Fiery Shrimp fra Diavolo with Squid Ink Pasta

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This is my first recipe posted since June 16th.   On June 20th, I came home from a 14-hour day at work to find my beautiful, 4-year-old pug, Memphis, dead.  Without explanation.  My world shattered.  Posting recipes seemed so trivial & like an insult to my loss.  I still cry almost every day.  I cried when I opened this blog & saw my last post – explaining my absence here.  He was one of the very, very special ones & I miss him agonizingly.  So – please pardon me if I just post this recipe & have nothing much more to say.

This is VERY easy, very spicy (but you can adjust that) and a very rare seafood recipe from me.  I gave up seafood three years ago or so – but I could not resist this squid ink pasta when I saw it & shrimp seemed the best way to serve it.  So – without further adieu – let me present my Fiery Shrimp fra Diavolo with Squid Ink Pasta.

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Fiery Shrimp fra Diavolo with Squid Ink Pasta

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb squid ink pasta (or any pasta of your choice)

1/2 to 1 lb raw shrimp – shelled & cleaned

1 TBS olive oil

5 oz – 10 oz cherry tomatoes – halved (reserve a few for garnish)

1-6 garlic cloves – sliced, crushed or whole (or to taste)

1-3 jalapenos – chopped (or to taste)

1 tsp to 1 TBS crushed red pepper (or to taste)

1 cup pasta sauce of choice

S&P

Chopped parsley

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta.

Meanwhile – heat the olive oil & ad the jalapenos & tomatoes.  saute over high heat until the tomatoes soften a bit.  Add the crushed red pepper & garlic & saute one minute.  Add the tomato sauce & heat until bubbly.

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Add S&P to taste.  Just before the pasta is done – add the shrimp to the sauce & cook through – being careful not to overcook the shrimp.

Drain the pasta & toss with the sauce.  Serve garnished with fresh, chopped parsley & quartered, raw cherry tomatoes.

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Easiest Spicy Thai Coconut Salmon Soup for the Slow Cooker (with a Vegan option!)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Seriously, people.  If you can slice an onion, you can make this soup.  If you have a crock pot (and I got a huge one for ten bucks and you can, too.  Look HERE) this is as easy as throwing the ingredients into the pot.  If you do not, this can be done stove top very easily – you just can’t leave while it cooks.  But, I used a slow cooker & shoved the ingredients in there, took my dog, Dexter, to his physical therapy, had a meeting with an agent, ran some errands & came home about 5 hours later to a house that smelled as if I had a loving wife who had cooked all day who was waiting here to serve me this delicious, amazing soup.

I used some old, freezer-burned salmon fillets from Trader Joe’s.  I threw them in frozen, whole, skin on.  I came home & scraped the skins off & broke up the fillets with a spoon & voila!  If you are vegan, you can opt for other veggies (potato, zucchini, sweet potato, cauliflower or broccoli – whatever) instead of fish and omit the fish sauce.  Or – if you eat meat or fish but hate salmon – use shrimp or chicken.  Go nuts.  Customize as you will but TRY THIS SOUP.  So yummy!

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Easiest Spicy Thai Coconut Salmon Soup for the Slow Cooker (Vegan option!)

INGREDIENTS

3/4 pound (or more if you want it heartier) of salmon (or shrimp or chicken or vegetables like potato, zucchini, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli)

3 TBS red curry paste

2 (13.5) oz cans of lite coconut milk

3 cups vegetable stock

2 TBS fish sauce (Red Boat – if you can find it – maybe at Whole Foods – if not, any fish sauce) – OMIT this if you are vegan

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2 TBS brown sugar

3 carrots – grated or chopped

10-20 green beans – trimmed & chopped

2 jalapenos – seeded & diced (optional)

1 onion – sliced thin or chopped

3 TBS peanut butter

1 TBS fresh ginger – minced (jarred is fine)

1 cup peas

juice of 1 lime plus extra for garnish

1 large fistful of cilantro – chopped plus more for garnish

Sprouts as garnish – optional

Rice (cooked) – to serve with the soup (I used black rice)

DIRECTIONS

Put everything EXCEPT the peas, cilantro & lime juice into the slow cooker.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours.  Add the peas, cilantro & lime juice.  Cook until warmed through (twenty minutes – more maybe if the peas are frozen still) & serve with more lime & cilantro & a side of rice.  I served mine over the rice.

Stove top – kinda do the same thing but let it simmer covered for about an hour & then add the peas, cilantro & lime.  If using raw chicken – be sure the chicken is cooked through.

TRY not to eat twice as much as you need.  I dare you!  I bet you cannot.  🙂

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Asian Flavors at Bamboo in Sherman Oaks, Frontier Wok in Burbank & Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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My boyfriend, Miles, has a confusing palate.  At times it is confoundingly conservative & inflexible – expecting each restaurant to serve a standard dish (fried chicken or green pepper beef) exactly as he has come to expect it at his favorite Little Rock haunt.  The tiniest variation can inspire him to push his plate away.  He hasn’t tried arugula and regards it with suspicion.  Goat cheese?  No way!  Vegan food?  He is burned out on it – despite living in Arkansas (not exactly famous for pioneering vegan food) and despite the fact that he is a degenerate carnivore.  Still, he eats sushi & oysters on the half shell and other things like that – things you would never expect him to enjoy.

That said – he is still wary of Thai food – though he eats it.  It is CHINESE food he always requests.  Now, I live on the edge of Thai Town.  In Los Angeles, Thai food is everywhere – especially in east Hollywood – and it is typically cheap & almost always pretty good.  Chinese food, on the other hand, is often expensive & seldom good.  Chinese food in Hollywood is most commonly found in strip malls at establishments that boast serving “Chinese food!  Donuts!  Hamburgers!  Tacos!”  Panda Express is the high end of the Chinese fast food world.  Ew.

Still, frustratingly, Miles’ response to my query, “Whattaya wanna get for lunch?” remains, “Chinese?”  And, something in me tells me that Miles will more likely respond positively to an average Chinese restaurant than a really good Thai restaurant.  Standard beef & broccoli?  Yum, says Miles!  But a Thai mint leaves beef or some such – will be unfairly compared to its Chinese counterpart & likely disappoint.  Mint?  With beef?

So frustrating.

Ugh.  So – I hunt & hunt for decent Chinese that doesn’t require a trip downtown.  Chi Dynasty (in Los Feliz) is very good but it is costly.  In fairness, their portions are enormous but I like to mix it up a bit & try new things.  Especially as I am always feeling pressure to find content for this blog.

I took him to Frontier Wok in Burbank once.  It was pretty crowded at lunch, despite the bizarre frontier-like exterior of the building & this seemed a good sign.

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Miles has incredibly bad food karma in that – his order gets fucked up most of the time.  It really does.  I need to start placing his orders for him because, of all people, he is least likely to roll with an incorrect side dish & he doesn’t like to remind a server if something he ordered didn’t show up.  His standard order at his local Chinese joynt is – green pepper beef, beef sticks, egg rolls & hot & sour soup.  He placed that order almost exactly (Szechuan beef instead of green pepper beef & less the beef sticks) at Frontier Wok.  They never brought the spring rolls.

Here is the menu.

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I ordered a veggie soup & Kung Pao shrimp.  I find Chinese immensely uninspired as a food group but the soup was pretty tasty.  Miles approved of the hot & sour soup.

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Here is the beef dish.

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It looks pretty good to me but Miles was unimpressed.  My shrimp was really good, though, as a Kung Pao dish goes.

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The little salad was barely more than a garnish but there was lots of food & we both took some home.  Personally, I’d recommend Frontier Wok to a person looking for predictable but good Chinese – though I don’t think I will get Miles over the threshold again.

Next effort at Chinese?  Bamboo in Sherman Oaks.

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Bamboo has two large dining rooms & the interior is far prettier than Frontier Wok.  I didn’t bother with the menu as it looked like any menu at any Chinese place.  Miles ordered – wait for it – egg rolls, hot & sour soup & beef & broccoli.  I got Kung Pao scallops or something.  The hot & sour soup was vegetarian so I got to have some.  It had been years since I’d had it at a restaurant.   (I make a veggie hot & soup soup.  You can too!  My recipe is HERE.)

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Here is the food at Bamboo.

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They offered brown rice which I appreciated.  And they served tea – another Chinese restaurant staple I have not had in years, if not decades.  Miles seemed to like the beef & there was enough there for two, easily.  My scallops were right on par with the Frontier Wok shrimp  – though both of us found the dishes a quite a bit less spicy than they could have been.  Hilariously (to me), Miles declared the side salad seen here:

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to be “almost insulting,” and he pushed it away.  That cracked me up – maybe because the little salads are never more than a decoration and also because it just seemed very Anthony Bordain of him.   Taking offense at a Chinese gesture at salad just hit my funny bone.

So – the only real success I have had with Miles & Chinese (so far) has been Chi Dynasty.

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With Miles safely back home, I was free to try something a tad more adventurous.  My friend Dave has been prodding me forever to try Highland Park’s Good Girl Dinette so, this Sunday, I joined Dave & his wife Rose there.

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Good Girl Dinette is a modern take on Vietnamese food – meets diner food – two of my favorite things!  And even better, these hipster joynts seldom disappoint with their vegetarian & vegan options.

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My only complaint is ANY PLACE with bare walls.  I have so much great art that I cannot hang due to lack of space that when I see a place like this – I feel it in my gut.  I get surges of anxiety just looking at those white expanses.  But the menu was really interesting & pulled my attention away from those taunting bare walls.

Eventually, I opted to try the mini-size pho & the mushroom banh mi with spicy fries & a side of (I think) cilantro aioli.

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All of it was fantastic!  The fries were wonderfully heavily dosed with garlic & herbs & the aioli was awesome!  The bread for the sandwich was as good as it gets & Good Girl serves a far better veggie banh mi that they do at the wonderful Golden Road Brewery.  The pho was tasty & substantial, despite being the mini-sized version.  I ended up taking the soup & half the sandwich home.

Dave got a white nectarine hand pie & some roasted pork hash.

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I tried the nectarine pie & it was buttery & flaky & delightful!

Rose ordered one of their homemade sodas.  The soda of the day was pink grapefruit juice – which they basically just carbonated & Rose loved it.  She also got chicken curry.

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I couldn’t try that either but Rose seemed quite pleased.  Then – the kitchen brought us two free desserts!

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Those top two images are a dose of Fosselman’s ice cream with and OUTRAGEOUS caramel sauce & some crunchy stuff in the CUTEST glass Weck’s jars.  Just stupid awesome.  And the other is an orange bread with oranges & whipped cream.  It was lighter & far more delicately flavored – more along the lines of what I would generally prefer as dessert (as I am not a sugar freak).  But that ice cream – and the presentation in those lidded jars – just made us all crazy.

And finally, I spotted these for sale in the corner.

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In a bizarre coincidence, just the evening before, I had been searching for pasta recipes using ether arugula or avocado.  I came across one which I have since tried (see below)

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and which I will soon post – but that required this special fish sauce.  I had another brand already & sniffed it & could not IMAGINE wanting it as a primary ingredient in a pasta recipe so I just made a pasta with both avocado & arugula.  But when I saw this at Good Girl the next day?  I could not resist.  And I made the pasta with it.  And it was crazy good so when I post a recipe using it – TRUST ME!  And – in all honesty – I think any fish sauce will do but this Red Boat is the fish sauce equivalent of a high end balsamic vinegar.  Some can tell the difference – others not so much.

So there you have it.  Now I am going to pick my mother up at the airport!  Have a great day!!!!

Red Curry Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Thai Fried Cauliflower “Rice” (Low Carb, Gluten Free & Paleo)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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This recipe is easy & guilt-free.  The “rice” is actually just grated cauliflower & the veggies can be customized to suit your tastes or to reflect whatever vegetables you have handy.  I know paleo is all the rage but I am not 100% clear on which vegetables are on the “no” list – but I am pretty sure this is paleo.  If NOT – please write me & tell me why, OK?

The key to this is a pre-made red curry.  I bought this little far at my local Gelson’s.

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Asian stores have little cans of them like these that I buy at Bangluck Market.

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If you can’t buy it made, I am sure there are recipes out there on Pinterest or Google that will show you how to make a red curry paste from curry powder.  Having to make the paste sort of eliminates the ease I am professing about this recipe, though, so keep that in mind.  Try to buy it already made.

That said, I must insist that you try cauliflower “rice” at least once.  In a stir fry, you can hardly tell it isn’t rice & it is so much better for you!

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Red Curry Grilled Shrimp

INGREDIENTS

Skewers (optional)

Shrimp (about a pound)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp sriracha

1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed, if possible)

3-4 TBS red curry paste

2 TBS rice vinegar

4 garlic cloves – minced

3 scallions – sliced (reserve some for garnish)

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DIRECTIONS

Soak skewers (if using) in water for at least 30 minutes to help keep them from burning).

Peel & clean the shrimp.

In a bowl, blend the oil, sriracha, lemon juice, curry paste, vinegar, garlic & scallions.  Reserve some to use as garnish later (maybe 1/3 cup) and then put the rest in a Ziplock bag or other container & add the shrimp & mix it all about.  Marinate the shrimp for at least an hour or as long as overnight.

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When ready to grill the shrimp, either on a grill or in a grill pan, skewer the shrimp (two skewers make it easier to flip the shrimp) & grill for about 2-3 minutes each side or until done.  Serve with the spicy Thai fried cauliflower “rice” (below) and drizzle with extra red curry sauce & garnish with scallion slices.

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Spicy Thai Fried Cauliflower “Rice”

INGREDIENTS (use or don’t use or substitute according to your taste)

1 medium head cauliflower

Olive oil

10 green beans – trimmed & chopped

4 jalapeno peppers (red or green) – seeded & diced

1 cup brocoli florets

2 carrots – chopped

1 bell pepper – chopped

1/2 red onion – diced

1 cup peas

4 mushrooms – cliced

2+ TBS red curry paste

2 TBS soy sauce

Eggs – to scramble into rice (optional)

Thai (or other) basil – chopped

Chopped peanuts and/or sliced scallions and/or sliced cucumber and/or lime wedges – as garnish

Sambal oelek, sriracha or chili garlic paste to add kick – if you desire.

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DIRECTIONS

With a hand grater or with the grating blade of your food processor – grate the cauliflower & set aside.

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Whisk the soy sauce & red curry paste together & set aside.

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Prepare your veggies.

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Heat some olive oil (1-2 TBS) in a wok or very large pan.  I threw all the veggies in at once.

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Once they were tender, I added the red curry & soy sauce mix.

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Then I added the cauliflower.

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After about 5 minutes, I created a well & added two egs & scrambled them in the well.  When nearly done, I mixed them into the rice & vegetables.  I then added chopped basil.

Serve with chopped peanuts or scallions and maybe a lime wedge & some sliced cucumber.  Serve with the red curry grilled shrimp.  I have no photo of them together as my phone battery died.  Sorry!  I can promise – this is one yummy disj – especially with copious amounts of sambal oelek dumped upon it!

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Spicy Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp & Vietnamese Egg Roll (Cha Gio) Vermicelli Salad Bowl

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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I’ve loved Vietnamese food since high school when my parents & I would go to the Saigon Inn in the Combat Zone (red light district) in Boston in the late seventies-early eighties.  It was a tiny place on the edge of Chinatown in an old, white, free-standing building that had once been a White Castle or something.  There were 4 or 5 tables and maybe six stools at a counter & everything on the menu was under $4.  It is here that I learned about hoisin sauce & sambal oelek & vermicelli bowls and about eating their little egg rolls (cha gio) wrapped in lettuce leaves & dipped in nuoc cham (sweet chili dipping sauce).  We would go there late nights after seeing bands like Bauhaus or X or Gray Numan somewhere in town – like The Channel or The Rat.  And I walked around looking like this:

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My parents long bragged that they loved the Saigon Inn so much that even the discovery of a cockroach in my step-dad’s half-consumed iced coffee did not dull their passion for the place.  In fact, that roach should have come as no surprise as this restaurant was situated in one of the filthiest & most run down areas of downtown (Chinatowns everywhere are seldom famous for their hygiene & fresh scents – and red light districts have their own grotesquerie to offer).  Also, the roaches at Saigon Inn were bold & you were hard pressed to eat there & not spot a few walking nonchalantly up walls or across menus.

As a quick aside, let me share this gorgeous photo I found as I hunted for a shot of the Saigon Inn.

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Boston, Combat Zone 1970 – by Jerry Berndt.  Found HERE.  Isn’t that sensational?

This one, too, by the same guy.

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And this (though I do not know if it is from the same guy or exhibition in Boston).

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So – with that, I present my Spicy Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp & Vietnamese Egg Roll (Cha Gio) Vermicelli Salad Bowl!

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A key to this dish is the dipping sauce – the nuoc cham (or spicy chili dipping sauce).  If you cannot find it in an Asian store like this

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then there are lots of recipes for variations of it, if you Google the term.  Here is the basic recipe (from www.VietWorldKitchen.com):

Basic Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Makes ¾ cup

3 tablespoons lime juice (1 fat, thin skin lime)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce

Optional additions:
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 or 2 Thai chilis, thinly sliced or 1 teaspoon homemade chili garlic sauce or store bought (tuong ot toi)

1. Make limeade. Combine the lime juice, sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Taste and as yourself this question: Does this limeade taste good? Adjust the flavors to balance out the sweet and sour.

2. Finish with fish sauce. Add the fish sauce and any of the optional ingredients. Taste again and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing out the sour, sweet, salty and spicy. Aim for a bold, forward finish — perhaps a little stronger than what you’d normally like. This sauce is likely to be used to add final flavor to foods wrapped in lettuce or herbs, which are not salted and therefore need a little lift to heighten the overall eating experience. My mother looks for color to gauge her dipping sauce. When it’s a light honey or amber, she knows she’s close.

Notes

Advance Preparation – This sauce may be prepared early in the day and left to sit at room temperature.

Variation – Use half lime juice and half Japanese rice vinegar for a less assertive sauce. Some delicately flavored dishes require this.

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The Vietnamese egg rolls can be purchased like this

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but these might be hard for you to find.  They are nice because they are tiny – about the size of one of my fingers cut in half.  These are also nice because they are vegan.  But, if you cannot find these you could Google a recipe to make them (traditionally, they are filled with ground pork) or you could just use any old frozen egg rolls of your choice.  If they are big egg rolls, just slice them up after frying.

I added shrimp to this dish because I wanted it to be more substantial & I didn’t want to eat a dozen fried egg rolls.  You could go all shrimp or all egg rolls or even add grilled veggies.   These vermicelli bowls were topped with all sorts of things (sliced meats, meatballs etc etc) at the Saigon Inn, maybe even some things we are glad we are unaware of, so feel free to customize this to your taste.

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I had this for dinner two nights in a row.  The first time was less successful because I used fresh vermicelli like this

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which got gooey & clumped together.  These guys are far better for soups, like my Vegetarian Pho.

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As another side note – if you love that pho but do not want the calories those noodles represent, why not try my ZERO CALORIE ZERO CARB Vegetarian Shirataki Pho?

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Last night I made the salad bowl with these dry vermicelli noodles.

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They worked far better so I recommend this type for the salad bowls.

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Spicy Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp & Vietnamese Egg Roll (Cha Gio) Vermicelli Salad Bowl

INGREDIENTS

Vermicelli noodles – cooked as directed, rinsed in cool water & left at room temperature.

Egg rolls – fried as directed (or baked, if you prefer)

Shrimp – peeled & cleaned

Cucumber – cut into matchsticks

Carrot – grated

Sprouts

Red or green leaf lettuce – roughly chopped (leaving some pieces large enough to wrap around bite-sized egg roll slices)

Basil and/or mint (even cilantro works) – to be hand torn & mixed into the bowl after serving

Lime

Peanuts – chopped

nuoc cham (recipe above or bottled)

Sambal oelek or sriracha – as additional condiments, if you want to add a kick

For the shrimp marinade

1 lemongrass stalk

1 shallot

3 jalapenos – seeded

2 hands full basil (I used both Thai basil & Thai hot basil but any basil will do)

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup sambal oelek (or chili paste or sriracha)

1 TBS sugar

2 TBS olive oil

4 garlic cloves

Juice of 2 limes

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DIRECTIONS

Peel & clean the shrimp & put them in a Ziplock bag or a lidded (preferably glass) container.  Hit the lemongrass with a tenderizer or (as I did) with a heavy pepper mill or something & bruise it up.  Slice it into large chunks & add to the shrimp.

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Puree the shallot, lime juice, jalapeno, basil, fish sauce, sambal oelek, sugar, garlic & oil.  Add to the shrimp & toss well.  Refrigerate for an hour or as long as overnight.

Then simply cook the vermicelli.  This is a room temp dish with warm toppings so – make the noodles & assemble them in a bowl(s).  Surround them with the lettuce, cucumber, carrots, sprouts, basil, lime wedges & top with peanuts.

Grill the shrimp & cook the egg rolls.  Add them to your bowl.

Serve with the dipping sauce (you can even pour it on top of the whole lot & mix it all up).

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Saffron Risotto with Asparagus & Fava Beans, Ziplock Omelettes, Pasta with Watercress & Lemon Cream and Disturbing Pedicures

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

~

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YUP!  I wrote a very funny novel!  I hope you will read it!  www.BathingBook.com

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8-6a-13 (8)

OK.  First of all, let me say that I like risotto.  A lot.  But I am finding that, when I make it, it tastes pretty much the same no matter what I use as the highlight ingredients.  That can be disappointing.  Also – there is an art to cooking it just right & to not presenting some waterlogged, mushy rice mess.  The risotto I made last night disappointed me primarily because the saffron color & flavor both somehow got lost.  That was certainly not the case with my Saffron Cream Pasta with Cauliflower.

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That pasta dish was exactly as delicious as it is stunning to see.  But my risotto – not so much.  I’m not saying it didn’t taste good.  It did.  But it has no big wow factor.  So – I am going to use this blog to post a few different items I’ve made that, while I recommend them, I didn’t feel they merited their own post.

But first – let me tell you about a recent experience I had at the nail salon.  This week, my friend Laura is in town from Boston.  She suggested that she & I (and her 12 year old daughter) all go for pedicures & maybe some lunch.  Sounded good to me so I picked them up & brought them to my local, strip mall nail salon.  When I go on my own, I just sit in the regular chairs & eschew the massage chairs because 1) they add $4 to the tab & 2) I think massage chairs are pretty lame.  But, Laura & her daughter were already planted in them & Laura insisted that I join them for the experience.  As I crawled into my chair, Laura said, “Hey!  This chair is pinching my butt!”  I made some lame joke about being desperate & lonely enough to welcome a little grab ass from an electronic chair & plopped myself down.  Now, I don’t know if there is a default setting on the chairs or if the staff sets them a certain way or if you just get it the way the last resident left it but my chair was on full assault mode.  The remote control for it was more complicated than trying to set a VCR to record a TV show & so, as I fumbled, I was victim to the existing settings.  The settings included words like “flap” & “knock” & “knead.”  Flap?  What the fuck is flapping?  I knew what knocking was because it was actively happening to me.  I felt like I was at Super King in the sorry position of standing in front of an especially impatient (and rude) woman with a mustache, black socks & Jesus boots prodding me from behind, angling to cut me in line at the cheese case.  I was in the middle of trying to express something or other to Laura when the chair commenced its “lower body” massage.  I froze mid-word, clamped my mouth shut & my eyes widened in surprise & horror.  Laura looked back at me & knew exactly what had just begun with my chair.  “Right?” she asked rhetorically, her eyes as wide as mine.  And she laughed.  The butt pinching she had mentioned was no butt pinching at all.  It was more like there was a little person under the chair wearing a boxing glove – who was using that boxing glove to massage our taints.  The glove rolled around, providing pressure from front to back & back to front again.  It was very disconcerting and, quite frankly, a shocking violation.  Who thinks they are going to get a vulva massage at a low end nail salon?  Not me.  Was this some sort of “happy ending” house of prostitution?  Did this require a bigger tip?  Ugh!  And if you think sleeping in a cheap motel on a bed with sheets of questionable sanitation is gross – just think of the places that boxing glove has been!

“OMG!  How do I turn it off?!”  I was panicking.

Laura was laughing and, sotto voce, asked, “What do you think…” and she subtly gestured over her shoulder where her 12-year-old daughter sat placidly in her chair.  Oh jeez!  Was that chair molesting her daughter, too?  These chairs had succeeded in freaking out a jaded 48-year-old & a mother of two.  What damage was that third one doing to the psyche of Laura’s innocent middle-schooler?  Methinks – in retrospect – that her chair must have been set differently because, if she was getting the full “lower body” treatment (vagina massage!  Let’s call a spade a spade here) – she gave no indication & I have a really hard time believing anybody could field the initial goosing & not have THIS reaction:

So – after much fumbling, I managed to get the pelvic exam part of the massage to stop.  But in my panic, I apparently upped the “knocking” part & couldn’t turn that off.  I tried to ask Laura but I was getting punched so hard, my speaking voice got all choppy – like I was Katherine Hepburn in the final grip of Parkinson’s.  “La-a-aur-a?  H-how do-o-oo you-ou t-t-u-uh-urn th-is-is o-o-offf?”  While I was speaking, I looked down at myself & noticed that my boobs & every other loose bit on my frame (and there are lots of bits looser than I would like) were being jostled around like a bowl of Jello.  I looked at Laura, a woman gifted in the breast department, and saw her body also looked like it was being wrestled by one of those old-fashioned fat loss jiggle machines.

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By the way – I am old enough to have belonged to a gym in Boston (Gloria Stevens) that actually HAD those things AND the stupid roller machines.

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Jesus.  Had I known what this chair would get up to – I might have worn a corset or some other support device.   A full body Spanx.  Something.  A wet suit.

As Laura and I jiggled & giggled & poked randomly at the remotes to no avail – ah, yes!  Cue the creepy male proprietor.  Here he comes to position himself before the display of waggling female appendages.  He not only stood there taking it all in – he also engaged us in conversation & passed his phone between us – sharing his remarkable weight loss photos.  This effectively kept us from being able to focus on our remotes & end the shaking that would eventually take a harder toll on our boobs than gravity.  “Oh, yes!  I see!” we said, politely enthusiastic.

“Exercise & eating!  I eat a lot of cheese!” he declared.

Good for you, buddy.  Now take your “before & after” photos & your prominent moles with three-inch whiskers dangling from them & get outta here!  I need to adjust my bra straps!

Eventually, we were able to get the chairs to settle down & we got down to the business of the pedicures.  Here is a photo of Laura & me – exhibiting the post-rough-sex glow we had – courtesy of those perverted chairs with anger issues.

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Notice the Bat phone in the background?  Look at this thing.

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Maybe Fu Manchu there was more than just a thinned down, lusty boob man.  Maybe he was a superhero & this was his special superhero phone?  They also had this throwback-looking thing.

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Maybe that was his teleporter.  I have no way of knowing.  What I do know is that I got glittery, red toenails meant to draw your eye from my increasingly problematic bunions.

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Are feet copacetic in a food blog?  Likely not – and for that – I apologize.

I also know that when we went to lunch – I opted not to take any chances on this place –

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– because I still felt violated by the massage chair & was in no shape to roll the dice on the “anal beer” these guys seem so proud of.  Even if it is served ice cold.

That really is an unfortunate breakdown of a perfectly decent word, no?

Alright – now that I’ve gotten that off my chest – I can share a few underwhelming recipes!  YAY!

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I grilled shrimp for this but you can lose them if you want to.

Saffron Risotto with Grilled Shrimp, Asparagus & Fava Beans

INGREDIENTS

Shrimp (optional)

2 cups Arborio (risotto) rice

1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

4 cups stock (I make 5 just in case the risotto needs overcooking)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1 large shallot (or small onion)

Asparagus

Saffron (3 TBS of the liquid or a generous pinch of saffron threads steeped in 3 TBS hot water)

1 (16 oz) can fava beans (or white beans of any kind)

4 cloves garlic – minced (or to taste)

olive oil

S&P

1/2 lemon

Basil or parsley as garnish (I happened to have red basil)

DIRECTIONS

Put the shrimp (if using) in a Ziplock bag or a bowl & squeeze the 1/2 lemon over them.  Add a glug or two of olive oil & some S&P and maybe a minced garlic clove or two.  Blend well.  Set aside.

Drain the fava beans & puree in a food processor.  Set aside.

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Hold each asparagus spear by the far ends & bend until they snap.  They will naturally break at the point that the spear is too tough to eat.  Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a stock pot.  Add the asparagus & some garlic & saute about 3 minutes over medium heat or until the asparagus is vibrant & softens a bit.  Set aside but keep the pan for re-use.

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Grill or pan-fry the shrimp until just pink.  Set aside.

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In a clean pan – heat the stock to just simmering & keep it there.  Add the saffron to this stock.

Heat 2 TBS olive oil in the asparagus pan.  Add the shallot (or onion) and saute until soft – about 3 minutes.  Add garlic & the rice & saute for about 2 minutes over medium-high heat – stirring constantly – until the rice is translucent at the edges.

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Add the wine (if using) & cook for a minute or so.  Then, add the stock in 1/2 to 1 cup increments, stirring almost constantly and allowing the liquid to be mostly absorbed before adding more.  You might need more or less stock – depending on the softness you like – but do not add so much that the rice is mushy.   Be sure to add enough broth, though, so that the risotto is creamy.

Add the asparagus & the cheese & the pureed beans.  Serve with grilled shrimp on top & with some chopped herbs.

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OK!   Onto another recipe that I could not post because I hate all the photos I took of it.  That is really the only reason – as it is quite tasty.

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That is my Watercress & Lemon Cream Stacenate (stracnar) Pasta.  It is the same pasta I made for this dish:

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That is Stracnar (Stracenate) Pasta with a Pan-Fried Cauliflower, Tomato & Clam Ragu using the labor-intensive but really pretty cavarola-boarded pasta.

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I don’t expect anyone to hunt down a cavarola board & make this stuff – so – just use bowtie pasta or something.

Watercress & Lemon Cream Pasta

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb bow-tie pasta (or pappardelle or something)

4 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup ricotta

1/4 cup grated Parmesan (plus extra for garnish)

1 bunch watercress

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves – minced

juice & zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

1 TBS pepper

1 tomato – diced (optional – but it would add nice color)

Parsley or basil or reserved watercress as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Wash the watercress & remove any large stems.  Chop it up.

Heat the olive oil in a pan & add the minced garlic.  Saute 1 minute & then add the cream cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, juice & zest of the lemon and the S&P.  Blend & heat through.

Cook the pasta.  Drain & toss with the lemon cream sauce, add the watercress & serve topped with chopped herbs & tomatoes (if using) and lots of ground pepper.

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And lastly – this dish – Ziplock Baggy Boiled Omelettes.

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I saw this posted on my friend Cheryl Patrick Van Allen’s Facebook page & tried it out immediately.   Basically – you take eggs & whatever else you want in your omelette & put it all in a resealable baggy.  Squeeze out the air, seal the bag & smoosh everything around until well-blended.

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Whether camping or just serving several folks that require different ingredients in their omelettes – this is an easy way to make a bunch of varied omelettes all at one go & in one pan of boiling water.  Just be sure to write everyone’s name on their bag.

Then – boil them for 13 minutes.  Be careful the plastic doesn’t melt on your pan – a problem that actually bothers me & is a main reason I didn’t post this as a stand-alone recipe.   Folks say the omelette slips out of the bag onto your plate – and it does – but mine slipped out & looked more like an eggy heart than an omelette.

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That isn’t very appetizing.  But – it is nothing a fork & herbs & some peppers cannot fix.

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The other reason I didn’t post this before is because of the controversy about boiling in the bags that are not meant for that task.  It seems that the plastic can leak chemicals etc into your food.  Eh – but that is true of every dish you ever zapped in the microwave in or on something plastic.  I hate microwaving anything because I believe it alters the food in such a way that your body cannot even identify it as food – but I have been known to succumb to the convenience occasionally.  Still – I try to put things (even things meant to be zapped in their packaging) onto paper or glass before the nuking.

So – there you have it – boiled baggy eggy weggies!  Try at your own risk!

You know what isn’t risky?  A bottle of smiley face wine!

Bon appetit!

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Jamaican Jerk Shrimp Pizza with Candied Jalapenos & Spicy Peach, Pineapple & Mango Salsa

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Oh no!  Guess what!  Another recipe born of leftovers & other remnants in my fridge.  This one commits the crime of combining seafood with cheese but, sometimes, you just gotta cook like an outlaw.

This recipe used my Spicy Peach, Pineapple & Mango Salsa

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and my Candied Jalapenos

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and my recent Marinara Sauce recipe

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I also used this Jamaican Spice Paste (which is VERY tasty & has quite a kick!)

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If you cannot find that kind, do not worry!  I guess Lowry’s makes a Jerk sauce & I am sure there are many other pre-made options out there.

I also used this BBQ sauce.  You can use your own favorite.

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I made this pizza with some pre-cooked frozen shrimp (of which I am not a fan – but someone else bought them & left them here).  Grilling shrimp that has already been cooked & then baking it, too?  I think you can guess that my shrimp were quite dried out by the end & I think that is evident in the photos.  In fact – I found myself picking them off the pizza as I ate it.  But that was only because they’d had the bejeesus cooked out of them & they were poor quality shrimp to start with.  If you start with better quality raw shrimp – you will not have this problem.

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Jamaican Jerk Shrimp Pizza

INGREDIENTS

Candied jalapenos

Spicy Peach, Pineapple & Mango Salsa

Pizza dough – mine is HERE or use you own favorite

1/4 cup marinara – mine is HERE or use your own favorite

1 tsp BBQ sauce

1/2 cup plus 1 TBS jerk sauce of your choice

12 or so good quality shrimp

Grated pizza cheese (quantity to suit your taste)

Cilantro

DIRECTIONS

Heat your oven to 450-500

Marinate your shrimp in 1/2 cup jerk sauce for at least an hour – or more.

Grill your shrimp – or pan fry them in a little olive oil.

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Blend the marinara, bbq sauce & 1 TBS jerk sauce in a bowl.

Roll out your dough & place it on a cooking sheet sprayed with cooking spray or wiped with olive oil.

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Spread the marinara blend over the crust & then top with the cheese & the shrimp.

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Be SURE your oven has reached at least 450 before putting the pizza in.  A hot oven is critical for a crispy crust.  Bake the pizza for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted & crust is browning.  Top with the jalapenos & salsa & chopped cilantro.  Listen to Bob Marley & eat the whole fucking thing yourself.  I did!

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