lettuce

Sweet or savory, most countries have their own style of making pancakes. I really like the Vietnamese version, bánh xèo. This recipe is especially interesting because it utilizes two ingredients very common on our table in a totally different way: rice and beans, a favorite combination on this blog. See what I mean here.

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes with leaft lettuces, mint etc. in the afternoon sunlight

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes with leafy lettuces, mint etc. in the afternoon sunlight

I’ve often seen this with shrimp or pork. (I used fish sauce in the spicy dipping sauce, otherwise this would be vegan.) Omitting these two still delivers a pancake packed with delicious flavor. I’ve adapted this bánh xèo from two sources: flavor explosions and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. It didn’t come out as crisply as I expected, probably due to me limited experience in this art. Nevertheless these were divine.

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes

For the batter:

½ cup hulled mung beans, soaked for 2h, drained and then steamed till soft and cooled down
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups rice flour
½ cup corn starch
2 cups water
1 tsp kosher salt
¾ tsp turmeric powder
4 whole scallions, chopped

For the stuffing:

I lb mung bean sprouts
1 shallot, chopped
Canola oil
1 pack enoki mushrooms, stems discarded

For the salad condiments:

Any sweet lettuce, mint leaves, cilantro, chives, mung bean sprouts all undressed

For the spicy dipping sauce:

1 serrano pepper, seeds and ribs partially removed, chopped and slightly crushed
1 tsp chili garlic sauce (Túong Ót Tói Viet-Nam)
2 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp water
5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 limes
1 large fresh clove garlic peeled and smashed

Place sugar, water, vinegar, fish sauce, Serrano pepper, chili sauce and juice of one lime in a small pot. Warm on stovetop until sugar just melts. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Add juice of second lime, and garlic.

Next prepare the filling. Sauté shallot in one table spoon of canola oil until translucent, add mung bean sprout and cook briefly just to wilt them a bit. Sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

To make the batter, place cooked and cooled mung beans, salt, turmeric powder, and coconut milk in food processor and whiz until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Add water, rice flour, corn starch and whisk to combine. Mix in scallions. Adjust consistency if too thick with a bit more water.

Add one tablespoon canola oil to a non-stick skillet on high heat. Let it warm up. Depending on the diameter of the pan, ladle in one or two scoops of batter. Spread batter evenly on surface of pan, add some mushrooms so tips are showing on the edge of one side of the pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes, until border is crispy. Flip with a spatula and cook for another minute, flip back again, add a bit of sautéed mung bean sprouts and fold it to shape into half moon. Repeat process with rest of the batter.

Serve the pancakes and salad with spicy dipping sauce.

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This tuna roll-up takes me back to memories of one of my first jobs in America. It’s been about 20 years now: gosh time flies by so fast! Then I managed a miniscule and extremely busy coffee shop located in the Murray Hill area of Manhattan on 3rd Avenue. We served gourmet coffee (before Starbucks invaded) and an impressive array of pastries and breads, which we carefully selected from numerous vendors. These were delivered fresh from different bakeries in town and sometimes even beyond the isle. We also made excellent sandwiches, salads and soups.

grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

Maggie, one of the owners, was in charge of the recipes. She would come up with creatively new ideas for the food borrowing from ethnic cuisines from around the world. Just like on this blog, we featured new things all the time. It was very cool watching how surprised and delighted our clients got when spotting the next hit on display at the shop.

The hoisin chicken roll-up was an instant sensation. We served lots of them for months and the demand never slackened. Plus, as an added bonus, they were super-duper simple to make. Last week for a quick and easy dinner, I prepared this pescatarian version at home using wild tuna steaks I got from our favorite fish monger west of Manhattan 😉

key ingredients for grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

key ingredients for grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

Hoisin sauce is sweet, a bit sour and salty, so the cool cucumber and veggies break some of the saltiness. The more veggies the better here, so pile them high.

grilled tuna roll-ups with hoisin sauce

1 lb wild caught tuna steak
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Lemon juice
8 kirby cucumbers
1 head of lettuce
5 whole scallions
½ bunch cilantro
2 sheets Lavash bread
Hoisin sauce
1 tsp ground fresh ginger

Set grill to 500F. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of tuna, rub olive oil around steak. Grill for 3½ minutes, flip and cook for another 3 minutes on the other side. Remove from grill, sprinkle with a few drops of lemon, cover with aluminum foil or plastic film and let it cool. Cut into strips.

Meanwhile, wash and spin dry lettuce, scallions and cilantro. I used a salad spinner. Chop scallions and cilantro, but keep lettuce leaves whole.

Cut top off each cucumber and rub top against it to extract the bitterness. Partially peel cucumbers and soak them in cold water for about 5 minutes. Drain, pat dry and cut into spears.

ready to roll!

ready to roll!

Lay one Lavash bread on counter top. Squeeze hoisin sauce over it. On one end of lavash bread pile several leaves of lettuce, cucumber spears, scallions , cilantro, ginger and strips of tuna, roll it and cut in half. Repeat process for another sandwich. Serve.

The tuna steak was way too big for us eat so we shared some with Clarence, which he devoured with gusto.

Clarence waiting for some tuna

Clarence waiting for some tuna

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kiwi fennel ceviche

by Heguiberto on February 1, 2011

Last Saturday we practiced a day of casual hedonism. It was one of those typical rainy and cold ones that drearily says “winter” in San Francisco. Not to be put out by Mother Nature’s uncooperativeness, my work friend, Chris, joined us for an afternoon of wine tasting, then cooking at home, more drinking, and watching re-runs of Star Trek and Star Wars movies over a large platter of last minute nachos until 2AM. Who needs sunshine to have fun?

kiwi fennel ceviche

kiwi fennel ceviche

We started at our favorite wine store, K&L. They were featuring wines from the Rhône in France. The event showcased delicious reds from Châteauneuf to Cornas to Côte Rotie to Hermitage. We had lots of fun and it was easier than an afternoon trip to France 😉 Afterward, we were hungry so went shopping at a couple of places for sardines, clams, French cheese and pasta for an early dinner.

We munched on the cheeses for a while as we sipped some of the K&L treasures we had brought home. Then it was time to get serious in the kitchen. I cleaned and fried the sardines, made linguine with little neck clams in white wine sauce and this kiwi fennel ceviche.

This light, aromatic and very flavorful salad is fish-free, so this is only “ceviche” in the sense that it is marinated in citrus. It was a snap to make, looked lovely and tasted even better.

kiwi fennel ceviche

2 small fennel bulbs, sliced paper thin using a mandolin
½ small white onion, sliced paper thin then rinsed in cold water
5 grape tomatoes, halved
1 lemon, juiced
1 large kiwi, peeled and sliced
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ tsp sugar
lettuce or endive leaves (to serve)

Toss all ingredients together with exception of kiwi. Let salad macerate at room temperature for about ½ hour. Serve individual portions on top of lettuce leaves and top with slices of kiwi. It is a very refreshing salad.

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yummy wakame salad

by Heguiberto on December 31, 2010

yummy wakame salad

yummy wakame salad

I completely agree with the post on girlie girl army about sea veggies. She claims that sea vegetables are overlooked in terms of taste and nutritional value, at our loss. Here’s what she writes:

Sea vegetables contain high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, iodine, chlorophyll, enzymes and fiber and offer more vitamins and minerals per ounce than any other food and are one of nature’s richest sources of proteins, having up to 48% of plant-based protein! Sea vegetables are also high in vitamin b-12, which is usually only found in animal-based sources and is responsible for regulating the central nervous system and blood cell production. Ounce per ounce, they are higher in vitamins and nutritional value that almost any other food!

I didn’t need any convincing because I adore sea veggies. They just have that marvelous oceanic flavor you can’t get anywhere else. When I eat sea vegetables I literally feel I am getting a slice of the ocean. Plus they’re good for you! Eat more sea vegetables! On that note here’s a simple, delicious recipe for a salad made of reconstituted wakame and lettuce:

dried wakame

dried wakame

yummy wakame salad

40g. dried wakame (I get mine at Nijiya Market)
1 small head lettuce, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
1 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp light shoyu (soy sauce)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp pan roasted white sesame seeds
red pepper flakes to taste

Place wakame in a large bowl and cover with about 2 pints of water. Let it re-hydrate for about 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and squeeze as much water out as you can. Transfer to a serving bowl with lettuce.

Meanwhile to make the dressing add mirin, shoyu, rice vinegar, sugar and toasted sesame oil to a jar, cover with a lid and shake to combine. Taste. It should have a pleasant salty, briny, tart, sweet and toasty flavor. Add more of any ingredient if needed. Toss with wakame and lettuce. Sprinkle with pepper flakes and sesame seeds.

I made a similar Japanese sea vegetable inspired salad before check it out here

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Japanese inspired "sea vegetable" salad

I prepared this Japanese inspired salad with home-cured gravlax and white rice. The gravlax had dill and was Swedish inspired. The “sea vegetable” salad was Japanese inspired. Despite being from two far distant culinary traditions, they seemed to match well together. Perhaps because they’re both “ocean foods?”

This salad is easy to make and would be just fine served alone, with rice, miso soup or fish.

Japanese inspired “sea vegetable” salad

½ head lettuce
½ head frisée
A few strands dry wakame sea vegetable
½ English cucumber, cut into thin slices
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 ½ tbsp rice vinegar
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp black toasted sesame seeds
Togarashi(shichimi) dry pepper mix
Kosher salt

Boil 4 cups of water, remove from heat, add wakame and let it re-hydrate for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Cut into strips.

we use this brand of wakame

Slice cucumber thinly. Sprinkle with salt and let it sweat at room temperature for about half hour. Rinse it in plenty of cold water. Set aside.

Tear lettuce and frisée into bite size pieces and place them into a bowl. Add wakame, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar and toss with your hands. Taste and adjust flavors. Top with cucumber slices, black sesame seeds and a sprinkle of togarashi pepper mix. This salad has a delicious sea,sweet, tangy and smoky flavor.

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I skip the salad dressing aisle!

by Heguiberto on September 21, 2009

fig salad with homemade vinaigrette

fig salad with homemade vinaigrette

When I go to supermarkets I always skip the salad dressing aisle. I have tried a few pre-made dressings before. However I never found anything I like. It’s not about the price, which often does seem too much for what you’re getting. To me store bought salad dressing never looks or tastes ‘natural.’ It has strange colors, tastes too sweet, and, boy, can they add a bit more guar-gum to make it even slimier? I look at it and all I can think of is the mucus that slugs secrete…slugs in my lettuce. Yuck!

I wonder if people have forgotten the magic of a simple vinaigrette, made with a good olive oil, along with fresh black pepper, garlic, salt and vinegar or some lemon juice? This is so easy to make; it’s fresher and leaner and really tastes good. And it comes with the added advantage of having no chemical ingredients!
Oh well, I think I might be biased against store-bought salad dressing. Maybe it’s from my childhood? One advantage of growing up in the country is that we had plenty of organic tasty lettuces, herbs and a lemon tree right in the backyard. That tree bore fruit year around. And since everyone was friendly in that small town, when we didn’t have our own vegetables, our neighbors allowed us to “shop” in their backyards too. It was fun. Each neighbor sort of specialized in one or another kind of vegetable or herb, so we could trade sometimes.

But even now, living in the City, I prefer to eat my salads with pretty much the same way as when I was a kid. All you need really is a few basics: salt and black pepper, olive oil, vinegar (red wine vinegar is my favorite), lemons or limes if you like and fresh greens. Of course you can mix it up and get creative with other seasonal produce, olives, capers, canned or grilled tuna, etc. The only limit to it is your own imagination.

I do think it makes sense to stick with ingredients that are in season. They often taste better, tend to travel less and are generally cheaper. Last week we bought two pints of mission figs grown right here in sunny California. It’s the height of fig season so they were bursting with flavor. We ate a bunch of them straight and put the last three in this super uncomplicated salad.

Ingredients:

Salad

3 fresh figs cut into thin slices
1 head of red Boston lettuce or a bunch mesclun, cleaned thoroughly
Several slices of fresh red onion, rinsed in cold water

Dressing

Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (my favorite’s Regina brand)
2-3 tbsp Arbequina olive oil
2-3 tbsp water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

How to:
Place dressing ingredients at the bottom of a large bowl, add onion and fig slices. Give it a quick mix then let stand for about 1 minute. Add lettuce and toss. Serve it right away.

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romaine and habas grandes salad ready to eat

romaine and habas grandes salad ready to eat

I love Goya canned Spanish products and always keep my pantry stocked with some of their olives, capers and beans. In the bean department they have a wide range of choices. I especially like their habas grandes (also called butter or lima beans) which inevitably end up as an ingredient in my salads. These beans have a creamy texture with a nutty, buttery flavor. They pair very well with olive oil and vinegar. I love it! The literal translation for habas grandes would be ‘big fava beans’ but this is a misnomer. This bean has nothing to do with fava beyond having a similar size and shape. The taste is completely different.

Habas grandes originally come from Peru. They were introduced to Europe by the Spanish. I guess that Europeans just weren’t that creative in bean naming so couldn’t come up with anything better than calling the thing ‘fava.’ This led to further bean confusion and chaos and, well, the rest is history!

That said, the haba grande, or the ‘big New World fava,’ sometimes also known as the butter or lima bean really makes this salad pop visually and in taste and nutrition.

can of Goya brand habas grandes

can of Goya brand habas grandes

Romaine Lettuce with Habas Grandes Salad

Ingredients:

1 ½ romaine lettuce hearts, roughly shredded by hand
1 can of habas grandes, rinsed
1 small onion, sliced and soaked in cold water for approx 5 minutes, then rinsed
4 sprigs of parsley, roughly chopped
Salt
Pepper
1 tbsp capers
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp water
4 tbsp olive oil

How to:

Add sliced onion to a bowl followed by salt, vinegar, olive oil, water, pepper, parsley and capers. Mix and let stand for a few minutes. This will mellow the onion flavor. Add beans and romaine. Toss by hand until dressing is incorporated. Taste to adjust salt.

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