Cookbook Sundays: Real Thai, Green Papaya Salad~

28 07 2012

I chose to cook from Real Thai, by Nancy McDermott for Cookbook Sundays this week.  I love Thai food for the summer, and it’s summer here in Northern California.  While it gets hot here, it’s not hot like Thailand hot.  We simply don’t have the same humidity…thank you, God.  And yet, it does get hot enough (105°F-ish at times) to make cooling foods taste wonderful.   The balance of hot, sweet, sour, and salty is incredibly refreshing for some reason.  I love the combination of the flavors, and the hint of the herbs that dance around the edges.  As you can see by the little post-its, there are a number of recipes marked in my Real Thai cookbook.  I use it quite a lot, but for some reason I hadn’t gotten around to using this recipe for Som Tum, or Green Papaya Salad, page 125.  That made this a great choice for this week’s Cookbook Sundays.

The cast of characters is simple, yet intriguing…  Garlic, chiles, shallot, palm sugar, fish sauce, lime, green beans, shredded green papaya, and a few cherry tomatoes.   PS…this isn’t “fast” food, but it sure is good food!  There’s a lot of pounding  involved.  Start with a mortar and pestle to combine the garlic and the chiles.  Thai bird chiles are called for, but serrano chiles work reasonably well too.  If you aren’t familiar with Thai chiles…they’re hot.  Hotter than a serrano, not as hot as a habanero…they’ll get your attention.  Until you get familiar with the amount of heat you want, go light on the chiles and adjust your heat with either Garlic Chile Paste or Sriracha.   It can be our secret.  You can’t adjust the seasonings at this point anyway.  Shred the papaya into a large bowl and scrape the garlic and chile paste into that bowl.  Pound the papaya shreds for a few minutes, scraping the sides down periodically.  You can use the pestle from your set, or you can use a clean bottle that fits comfortably in your hand.  Add the fish sauce and the palm sugar with lime juice and the pulp of the lime scraped from the rind and added to the salad.  You may need just a pinch of salt to adjust the salty taste without adding more liquid.  Continue to pound gently.  You don’t have to beat the papaya, just gently pound it until the color of the shredded papaya starts changing from opaque to translucent.  Add the cleaned and cut green beans to the papaya, and continue to pound away.  The last ingredient you’ll add is the tomatoes…cut in half and pounded ever so gently, so as not to mash them, but just enough to get them to release a bit of juice.

Now is the time to correct your seasonings.  You can add more lime if it needs to be more sour….more palm sugar if it needs a little of the tang calmed down…now’s the time to add the chile paste or sriracha if you can stand a bit more heat.  Add it a little at a time, tossing the salad and giving it a gentle pounding.   Remember, you can’t take the heat back out though!

This is my favorite Thai salad, bar none.  I like to add a sprinkling of chopped roasted peanuts , but this particular recipe didn’t call for that.  The salad stays crisp…amazingly so.  It’s cool, yet spicy with the heat of the chiles, and salty-sweet and sour enough to keep you sneaking another bite.   Som Tum (Som as in “Rome” but cut the vowel to about half what we usually allow it; Tum is pronounced like “come”) goes well with any grilled foods.  I served it with sliced grilled beef.  There are several really great recipes in Real Thai.  For the record…I used the spelling as it appears in this particular cookbook.  You may find it spelled differently elsewhere.  A rose by any other name…  *Ü*  I just like this dish…I don’t mind so much about the spelling…so far!

Sadly, Susan has decided to give up Cookbook Sundays…
If you’d like to don the mantle of a Cooking Blog, contact Couscous and Consciousness.


Food-n-Flix: Now Showing…The Help~

28 07 2012

It’s the dog days of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere…what better time to share a movie celebrating all Southern belles than…August!  While it isn’t exactly a romance, there is romance…and there is some eye candy appeal…  I admit I was rather taken with all the culinary opportunities both the book and the movie had to offer.  So beg, borrow, rent or buy a copy of  The Help.  Then, c’mon back to visit!  It’s surely my pleasure to have you all in for tea!

How to participate in Food ‘n Flix:

1. Watch the chosen film (The Help).  Taking inspiration from the film, head into the kitchen and cook or bake or make something.

2. Post about it on your blog with a link back to THIS post and a link to Food ‘n Flix.  Use of the logo is optional.

3. You must post must be current (during month of film). And of course we don’t mind if your post is linked to other events…the more the merrier.

4. Have fun with it!

5. Email your entries to me at: cantbelieveweate (at) gmail (dot) com and include:

~Your name
~Your blog’s name
~The name of your dish and the permalink to the specific post you’re submitting
~Attach a photo of any size (or just give me permission to “pull” one from your post)
~Indicate “Food ‘n Flix Submission” in the subject line

Deadline for submission is: Thursday, August 30th (11:59 pm Pacific).

*Note regarding Round Up… My granddaughter will celebrate her 21st on the 31st, so please don’t look for the Round Up until September 1st!

Food-n-Flix: Because I Said So…~

27 07 2012

This month at Food ‘n’ Flix we are watching Because I Said So, hostessed by girlichef.  What a fun movie! Although, I think the “only child” syndrome that made me shake my head at some of the mother-daughter-sister antics.  It’s really hard to relate!  I simply cannot imagine my mother asking me what an orgasm feels like…’nuff said on that subject!  LOL!

Without regard to my birth order dilemma, or any other dilemmas, this really was a fun flick!  What was I inspired to make??  A multi-tiered polka dot cake!  Fortunately, my senses came back from vacation before I got the pans greased and ready.

Because I Said So is the story of a single mother who has reared her 3 lovely daughters to adulthood, and has 2/3 of them happily married off.  Daphne Wilder, played by Diane Keaton, is the matriarch of  “The Wilder Women” and Millie, played by Mandy Moore, is the remaining, unmarried daughter.  Daphne finally succumbs to her meddlesome ways and runs a secret (from Millie) and lengthy “Man Wanted” ad…for her daughter, Millie.  Daphne interviews the prospective suitors, and settles on reasonably handsome, reasonably well-to-do, rather controlling, but up and coming young architect…

meanwhile, the guitarist at the lounge where all these interviews are taking place takes an interest in the parade of eligible bachelors wandering through the lounge and decides to see the “prize” with his own eyes.

Millie suddenly finds herself sought after by two gentlemen, when before there had been none.  Enchanted by their individual endearing charms, she gets caught up in simultaneous relationships.  Eventually, the truth comes out…Daphne’s meddling, Millie having two relationships, Millie discovering she has real feelings for Johnny, the musician.  And, then…there’s Daphne…

This is undoubtedly a chick flick, with plenty of sexual innuendo, double entendre and not so thinly disguised adult material.  Seriously, it’s a girls’ night crack up.  I’m good with a thumbs-up for Because I Said So…  I watched it twice and enjoyed it more the second time around!

The only thing left is what was I really inspired to cook…  There were a lot of allusions to food, but we didn’t see much aside from cakes…(and what cakes they were!)…a sheet of freshly baked cookies and chocolate souffle…oh, and pasta.  Almost forgot the pasta!   Although Millie is a wedding caterer (“Good Enuf to Eat” is her company), we see or hear little actual reference to food.  Notable exceptions are “Pasta Toss” and “Chocolate Souffle”…  Had we watched this movie in a different month, I might have jumped on the idea of chocolate souffles…  I still like the idea of it, and may edit this post someday, but for now…I’m on vacation for  few more days, I’m too lazy (*Ü*), and it’s really been too hot to have the oven on…so I settled for Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond’s recipe, Baked Fudge.

The Pioneer Woman’s Baked Fudge

I’m not EVEN going to try to describe this decadent dessert better than PW does…she’s the Queen!  I will say that this is incredibly easy to toss together and it will cook up in about 40 minutes.  Can you smell that?  Oh. My. Goodness.  And it goes well with vanilla ice cream…darn. I just happen to have vanilla ice cream…

Rich. Fudgie decadence.  A dessert a woman was meant to love.  I’ve got to tweak this with chocolate varieties.  I made this with dutch process high fat cocoa.  It’s what I had on hand.  I also have some bittersweet chocolate in there and some dark chocolate…  Oh, I’m going to hate to have to repeat this recipe…jk!

Next month, I hope you join me here at Can’t Believe We Ate where we’ll be hosting the next movie, The Help.  I’m really excited about the opportunities for inspiration from this movie…  See you there!

Cook the Books: Death by Darjeeling~

21 07 2012

I truly enjoyed this book!  I found myself engrossed in the information about teas…the different types, different methods for steeping, which flavors combine with which…and the story was okay too!  LOL!  I was so caught up in my curiosity that I ordered several sample size containers to play with and see how the flavors differ.

I’m familiar with green tea and black tea, orange pekoe (aka black) tea, Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea.  The concept of different temperatures and different brewing times…as a naive tea drinker, you find yourself wondering if it really, truly matters.  It does.

This is Jasmine Pearl green tea.  The little tiny balls are hard and dry, maybe 1/4 inch in diameter, and are very fragrant with the scent of jasmine flowers.  Very, very fragrant.  Jasmine Pearl tea should be brewed for 2-4 minutes in hot (180°F), but not boiling, water.  These tiny little balls are actually tea leaf clusters…

This is part of what I took out of the teapot after tea.  I was amazed how the leaves swelled…  The tea we drank when the proper steeping time was complete was fragrant and gently flavored.  I misjudged my time frame, so the tea steeped a rather long time…got bitter and nasty.  The upshot, pay attention.  I  ended up buying a book on tea (Harney and Sons Guide to Tea), that I find very helpful!

The dish I prepared for this book is an Earl Grey Smoked Salmon…

The salmon (wild caught coho) was rubbed with a dry rub (enough for up to 1-1/2 pounds of salmon):

1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons sugar

Wrap the fish in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Prepare a stove top smoker pan for smoking using the contents of 2 Earl Grey tea bags instead of smoking chips.  Smoke at a low temperature for 20 minutes and finish salmon under the broiler if needed.

We had this served with half a mango one time,  and the next time with a rice pilaf and sauteed zucchini.  I fixed salmon this way twice to make sure it was really as good the 2nd time as the first!

I wanted to make sweet little tea cakes and cookies…but it’s been in the 100’s almost everywhere in the US, so baking isn’t really happening right now…  I’ve got enough tea to last me awhile…I’ll have time to do that when the weather is a bit cooler…  In the meanwhile, now that I’ve smelled Lapsang Souchong…I’m wondering what should one even think of having with this incredibly smoky tea…??  I’m so enchanted! LOL!