Sunday, June 29, 2014

Grilled Asian Chicken Salad and Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Nancy on the left, Kim on the right

One of the things I really enjoy is volunteering for an organization called Assistance League®.  It supports several different philanthropic programs; the largest one provides under-served children with new clothing and school & hygiene supplies. It is totally funded by grants and donations and $0.82 out of every dollar raised goes to the people it serves.  Besides working directly in the programs, I also help with public relations.  Although there are several people on the photography committee, three of us which seem to take the lion's share of the photos. Kim, Nancy, and I strive to do the best we can, but honestly, they are the "A Team" and I'm second string. They let me tag along with them and we have had some pretty hilarious times together. Once we had to choose fabric backdrop for some formal shots. The resulting shenanigans of me holding it up, Kim trying to capture the color on camera, and Nancy photo bombing the scene, had me laughing so hard, tears were actually streaming down my face. Kim is a fabulous cook and she specializes in Vietnamese dishes.  Last spring the three of us were photographing a huge event, and she brought us delicious banh mi and goi cuon since we were not going to be able to take time out for dinner.  If that wasn't enough, she also gave us small French presses and chicory coffee to make Vietnamese iced coffee which is absolutely scrumptious.  The French press and chicory coffee can be purchased on Amazon, and I included the directions for making it in this post - but strong coffee or a shot of espresso could be substituted for them.  Until I can get Kim to do a guest post, I have been getting my Asian food fix with the recipe included here for grilled chicken.  I served it to Allison and her friends last week on top of a salad with peanut sauce and Asian dressing and they just loved it.   

Directions for Vietnamese Iced Coffee

1.  Gather together the French press, 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, 1 heaping tablespoon chicory coffee, 1 empty iced tea type glass, 1 iced tea glass filled with ice, and an iced tea spoon. 

2.  Put 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed mild in empty glass. 

3. Take the top off the french press and unscrew and lift off the press attachment. Put the heaping tablespoon of coffee in the bottom of the press.


4. Replace the press attachment and screw it back down, but not too tightly.

5.  Place the metal saucer on top of the glass with the sweetened condensed milk in it. Place the french press on top of that. Pour boiling water up to the rim and put the top on.

6. Let all the water drip through the press.

7.  Use the iced tea spoon to mix the coffee and sweetened condensed milk together.

8. When it is all combined, pour it over the ice in the other glass.

Asian Grilled Chicken

Ingredients and Directions:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Mix together soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, and sesame oil and marinate the chicken breasts in the mixture for about 20 minutes at room room temperature. (If longer, put in the refrigerator.)  Grill over medium low heat, about 10 minutes per side.  Let sit at least 5 minutes before slicing on the bias to place on salad.

Salad Ingredients and Dressing for Four:

1 head napa cabbage
1 cup match stick sliced carrots
1 medium sized cucumber sliced thin
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup match stick sliced jicama
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

Ingredients for Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon honey

Toss the salad ingredients together in a bowl.  Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour just enough of it over the salad to lightly coat.

Peanut-Sesame Sauce - from The Working Mother Cookbook
1 clove garlic, put through a press
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons reduced sodium sou sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup very hot water
Blend or food process all the ingredients together.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Asado Argentino

A couple of weeks ago we were thrilled when our friends from Argentina, Lucas and Sergio, were able to visit and give us the gift of an Argentine cookout.  They were here in the United States to present a paper at a symposium in Chicago, so when the conference was over they journeyed just a bit more to visit us.  Lucas and Sergio grill out just about every weekend when the weather is good; it's an Argentine tradition.  Roy, Allison, and I took them to a huge carniceria or meat market.  The grill guys were excited to find cuts of meat similar to what they were used to back in Buenos Aires and we bought 20 pounds. When we got back home, Sergio started to prepare the fire with Lucas as his assistant.  No gas grills for these two! Sergio used straw and crumpled up newspaper to get logs going, which in turn got the charcoal to just the right temperature.  The rule here is low and slow with the thinner cuts of meat getting done first. I can't show you one photo of a beautiful plate with all the dishes we sampled because the food eaten at an asado is served in stages as it gets done. The first course is usually grilled provoleta or provolone cheese served with bread and olives. Next comes the first meat to be done, chorizo sausages, which are served with chimichurri sauce. I love chimichurri with steak, but Argentines usually serve this cilantro/parsley mixture with the sausage. The rest of the meat is served as it gets done along with ensalada Rusa, a potato salad with peas and carrots, and grilled vegetables. We also had grilled (I used the gas grill for these - gasp!) peppers with an egg cooked inside them. Often a simple salad of lettuce, carrots, onion, and maybe tomatoes is sometimes also served.  Lucas and Sergio like just a squeeze of lemon for salad dressing. We loved this relaxed style of eating and entertaining; it's conducive to great conversations and strengthening of friendships.  Thank you Sergio and Lucas for sharing this with us!

The Meat

The only seasoning Lucas and Sergio used was a bit of coarse salt. They explained the cuts of meat to me as costilla de vaca y puerco (beef and pork ribs), lomo de cerdo (pork loin), chorizo de puerco (pork sausage), and diezmillo (thin chuck steak). Sergio used our two portable fire pits and a shovel to keep moving the charcoal around so he could get the fire at just the right temperature. Sergio said he had taken an active part in asados since he was 16 - even before he could drive!  For the men in Argentina, tending to the cooking of the meat in an asado is truly an art! The chorizo and the thin chuck steak were done first.  Next came the pork and beef ribs. Finally the pork loin was done.


1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup diced red onion
4 garlic cloves, put through press
2 to 4 small Serrano peppers (depends on how much kick desired)
2 tablespoon diced red bell pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Seed and finely dice the peppers and set aside.  Put the cilantro and the parsley in a food processor.  Add the vinegar and olive oil and blend just until the herbs are roughly chopped. Avoid turning them into mush.  Transfer the herb mixture to a bowl and stir in the pressed garlic, diced Serrano, diced red bell pepper, and the oregano.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Marinated Olives

1 (15 oz.) can of whole pitted black olives
1 (10 oz.) jar of whole green olives stuffed with pimiento
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar (red wine vinegar is a substitute)
2 garlic cloves put through a press
2 teaspoons dried rosemary (or a couple sprigs of fresh)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Gently combine all the ingredients together.  Serve at room temperature but store in refrigerator.

Grilled Provolone Cheese

1 large, thick sliced piece of aged provolone cheese
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano or a spring of fresh herbs
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
loaf or baguette of good bread

Wrap the bread in foil. Brush both sides of the cheese with the olive oil.  Rub in the herbs and red pepper flakes (I did not use the red pepper flakes) or lay the fresh herbs on top. Place in a oven safe dish and heat on the covered grill five minutes or until melted and spreadable. Heat the foil wrapped bread on the grill at the same time. (I used some aged provolone cheese that was sliced over an inch thick. Initially, I threw it right on the grill because I was hoping for grill marks.  I did get some indentations, but had to pull the cheese off and put it in a foil pie pan because I could see it was just going to melt through the slats.) Everyone loved this and I ended up grilling three hunks of cheese.

ensalada Rusa

4 medium russet potatoes
1 (10 oz.) package of frozen peas
4 medium sized carrots
3 to 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Open the package of frozen peas and pour them out in a bowl.  Set them aside, they will thaw during the rest of the preparation time.  Peel the potatoes and cut each into 4 to 6 chunks for cooking. Place in a pot and cover with water.  Cook over high heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and cook for about 5 minutes more or until a fork can pierce them easily. They need to be soft but not mushy.  When they are done, drain them and run very cold water over them to stop the cooking process and cool them down. Cut them into smaller, bite sized squares and place them in the bowl with the peas. Peel the carrots and slice them.  Put them in a pan and cover with water.  Cook over high heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and cook for about 5 more minutes or until a fork can pierce each carrot piece easily. Drain them and run cold water over them as well, then transfer them to the potato/pea bowl. Sprinkle the vinegar, salt, and pepper over the vegetables.  Gently mix in just enough of the mayonnaise to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Grilled Vegetables

1 medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow summer squash
1 large red onion
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper for sprinkling
good balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and red onion into 1/2 inch slices.  Core and seed the peppers and cut them in half.  Brush both sides of all the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium heat, 5 minutes per side. Cut the peppers into smaller pieces. Place on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Eggs in Grilled Peppers

1 bell pepper for every two people
1 egg for every bell pepper half
olive oil
garlic, put through a press, about 1 clove for 4 pepper halves
1 tablespoon shredded mozzarella cheese for each pepper half

Core, seed, and cut each pepper in half.  Brush both sides with olive oil.  Place cut side down on medium heated covered grill and cook for 5 minutes or until the pepper is softening.  Flip the peppers over and brush each inside with the pressed garlic.  Sprinkle each one with 1 tablespoon of mozzarella cheese.  Crack an egg into each one.  Cover the grill and cook about 5 more minutes or until the egg is set.  Later, Sergio told me the cheese is usually sprinkled on top as well.

Happy Grilling!