipe called for some Arabic spices I didn’t have, but I’ve cooked enough Mediterranean food to figure out some good substitutions.  So, into the Cuisinart:

  • 1/2 cup salted pistachios
  • half a large white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. each ground beef and ground lamb
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp baharat (I used dried harissa instead)
  • 1 tbsp aleppo pepper (I went in a different direction and threw in a handful of basil from the garden, and a handful of crumbled feta)
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper

cuisinart

That one egg white killed me though — what am I going to do with a single remaining yolk??  Well, as it turns out, I’m going to try making my first ever mayonnaise, as that was all that this simple recipe, discovered through a quick Google search, called for in the egg department.

mayo

homemade mayo

But, to this recipe I also added a pressed clove of garlic, chopped fresh mint from the garden, and a dash of sumac powder, yielding a complex and Middle Eastern-inspired aioli.

aioli

That was totally the right call.

I wanted my burgers bunless, but I knew Jesse would want some sort of bread to make it a true burger, so I had grabbed some whole wheat buns from TJ’s and toasted them up for him.

Jesse didn’t get home from work that night until about 8:45, which seemed a little late to fire up the grill, but he convinced me that these would be better in our brand new hand-forged Blu Skillet from the recent Urban Craft Uprising.

And so that’s what we did.

Chopped up some veggies to dress it with…

veggies

greens

And made a super simple salad: a 50/50 mix of two bagged greens I’d picked up the other day (cruciferous greens and arugula) and coated them with a splash each of olive oil, orange muscat champagne vinegar, and my favorite Friends Forever salt.

salad

Oh, and to top it off, we’d gone out to eat at the Hawthorne Hophouse the other night, and I took home almost an entire serving of their garlic parmesan fries when their happy hour grilled chicken caesar proved filling enough.  So I reheated those in the convection oven (which does a surprisingly good job with fries) and split them between us.

And all of a sudden we had ourselves some serious burgers.

burgers

Jesse loved them the night of, but what really made my heart melt was the next day when he texted me from his lunch break and, while eating them as leftovers (he even brought a miniature Tupperware of the aioli with him to work), he disclosed to me over text that “This may be my new favorite burger! :D”  That is high praise, coming from this guy.