Monthly Archives: May 2015

Vietnamese Food, Anyone?

Chayote

Chayote~ they come in white and green

We have a real passion for Vietnamese food, in this house. Usually, we go out to eat it, and if we’re hungry and there happens to be a pho house around, we are almost sure to go in and try it. We usually order the same thing too, just so we can compare and contrast. I go for the green papaya salad, and Monty goes for lemon grass chicken or shrimp vermicelli. We have a couple of favorite places, such as Super Pho, which is one of our favorites. Let me show you a few examples:

Summer rolls are de rigueur for appetizers

Summer rolls are de rigueur for appetizers

I have a real passion for peanut sauce, too.

 

The best green papaya salad… how I love it

The best green papaya salad… how I love it

 

Lemon grass shrimp… get those chopsticks ready

Lemon grass shrimp… get those chopsticks ready

 

As you can see, all of this food looks super-light, healthy and refreshing. Now that you understand that we have a passion for this cuisine, you’ll understand why I’d be interested in learning a bit about learning how to cook some of this, myself.

I’m very lucky in this, on two counts. The first count is that Monty works with someone who grows chayote on his property, and last year he gave us a few. I had no idea what to do with it, so I ended up making a Mexican-stye soup with it. (Chayote sounds Mexican, doesn’t it?) Well, I did learn something, after I cooked that, and here’s where the second count of luck comes in.

I have a very, dear Vietnamese friend name Jess. When she saw my post last year, she got excited because her mom used to make chayote for her—so in her eyes, it’s comfort food! As I’ve found out, it is Mexican, but as it turns out, it is also very popular in Asian cuisine. The good about this food is that it’s very low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. It’s also a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium and potassium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, zinc, copper and manganese. That’s a lot of nutrition for a little squash! There isn’t much of a bad about this food, except that it excretes a sticky substance while peeling it,  that can feel a bit odd… almost like the feeling of superglue. The sensation can last a few hours, but I promise that it’s harmless.

Now, I’ll give you another warning: This recipe is not hard and fast, which means if you want to try this, you’ll need a brave heart. I did make this last week for dinner, mainly because I wanted to get a feel for the recipe. Jess tells me that the usual ratio is 2 chayote/1 egg. I was hungry for eggs so I used 2 chayote/2eggs… no regrets here! Today, I made it for lunch, and I truly enjoyed it. It’s very easy to throw together, and delicious. Another warning to the brave: this recipe uses fish sauce. A lot of people are put off by the smell when they first open a bottle, but I promise you that it won’t taste like you think it will. Fish sauce is a very common ingredient in Vietnamese, Thai and Filipino cuisines. Adding the lime and sugar to the condiment really changes the flavor, and give it the “umami” flavor that is so treasured in these recipes.

What I will do is give you the measurements that I used today for lunch. It was all I ate, so consider this two portions, if you are serving something else with it, such as rice or a salad.

Very few ingredients are needed for this

Very few ingredients are needed for this

What you’ll need:

1 Tablespoon cooking oil (I used olive)
3-4 green onions, chopped into long pieces about 2 inches long (you’ll want to use the green ends)
2 chayote, peeled and ends chopped off and discarded (you’ll want to discard the seed, too)
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed  lime juice
2 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper

Prep the fish sauce condiment to have it ready. Simply mix the fish sauce, lime and sugar in a small bowl.

Slice the chayote

Slice the chayote

Slice the peeled and seeded chayote.

 

Add the chayote to the green onions

Add the chayote to the green onions

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the green onions for a minute or so, then add in the chayote and allow to cook. I liked mine just when it became soft. Add in the fish sauce/sugar/lime condiment and continue to cook for another minute.

 

Add eggs

Add eggs

Drop the eggs in, one at a time.

 

Stir the eggs into the chayote

Stir the eggs into the chayote

Stir the eggs into the chayote and cook stirring, until the whites become solid.

 

Add pepper

Add pepper

When eggs are cooked, add pepper and serve.

 

Serve

Serve

What could be simpler?

 

Makes an easy lunch

Makes an easy lunch

This makes a super, easy lunch or a nice, light supper.

 

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit, and thank you, Jess!

 

 

Quick & Easy Tortilla Soup

This is perhaps the Mexican equivalent of the American "tomato soup and grilled cheese"… try it for lunch one day.

This is perhaps the Mexican equivalent of the American “tomato soup and grilled cheese”… try it for lunch one day.

Now that Cinco de Mayo just kind of sneaked up on me, I figure I’d best do something quick and easy. Since I just made some fairly complicated enchiladas a couple of weeks ago, I have something much easier to make.

My tortilla soup is a wonderful, tomato-based soup that can be made as spicy or as mild as you like, just by changing out the jalapeños for a hotter pepper. I’ve made this with chicken broth, but you can also easily go vegan by using vegetable, instead.

Tomatillos! They are very interesting looking, too.

Tomatillos! They are very interesting looking, too.

 

The only ingredients that you might have trouble finding are the tomatillos, but if you look hard enough, you should be able to find them.

Quick & easy, here we go~

1 white onion, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced (or any spicier pepper, if you desire)
5 tomatillos, diced
1 4-oz can diced green chiles
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth or stock
2 teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon chile powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
kernels from 2 ears of corn
tortilla strips (make them from corn tortillas~ I’ll tell you how)
cilantro for garnish, and/or plain yogurt, avocado

 

Fresh corn makes it better

Fresh corn makes it better

Cut corn like this… it's so much easier

Cut corn like this… it’s so much easier

 

In a large pot, cook onion on low heat, until onions caramelize. Add in the jalapeño peppers, tomatillos, and diced green chiles and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Pour in the chicken broth, stirring to mix. Add in the cumin, chile powder and cayenne. Cook for 45 minutes, then turn of heat and allow to cool for a bit.

When soup has cooled, whir with an immersion blender to liquify the solid ingredients. Add in the corn kernels and cook on medium heat for about 30 more minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tortilla strips. Preheat the oven to 400º F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with cooking spray. Thinly slice the tortillas (make as many as you like!) into strips and place in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Cut the tortillas into strips

Cut the tortillas into strips

Spray again and put into the oven. Give them a stir after about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with some salt and stir again.

Baked tortilla strips

Baked tortilla strips

Remove from oven when they are golden brown and crispy, about another 5 minutes.

Tortilla strips~ have the ready to sprinkle on the soup

Tortilla strips~ have them ready to sprinkle on the soup

 

When the soup is ready, garnish with some cilantro and the tortilla chips, and maybe some plain yogurt and avocado.

Easy Mexican Tortilla Soup

Easy Mexican Tortilla Soup

Serves 4.

 

Salad and a quesadilla are great options to serve with the soup

Salad and a quesadilla are great options to serve with the soup

 

Those tortilla strips go great on salad, too!

Those tortilla strips go great on salad, too!

Have a wonderful and safe Cinco de Mayo!