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I’ve been told I’m weird about food. There’s a long list involved here but one specific way is that I’m a little too enthusiastic about things at the “wrong temperature” or the “wrong time of day” or the “wrong season” or whatever. So, I don’t mind a warm coke or spaghetti for breakfast and I really do enjoy a bowl of soup in the middle of summer. I’m such a rebel! I regret nothing!

It probably had to a lot to do with my upbringing. Chinese food, aside from dim sum, doesn’t really have rules about when and where and how things are eaten. Things are eaten whenever you’re hungry. There may be special dishes served at certain events, like long beans, fish and noodles on Chinese New Year but the day to day was very open to interpretation in my family. Couple that with two immigrant parents trying to navigate American processed foods for the first time (cereal at any hour is awesome) and you get me.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday, my hubby and I indulged in some pho. Even though the temps were creeping upward and the farmer’s market nearby was in full swing with their summer vegetables, that spicy, steaming bowl of soup was bliss. My hubby and I were sweating and sniffing from the chili sauce and steam was enveloping our faces as we happily slurped away.

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Summer brunch of Champions! Pho and a Vietnamese iced coffee.

Another thing I love about soup in the summer are all of the recipes that are packed with vegetables and can be served both warm and cold. They are also great fridge cleaners. I’m a huge fan of fridge cleaning recipes. I go a little nuts at farmer’s markets and I don’t want my precious produce to go to waste, so once I’m down to scraps of this and that, I make a nice soup to finish them off. And to make room for my next shopping outing :). I found this recipe while hunting online for a soup that does the job perfectly. And it’s such a flexible recipe, you can add pretty much whatever you’ve got on hand. Plus, it was delicious and nutritious!

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This soup has a ton of great vegetables and includes cannelini beans for protein. I’m sure you can substitute whatever you have in your pantry, kidney, pinto, or black beans would be delicious in this. I also like that the recipe says to smash half the beans before adding it to the soup. This is a great way to get a thicker, creamier texture in your soup without adding cream. Great for me because despite my love for dairy products, they really don’t love me back. It’s tragic.

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I made a few changes to the recipe. I used fresh diced tomatoes instead of canned because I found these beautiful ripened on the vine tomatoes. And after making several dishes highlighting these ruby gems, I had just enough left for this soup. I also added whole baby spinach leaves as well. I bought a huge bag that I’m still working on but at least a huge chunk of it was used in this soup. That’s right, two birds – nutrition and fridge cleaning- with one soup. Come to think of it, small pasta like macaroni or shells would work really well in this soup too….

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As promised, this soup is really delicious chilled as well. I ate this the next day for lunch straight out of the fridge with a little side salad. It actually helped me beat the heat outside. I even made extra to put in the freezer for later.

So, maybe I’m a little weird with my food. I don’t really adhere to the food rules of appropriateness, but with a soup like this it’s easy to break the rules.┬áLong live Soup Season!

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Tuscan Vegetable Soup

adapted from Ellie Krieger

makes 6 – 8 servings

1 15 oz can of cannellini beans (or pinto, kidney, or black beans)

1 small onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

1 small zucchini, diced

2 ripe medium tomatoes, diced

2 generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

4 cups water or vegetable broth

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Drain and rinse the beans under cold water. Put half the beans in a bowl, you can leave the rest in the can and mash them with a fork or a potato masher, set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots and onions. Since these take a little longer to cook, let them sweat for a minute or two but no more. Add celery, zucchini. minced garlic and herbs to the pot. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the veggies are tender. Approx. 5 mins.

Add the water or broth, and the diced tomatoes, let simmer for a minute or two. Bring the pot to a boil and add the beans both mashed and whole. Add the baby spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with parmesan cheese on top or in a bowl on the side for people to add what they want.

 

I’ve seen Anthony Bourdain ask this on his various television shows while he’s sitting in mixed company. It may be a little morbid but I love asking this question and inciting a good conversation about food. If you were on death row and knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would your last meal consist of?

I’ve heard all sorts of responses. My mom said she would have a bowl of rice and her favorite steamed fish. My sister gave a long, rambling list of items that seemed to have the common theme of “covered in cheese”. My husband said a whole 3 tiered wedding cake. I’m totally lost on the reasoning for that one….

My list is also a bit long and rambling, mainly because that’s so hard to have to pick and choose between may favorite foods and dishes. Most of the dishes I’d want are Asian and many of them are noodle based. But there is one dish that always seems to make it on to my rambling list, so if I really had to choose only one thing. This would be it: Vietnamese vermicelli noodle salad.

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Known as bun cha in Vietnamese, there are several variations but the version I’ve seen the most is grilled pork bun cha. The pork is often marinated in a sweet and salty mixture and char-grilled, allowing the marinade to thicken into a sticky glaze and darken into crispy bits. The vermicelli rice noodles are usually served warm, lettuce and fresh herbs such as cilantro and mint share the bowl as well as pickled vegetables.

I’ve eaten this dish since I was almost too short for the booth at our local Vietnamese restaurant and I love it! But I’ve only recently begun to prepare it myself. I’ve still got a few other recipes to try and I’ll report back on those as well. The recipe I used for this post I found on a blog called pink-parsley.com. It’s a pretty simple recipe and the dressing recipe is a really tasty version of nouc nam, which is a Vietnamese condiment. Well, more like THE Vietnamese condiment.

There were a few things I did differently. I used pork loin chops instead of tenderloin because they’re cheaper. The first time I sliced up the chops first and then marinated them and pan fried them (unfortunately, I don’t have a grill). This left the meat a little tough so the next time I left the chops whole and sliced them after they were pan fried and rested.

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I would also like to make a batch of pickled carrot and daikon radish. It’s a bit more traditional that then marinated carrots and cucumbers in this recipe. But since I did have a cucumber and not a daikon radish in the fridge, it worked out great! I found several recipes for the pickled carrot and daikon by just googling and searching on foodgawker. The other thing I think I might change is using Sambal Oelek in the nouc nam instead of jalapenos. It adds heat but not flavor. For some reason, the jalapeno doesn’t quite taste right to me. I’ll probably make this recipe for pickled carrot and daikon.

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One thing I would absolutely recommend is not to skimp on the herbs! That is half the reason I love this dish! The basil, mint, and cilantro are a knock out flavor combo and they make this dish! These herbs make the salad so refreshing and complex. Don’t skimp on the herbs!

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And just because I know you are out there, a few things to keep in mind to peeps who are new to Vietnamese food. There are a few items that are new to you, maybe they sound a little scary like, fish sauce for example. Don’t be afraid! It’s so delicious! It’s the epitome of umami, that mysterious fifth flavor that’s salty, sweet and sour. It’s in a lot of your favorite Asian dishes like pad thai and bahn mi. I put it in my ground beef when I make hamburgers and it’s transforming! So have no fear! That’s my pep talk for the day – trying for positivity, right? But here’s my confession – when people won’t try something because they think it’s weird, all I can picture is a 3 year old throwing a tantrum over a new vegetable. There I said it. You now know what’s behind that grimace on my face when people turn their nose up at an amazingly delicious adventure. I’m realizing that I’m having dinner at the kids table and I want to leave. All of the foods in this dish have been around for a long time, a culture of proud people have created this dish and hundreds of thousands, possibly more, derive pleasure from eating it. So, it’s hard for me to hide my hurt feelings when others don’t want to enjoy my obsession with me. Obviously, I’ve been burned before…

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I hope you make this recipe or go to your nearest Vietnamese restaurant and order up some bun cha. It’s so perfect for summer and you may just start to develop an obsession of your own. Again, the recipe I made for this post can be found at www.pink-parsley.com.

 

 

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Half Moon Bay

I admit, I’m the worst blogger ever. Food blogging is something I aspire to, I just don’t have the follow through. But lately I’ve been cooking up a storm and have been eating some ridiculously amazing food. I’ve taken photos and I’ve researched recipes so, I’m setting myself up for success, right? Yes! I have a post to make! I want to share some recipes! I want you to cook them! Here we go!

First, let me explain some of the new developments that have allowed me more time to cook and put amazing food in my face. Earlier this year my husband and I relocated to sunny California. My hubby moved out here several months before I did and it’s been a challenging time getting out here and finally getting settled! I’m finding my groove out here and I’m doing this mainly through the food because, duh. There are sooooo many more kinds of ethnic foods to try, lots of ethnic markets – including separate Asian markets! Back in Salt Lake there were Asian markets that leaned Chinese or Japanese but here there are huge markets that offer almost all Korean items, Japanese items and Chinese items. I went to a Korean market that had 4! huge cold tables with a dizzying array of kimchi and pickled vegetables! WAT?! The Latino markets have been fun to explore too. The pastries get me everytime. EVERYTIME!

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Just one of four tables of kimchi and pickled vegetables and seafood at Hankook Supermarket

I think Farmer’s markets are required for every 5 mile block and not just on the weekends. The amount of local produce available in just a commercial grocery store is impressive and then there’s the food trucks. Good God. At our apartment community they have Food Truck Sundays. It’s the best way to build a community, I tell ya. They block off a section of the street, have 4-5 food trucks pull in, provided a DJ, picnic blankets and buckets to sit on and it’s just too much fun.

One big trend in food trucks out here are all the Asian fusion dishes. Some people really hate fusion, they’d prefer to be purists about their food. I totally get it but you will quickly eat your words once you try a Korean-style short rib burrito. Oh man. Or Vietnamese grilled pork tacos or a curried chicken rice bowl. The food these mighty, tiny, mobile kitchens are turning out is outstanding.

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Food Truck Sunday!!!

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Beef Koja (bulgogi beef on a bun made of pressed, cooked rice) with Kamikaze fries (waffle fries smothered in Korean BBQ, kimchi, onions, and Japanese mayo

I’ve cooked some pretty amazing stuff out here as well. I mean, who could resist? With all the awesome produce and products all around and the inspiration from all the restaurants and food trucks, it’s easy to start experimenting. While we’ve been out here, I’ve tried more new recipes that I can remember. Maybe it’s the excitement of living on a coast that’s got me feeling more adventurous. Maybe it’s the fact I have more time on my hands because I’m not working yet. That’s probably the more likely culprit but either way, I’m putting it here!

I’m hoping this will be the kick I need to really get into the habit of blogging. I’m also trying out flickr for the first time. I need a better way to organize and store my food photos separate from the photos on our home computer. Any suggestions on online photo management would be greatly appreciated. Okay, folks! Stay tuned. I have cooking posts on the way!