Salad


We had a friend from work over for lunch last Sunday, and I decided to try these sandwiches I saw in a copy of Real Living I picked up recently. It’s real simple to prepare and a makes for a very satisfying and refreshing lunch.

All you need is some pesto and olive oil, grilled vegetables, some fresh greens or herbs like basil and parsley and cheese. Grill your veggies. Slice the top off the bread and hollow it out, the breadcrumbs can be saved for other cooking (like in burgers). Spread pesto and olive oil along the insides of the bread and then layer veggies, cheese, and greens inside the bread. Put back the top of the bread, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate overnight. Slice and enjoy.

Alexander made a dragon fruit and watermelon salad to accompany the bread. Refreshing!

I made the pesto using fresh basil, garlic, cashew nuts and olive oil. Of course I made too much, so the leftovers found themselves being used up in other dinners throughout the week.

Monday I made mushroom burgers and sweet potato chips. I spread some pesto on the toasted buns. And there was a surprise in the burgers! What you do is make two thin patties and put some sauteed mushrooms on one, cover with another and seal before cooking. I am convinced that you can absolutely have your imagination run wild here.

Thursday night I made oven baked chicken and had pesto and pasta on the side. Marinade some sliced chicken breasts in a mixture of fresh lemon juice, chopped garlic, black pepper, and olive oil. Wrap this and some sliced shallots and fresh green peas in aluminum foil and cook in a preheated oven (250C) until juices run clear. Mmm succulent and flavorful chicken.

And that was pretty much my week in the kitchen.

My friend Nicole’s visit was sadly cut short by one day when she realized yesterday afternoon that she was off to Greece a whole 24 hours earlier than she originally thought. It was a pleasure entertaining her at our new home and exploring a new island while she was here.

We visited tiny Koh Si Chang last weekend. It was the ideal weekend getaway, only 3-4 hours travel by boat and bus, not at all frequented by loads of tourists, fresh seafood and and a perfectly relaxed island atmosphere. My highlight food wise was the fried squid and cashew nut. A satisfying mixture of sweet and salty flavors and chewy and crunchy textures!

Monday night we finally got around to Suan Lum night bazaar near Lumphini Park. After finding out how to dodge the tacky tourist stalls we all left with new wardrobe items- a new T and funky work shirt for Alexander, a fall jacket for Nic and a T-shirt for myself.

We traveled by public boats on the klong (Bangkok’s canals) to Banglamphu on Tuesday, where we had yet another pleasing and inexpensive meal at Roti Mataba and browsed around the stores and shops on Phra Athit.

For great pictures and some more about the past week, Alexander photographed and documented our trip to Koh Si Chang and Roti Mataba.

On to cooking. We planned to go out hunting for a mythical Ethiopian restaurant last night and then I would have cooked for Nic tonight, but we had to change our plans a bit and so I decided to cook last night before she left. I had been planning a bit of a menu throughout the day, so i just had to pick up a couple of items from the store and I was ready to start dinner.

Unfortunately for me we got hit by an enormous storm last night and preparing dinner did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. Having the kitchen on the open balcony meant that the wind kept on dumping buckets of rain over everything and I had to wait until it was less windy before I could do anything. But finally I did manage to get the cooking done, even though I still got a bit wet.

Our dinner consisted of a grilled tofu salad with cashew and cilantro pesto (my own creations!) and chicken kebabs on lemon grass skewers with a satay sauce. For dessert we had ice cream with crushed sesame and peanut brittle.

It all came out lovely, even if I have to say so myself.

Grilled Marinated Tofu Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Cilantro and Cashew Nut Pesto

There are kind of two recipes falling under the heading of this salad, first the tofu then pesto. In the end they all contribute to one salad. I’ll try not to make it too confusing.

Gather around:

a block of firm tofu

6 red cherry tomatoes

For the marinade:

juice of one lime

fish sauce

soft brown sugar

green lettuce leaves for garnish

For the pesto:

a handful of cashewnuts

3 small garlic cloves, minced

a bunch of fresh cilantro

olive oil

Make:

Slice the tofu into about .1 inch thick slices.

For the marinade- mix the lime juice, a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of fish sauce in a bowl or container (I believe it should be non-metallic) put the slices of tofu and toss to coat. Cover and refrigarate for about an hour.

While you are marinating the tofu, start on the pesto.

Put the cashew nuts, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and chop lightly. Add a tablespoonful or so of olive oil and blend just a little more so you have a chunky pesto. Note that I made this on a whim and therefore did not take correct measurements into calculation. I just went with what I hoped would work and it came out pretty good.

Line a platter (or in our case a plate) with the lettuce leaves and slice the cherry tomatoes into rounds and set aside.

Remove the tofu from the fridge after an hour and grill quickly over low heat in a griddle pan, a couple of seconds on each side. Place the grilled tofu on a bed of lettuce, put one or two slices of the tomato on the tofu and top it off with a little pesto on each slice.

Not only did it look pretty, it was also very tasty and light.

Chicken Kebabs on Lemon Grass Skewers

This turned out to be a very easy dish, much easier than my first attempt using minced pork.

Collect:

500g chicken mince

1 long red chili

3 stalks lemon grass, trimmed to fit into a pan and halved lenghtwise

sesame oil

Make:

Seed the chili and thoroughly mince it. Mix the chili in with the chicken mince until it is well combined. Shape the chicken into 6 balls and place it on a cutting board, flatten the balls slightly and place the lemon grass stalks onto the balls, the chicken should be about at the middle of the stalks. Fold the chicken over the stalks and flatten the top slightly. Brush the chicken with some sesame oil.

Heat some sesame oil in a pan over a moderately high heat.

Put the kebabs into the pan and cook until ready to be eaten and serve on the lemon grass skewers.

What I love about this dish is that it is super simple and tasty, the meat really gets infused with the fragrant lemon grass.

Ice Cream with Chopped Peanut and Sesame Brittle

This dessert is really easy to make but tasted quite yummy. Sadly the ice cream was very soft, I tried to find a ‘harder’ ice cream at the grocer, but for some reason they were all really soft and not even my freezer helped.

You’ll need:

vanilla ice cream

peanut and sesame brittle

Make:

Break bits of the brittle off and throw it into a food processor or blender. Chop until fine but still a little chunky. Mix about 3/4 this with the ice cream and serve, sprinkled with the rest of the chopped brittle.

Yum.

Suggestions:

– adjust to your liking, add or subtract a bit here and there, have fun.

The rambutan is a drupe related to lychees and longans, but much more vicious looking. Its skin is usually varying shades of red and covered in curving, vicious looking tentacles. However, moving through the bizarre looking outside you get to the translucent flesh clinging to the pit, the taste much less overwhelmingly sweet than a lychee and not as peculiar as the longan.

For my birthday this year Alexander took me to Saladang Song, a popular and very chic Thai restaurant in Pasadena. There is a great review of the restaurant at Foodie Universe’s Restaurant Reviews.

On the menu I noticed a rambutan salad that included ginger, toasted coconut flakes, and peanuts. Intrigued we ordered it.

The fruit was served skinned and pitted with the rest of the ingredients arranged around the plate. You put a little bit of everything in the rambutan, roll it in a lettuce leave and eat. What an astonishing burst of flavor and texture it was! I could not wait to get to Asia where rambutans are dime a dozen so I could try to recreate this dish and recently, I finally did.

It takes a bit of time to prepare, but I assure you, you will not be sorry.


For an appetizer for two people you will need:

8 rambutans, skinned and carefully pitted
½ tablespoon crushed peanuts
½ tablespoon lightly toasted coconut flakes
1 small red chili seeded and minced
8 very small pieces of lime, you can leave the skin on
½ tablespoon of minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
a little water
one or two large kale leaves, washed and sliced into long strips
8 toothpicks

Make:

Heat the sugar over medium heat in a saucepan and add a tiny bit of water. Remove from heat when the sugar is melted and becoming all sticky. Scrape it into a bowl so it can set and then crush it a little. It should have a hard yet crumbly consistency.

In your rambutans, put a little bit of all the ingredients so you get a mix of dry, crunchy, sweet, sour and spicy. Wrap it up in a strip of the kale leave, insert a toothpick to keep it all together and you’re ready to impress your dinner partner(s).

Suggestions for making filled rambutans:
– I’ve only ever seen fresh rambutans in Asia, if you cannot find them fresh, try using the canned variety, possibly available at Asian supermarkets, although this may be really sweet.
– removing the skin and pitting is tricky: slice the skin open from top to bottom on one side and slip out the fruit, make another incision from the top of the fruit to the bottom and gently pry the flesh away from the pit
– to save time, instead of the caramelized sugar you can use a drop of dark honey
– when serving, always keep a small dish handy for discarding the toothpicks