Banh Mi Sliders

Finished tray of banh mi

Two years ago, I had never tasted Vietnamese food. And today I would “Hey, Kool Aid” through a brick wall if I thought there was a banh mi on the other side of it.

Open Banh Mi

What can I say? People change. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m scary allergic to bell peppers, ginger, coffee, curry, and wasabi. But (in recent months) that hasn’t stopped me from experimenting with Asian flavors I’ve never before tasted in entirely inauthentic ways!

Close up banh mi

This delightfully tiny, non-lethal slider version of the classic banh mi features sweet and savory pork, quick pickled vegetables, sriracha mayo, salty peanuts, and fresh cilantro on sweet Hawaiian rolls.

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Mixed Greens with Cambozola, Hibiscus Pearls, and Pear Vinaigrette

Today I’m going to ask you to use your imagination. Have a glass of wine, close your eyes, turn on some Simon and Garfunkel, and imagine you’re entertaining your nearest and dearest. Imagine you’re tasked with cooking a fabulous dinner for your terribly handsome beau on his 50th birthday. And imagine that last minute rush before dinner is served—the rush to get dinner on the table and make sure that hot food stays hot and salad stays fresh.

Hibiscus Pearls
Can you imagine that? Good. Now imagine that the beautiful ingredients below came together in a perfectly composed salad that I didn’t have a chance to photograph on that lovely night before serving it!

Hibiscus Pearl Salad.jpg

Sorry, folks. By the time dinner was served, the sun had gone down and I couldn’t justify whipping out my lighting set-up to photograph the finished salad. So just imagine a bed of velvety greens tossed in sweet and sour pear vinaigrette, topped with creamy, pungent Cambozola, toasted walnuts, crispy apples, and my mad scientist experiment, hibiscus pearls. Imagine that!

A word about those hibiscus pearls: this was my first foray into molecular gastronomy. It was a success, and much simpler than I imagined. I steeped a cup of hibiscus tea and spiked it with hibiscus extract from l.c. finn. I boiled that with agar agar, and used a regular eyedropper to squeeze the mixture into a tall glass of cold oil to form the pearls. That’s the extent of the special ingredients and equipment. The flavor of the pearls was distinct but not overwhelming; a little tart, like pomegranate juice. The texture was smooth and gelatinous—sort of like biting into a creamy drop of tea. For instructions on making agar agar pearls, visit http://molecule-r.com/en/content/67-pearls-training. You can purchase the extract here.

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Crab Cakes with Orange Aioli

The good news is my little show opens in less than two weeks and we’re right on track. The bad news is my little show opens in less than two weeks and I’m plagued with the world’s worst chest cough. For better or for worse, I’ll soon be standing in front of hundreds of people at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis, and I’m hoping with all I’m worth that I won’t be up there honking like an agitated goose.

Thank goodness for Air Supply’s Greatest Hits to ease my anxiety.

Crab Cakes
I’m comforted, too, by the memory of the last meal I prepared for Mom and Handsome Greg that I truly tasted—Crab Cakes with Orange Aioli—before cough drops became my primary source of sustenance and “mentholyptus” killed my taste buds. The crab cakes were exceptionally crabby—you could easily add more breadcrumbs and make more cakes. They were moist and flavorful with a crispy, golden crust, and the accompanying dip was a perfect balance of creamy mayo, pungent garlic, and bright, fresh orange zest.

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Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Miso Dressing

Well, this is awkward. I suppose it’s a little late to give a heads up that posting will be sparse until my show opens in August…? Also, the dog ate my homework, and the check is in the mail.

Salad3
I’m sure you will forgive me for failing to post a new recipe for (gasp!) an entire month, when you try this righteous salad. It’s bright and fresh, yet satisfying, with a perfect balance of salty, sweet, and sour. It’s so delicious that with one bite, you’ll forget entirely what a lazy slacker I am. The recipe is from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Do you have this book? You need this book.

Salad2
The day I prepared this salad is pretty much a blur—I was so rushed making dinner for Mom and Handsome Greg that I barely had a chance to take photos of the meal. So I’m sorry to say that my sad pics don’t begin to do this recipe justice. Just another reason to pick up The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook; the photos are so beautiful you’ll have to resist the urge to devour the actual pages. The only change I made from the original recipe was to omit the tablespoon of fresh, minced ginger, because, as I mentioned before, I’m deathly allergic. If ginger doesn’t send you to the ER, then I suppose you ought to add it to the dressing as Deb suggests. She knows what she’s talking about.

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Top Ten Recipes of 2012

Happy Holidays, imaginary internet friends! And congratulations on surviving the end of the world. Now I’m off to Barnes and Noble to demand a refund for my Mayan wall calendar. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, I hope you’ll take another look at the 10 most popular recipes I shared this year.

S’mores Fried Ice Cream with Chipotle Chocolate Sauce

 

Asparagus Lasagna Slice

Asparagus Lasagna with Pancetta, Goat Cheese, and Lemon

 

Baked Churros with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche

 

Loaded Baked Potato Grilled Cheese Sandwich

 

Cinnamon Roll Grilled Cheese Sandwich

 

Oatmeal Cream Pies

Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies

 

Cookies and Milk

Toffee Cashew Cookies

 

pie crust crackers

Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Pie Crust Crackers

 

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

And the most popular recipe of 2012:

Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken

Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Here’s to a delicious (and gooey) new year!

Sesame Chicken Salad

Just last week(ish), I shared with you all how my allergy to green peppers indirectly prevented me from ever tasting tomatillos. Today, my imaginary internet friends, I’m going to tell another terrible tale: The Most Lamentable Tragedy of Bake Up, Little Suzy’s Exclusion from the Whole of Asian Cuisine.

(I know. The title needs work. It’s a little wordy.)

Bell peppers are not my only edible allergens. I’m also allergic to ginger, coffee, curry, and horseradish. And that bizarre combination not only kept me from coffee house poetry slams in the 90’s, but also excludes me from enjoying the cuisine of Asia to this very day.

I’ve long dreamed of preparing meals that feature the genuine flavors of China, India, Korea, Thailand—but I’ve never really tasted them, out of fear of, well, dying. So I’m attempting to learn about entirely unfamiliar flavors, in utterly inauthentic ways.

I begin today with this fresh and crispy, savory and sweet, salty and crunchy salad. Now I’m assuming that normal people who don’t share my allergies will add ginger to the dressing or the marinade or both. But I found this salad delicious, satisfying, and not at all deadly without it.

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Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Green pepper is my sworn enemy.

The conniving nightshade sneaks into salsa, it prowls in pasta, and it lurks in jambalaya, waiting to make its deadly move. Just one bite of a bell pepper and I’m a pathetic wheezing heap, my lips swollen like a Hollywood collagen job gone terribly wrong.

For years I avoided green salsa in every Mexican restaurant, for fear that the lovely olive color might be enhanced by the scoundrel bell pepper. And as a sad consequence, I never tasted the delightful tang of tomatillos.

Until now. I made this recipe for Mom and Handsome Greg, and instantly fell madly in love with the tart tomatillo sauce warmed through with a healthy teaspoon of smoky cumin. I filled corn tortillas with a luxurious and creamy chicken mixture, then doused them with the silky tomatillo sauce and topped them with a generous handful of gooey cheese.

Next time I make this dish I’ll use white cheddar – the orange cheese with the green salsa was a little off-putting. Otherwise it was perfect.

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