Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vietnamese Coffee

This one's for Jenny who read my favorable comments about In the Vietnamese Kitchen and asked if there were a recipe for coffee.

I haven't tried it, but it looks like a danged good excuse to open a can of condensed milk! For that matter, it's a good reason to pick up a can of Cafe du Monde coffee, which I'm lucky enough to have stores carrying. (One of the perks of being this close to East Texas.)
Coffee and Condensed Milk

An opened can of sweetened condensed milk is a great excuse to indulge in Vietnamese coffee, called ca-phe sua. To create this jolting beverage, brew an inky-strong cup of coffee. Any full-bodied, dark roast will work, although a perennial favorite of Vietnamese Americans is Cafe Du Monde from New Orleans, which contains chicory. Regardless of the coffee, brew it in a regular electric coffeemaker or a stove-top espresso maker. (The small Vietnamese stainless-steel presses are slow and often don't work well.) If you are starting from beans, grind them extrafine to extract the maximum flavor.

Now, put about 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk in a cup. Add about 3/4 cup of your hot, heady brew and stir to combine. Taste and adjust with more milk to your liking, then drink hot as is or pour into an ice-filled glass for a cold version.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chinese Pork with Eggplant and Rice Sticks

Turn Rose loose with a lot of eggplant from our CSA and a recommendation that my Cooking Light cookbooks usually include lots of vegetables in main dishes ... and certainly get a really delicious result for dinner.

She made this a few weeks ago. I loved it so much that I ate leftovers for breakfast ... three days running.

The one change I might make would be to use either thicker pasta or serve it over rice. The rice sticks we had were of angel-hair pasta consistency and didn't mix gracefully with the mixture.

Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2000 (November, pg 278)

1/2 lb boneless pork loin roast
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
Vegetable oil
4 cups eggplant, 1/2 inch cubes (8 oz)
2 cups onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Trim fat from pork; cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Combine salt, pepper, and ground red pepper. Sprinkle pork with pepper mixture.

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and stir-fry until tender. Remove from pan. Add pork, and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add onion; stir-fry until translucent. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, and stir-fry 1 minute. Add broth, vinegar, sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce; bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes. Return eggplant to pan and cook until thoroughly heated.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve over rice sticks, angel hair pasta, or sticky rice.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Burgers with Blue Cheese Mayo and Grilled Onions

I made this this weekend and, since I was using the torn out page from the magazine, thought it was from Fine Cooking. That's how good it was. Imagine my surprise at getting ready to share the recipe here and finding it was from Cooking Light!

These blue cheese burgers with the somewhat charred grilled onion rings were simply fantastic. I actually can't wait to make them again.

I have to admit I used the recipe as inspiration rather than following it to the letter. Although what I did was pretty close. Looking it over, the most variations were to the onions. The recipe was sent in by a reader and you can see it in its entirety at Cooking Light.

I used:
  • Chuck instead of sirloin
  • Hellman's regular mayonnaise instead of a canola version (for all I know it may be made with canola)
  • Dried thyme (have you seen the price of fresh thyme?)
  • Regular onions (if your CSA farmer continually kept bringing onions for weeks, you'd ignore buying special onions too ... plus I'm not that big a sweet onion fan)
  • Onion rings instead of keeping the slices intact. I like my onions fully cooked or fully raw and the idea of those slices just seemed too much in-between ... which would have grossed me out.
  • No marinade of sherry vinegar and fresh thyme for onion slices ... since I wasn't using slices. That might have been a good addition but the rings were charred enough that I was worried they might dissolve a bit.
  • No arugula (I didn't read the recipe carefully enough ... I'm leaving that in because arugula or even a good leaf lettuce would probably have been a fantastic addition)
So here is our version, though I encourage you to click through above to see the real deal.

Burgers with Blue Cheese Mayo and Grilled Onions


1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1 pound ground chuck
1-2 tablespoons oil
1 medium to large onion, cut into fairly thick slices and then turned into rings
4 burger buns
2 cups loosely packed arugula, washed and dried


  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup blue cheese, mayonnaise, thyme, and Tabasco in a small bowl; stir well.
  3. Divide beef into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Sprinkle burgers with salt and pepper.
  4. Toss onion rings with oil and some pepper. 
  5. Place the patties and onions on grill rack. (We use a vegetable rack for onions.) Grill burgers to taste and onions until fairly well cooked and browned on the edges.
  6. Spread cut sides of buns evenly with mayonnaise mixture. Arrange 1/2 cup arugula on bottom half of each bun.
  7. Put a burger on the arugula and top with crispy onion rings.

Rose - The Cook of the House

About three weeks ago, completely frazzled from our huge annual project which takes all waking hours, I assigned Rose the dinner duties for weekdays. She's home for a bit between graduation and heading off to L.A. to seek her fortune in film editing. Other than training the dogs to do tricks (three now know "down", two also know "shake" and all are gradually coming to grips with "fetch), she's been whiling her time away reading Middlemarch and working on screenplay ideas.

She likes to cook but hadn't been expecting this, which began with a phone call (as she reminded me the other day), "Check the freezer for things to use, but you've got to make dinner tonight. And the rest of the week."

Rose rose nobly to the challenge. I don't remember what she pulled together for that evening, but she has been planning weekly meals that reminded me of the joy that can be had preparing and consuming meals when you go beyond the same old thing. 

I have to admit that  "same old thing" is what I'd been doing for too long. I believe that most people who are responsible for daily meals every day of the week will know what I'm talking about.

Rose, however, faced different problems when in college. She had little time, little money, and few people to consume what she was interested in making. She has had all those deficits filled in our family where I give her my debit card, add my weekend cooking items to her grocery list, and where all four of us either appreciatively enjoy the meal OR laugh together over the failure of the recipe. I hasten to add that in each case the failure has definitely been in the recipe writing or testing, not in Rose's skill in cooking.

The biggest change for me is that Rose's fearlessness in trying whatever looks interesting has rekindled my interest in cooking is returning to enjoying the process and experimenting more. It is becoming more of a joy than a chore.

Also, I painlessly lost three pounds because Rose incorporates so many vegetables in every meal and I'm not tasting while cooking all the time. Something to take note of for my full-time return to the kitchen!

I will be sharing some of the recipes that I've been trying and my favorites of those that Rose has served.