Pholicious

Okay. Remember how I’ve always said that I rarely make things more than once? I got bored a little bit ago (c’mon, people, I’m in Cupertino, California for the time being. It passes the time.) and I updated the recipe section (there are sections within sections now – watch out!). In doing so, I also made a list of the dishes I’ve actually made more than once on this site.

As it turns out, there are less than ten out of probably 200+ recipes on this blog that have been given this particular distinction. I was surprised there were that many, but nonetheless, here they are –

Paella. It requires getting your hands on Spanish chorizo, but when you do it is such a satisfying dish. I heart saffron.

Pad Thai. This one doesn’t require any explaining. It’s just a damn good recipe, and you should make it, too. Matter of fact, once I get settled, I’m going to make it again.

Deviled eggs. Okay, this one doesn’t really count. It’s a Thanksgiving dish that we just can’t live without. Plus, Luke eats like 5 of them so I think he’d miss it.

Puppy chow. The easiest party dish ever, so again, a no-brainer. 5 ingredients – 5!

Zucchini fries with romesco sauce. Seriously, what’s not to love? Although, making something twice isn’t that much to write home about, but I’d give these a third go if the timing was right…

Granola bars. Man, I want to make these NOW! I’m going to miss not being able to roll outta bed at 9 and eat cereal every morning (okay, 9 on a good day. there were a couple of 11 am wake-ups too, just a couple).

Vanilla-chai granola. Again – this would be really good in some Greek yogurt right. this. minute.

Baked pasta with squash and sweet potatoes. Creamy, vegetable-y goodness, all in one casserole dish.

B’stilla. Yes, Chris, I know I didn’t make this for you for your birthday this year. Clearly, we had other stuff going on. All in good time, love.

Nine. Nine! But there are at least 50 other dishes that got me drooling all over my Wallaby pineapple yogurt the other day. One day, I’ll revisit some of them. One day. But for now, I already have dish #10. I found a recipe for a quick version of pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) in Food & Wine last month, and since I’ve done nothing but think of pho since living in California (it’s awesome – noodle shops every mile or so, for real), I knew this dish could be a problem.

And it is. But such a good problem, though. I’ve already made it twice, and have so many leftover bunches of basil, bean sprouts, and scallions in the fridge that I decided it’s going back on the list this week. And sure, it’s not quite as delicious as the more time-consuming, traditional versions (including whatever they do at the actual restaurant here called Pholicious), but it’ll do for a quick weeknight meal.

Okay, okay. It’ll also do for lunch, a midnight snack, or a weekend meal with a movie and a bottle of wine. Just call it a multi-purpose dish, and make it.

Quick Vietnamese Pho
Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2011; serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
5 c chicken stock or low-sodium broth
4 c water
2 T agave syrup
2 T finely grated fresh ginger
3 T low-sodium soy sauce*
1 8oz package thin brown (or white) rice noodles
3 T fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges, for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb trimmed beef tenderloin, very thinly sliced across the grain
1 t dark sesame oil
1/2 c chopped basil
1/4 c chopped scallions
1 c mung bean sprouts
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
Sriracha, for serving

*gluten-free available

instructions
in a large saucepan, combine the chicken stock with the water, agave syrup, grated ginger and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

using tongs, transfer the noodles to bowls. Add the beef to the noodles and ladle the hot broth on top. Drizzle with the sesame oil and top with the basil, scallions and bean sprouts. Serve with lime wedges and chile sauce.

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My Pad (Finally) has Good Thai

pad thai with tofu
If you can’t tell from the previous posts about red and green curry dishes, I am quite a fan of Thai cuisine. And if you like peanut sauce, you should most definitely check this out. But what I have yet to discuss, after almost 3 months of blogging, is one of my favorites, possibly everyone’s favorite Thai dish, Pad Thai.

I am no stranger to the neighborhood Thai joints that frequent the streets of Chicago. In graduate school, a friend of mine discovered this great little noodle shop just off the Diversey brown line called Satay. If my memory isn’t pullin’ my leg, I’d have to say this is the first place I ever tried Pad Thai. Despite trying this stir-fried dish at multiple eateries since, Satay’s version has sustained a hold of the top spot for Pad Thai for more reasons than taste alone: their tofu cooking method, price – 8 bucks, BYOB policy of the restaurant (and to boot – no charge), quantity of food being enough to feed a medium-sized country, proximity to public transportation, and the weird chatty waiter who serves it, David. And even with a lovely Thai eatery right near our house, I can’t bring myself to order their Pad Thai again. Because of Satay’s? Maybe. Because there are a thousand other good dishes there? Another maybe. But either way, Satay has undoubtedly left a mark and provided a meal that no other establishment could provide.

pad thai recipe
Until recently. After multiple iterations, I think I have finally concocted a satisfyingly awesome bowl of Pad Thai. Finally. Every time I changed something, there was something else to change. Ah, the fun of recipe tweaking. And unfortunately for you, the fact that I eyeball mostly everything these days (except when baking) suggests that even the recipe I’ve provided might not be perfect. Hence, that one bowl may be the best I’ll ever have at my place. But boy was it somethin’.

ingredients



Pad Thai facts: Key ingredients are rice noodles, eggs, fish sauce, tamarind, and chili pepper. It’s generally garnished with a lime slice, crushed peanuts and cilantro, with various forms of protein added. It’s a national dish of Thailand. There’s a couple of versions of Pad Thai: the traditional (as in the version below) is dry and light (non-greasy), and the “restaurant type” is heavier and tends to be covered in oil.

pad thai with tofu


Pad Thai w/ Tofu
Serves 4-6; depending on hunger & ability to stop eating


printable recipe

I think the key is the method of cooking the tofu. You really have to dry it out good, otherwise it gets all soggy. The sprinkling of cornstarch also helps to give it a little crunch without frying it.

ingredients
1 package (12.3oz) extra firm tofu
1 T cornstarch
8 oz flat uncooked rice noodles
2 T tamarind concentrate (or strained tamarind paste)**
2 T rice wine vinegar
3 T sugar
4 T reduced sodium soy sauce*
2 T fish sauce*
1-2 T Sriracha (or less, if you’re a wuss)
1 1/2 t fresh grated ginger
2 T peanut oil, divided (unrefined if you have it)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh bean sprouts, optional
1/2 cup carrots, matchstick, optional
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 T chopped cilantro
2 T unsalted, dry roasted, peanuts, chopped
4 lime wedges


instructions
1. Drain tofu. I start this the night before by taking it out of the tray and sitting it on top of a dish towel in a round cake pan. I cover the tofu with another dish towel and put another cake pan upside down, and then i put something really heavy on top and put it in the fridge. If the towels are soaked, I do another round before cooking. You could easily do this for 30 min to 1 hour before cooking, but if it’s not drained it will lead to that soggy texture. After it’s drained, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and toss in bowl with cornstarch. Set aside.


2. Prepare noodles according to package directions, without salt. Drain and set aside. (If you make these first, I’d rinse them with cold water after cooking stop the cooking once you take them out of the boiling water – otherwise they will overcook while sitting in the strainer – you re-warm them in the skillet anyway)

3. Combine tamarind through ginger in small bowl. Heat 1 T oil in non-stick skillet over med-hi. Add tofu and saute for about 7 minutes, until golden. Remove from pan and set aside.

4. Heat 1 t oil in pan. Add eggs and egg white; cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Removed and add to bowl w/ tofu.

5. Heat remaining 2 t oil. Add noodles and cook for ~3 minutes. Stir in liquid mixture; cook ~30 seconds. Add egg and tofu back in along with bean threads and cook for about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat. Stir in onions and cilantro.

6. Divide among 4 plates, top with lemon wedge and crushed peanuts.

*If you need a gluten-free version, buy Thai Kitchen brand. The Tamari brand at Whole Foods also advertises a gluten-free soy sauce that can also be purchased low-sodium.

**Tamarind is hard to find. Sorry. I buy tamarind concentrate from The Chopping Block in Chicago or the Spice House. Even Amazon.com. You can instead buy a block of tamarind paste at asian markets. Put a chunk in boiling water and let it soak for a while, then drain and you’ll have concentrate.