Monday, July 25, 2011

Vietnamese Bun with Grilled Beef

Once I saw that Emily had made the cold vietnamese noodle and veggie salad 'bun' on her blog I couldn't get Vietnamese food out of my head. Growing up in Western Mass I was not immediately exposed to many exotic cuisines, but when I lived in Worcester I found myself living in Main South where there is a bustling Vietnamese population.

I fell in love with bun in the summer and pho in the winter, and many delicious dishes in between. So much so that my local Vietnamese restaurant, Da Lat, was my #4 speed dial on my cell after my parents and my 2 college roommates.

I loosely followed the Fine Cooking master recipe for bun, making a few changes....Namely, omitting the bean sprouts for no other reason than being cheap about it.

The recipes provided give suggestions for pork, chicken and shrimp -- so I decided to wing it and made my own beef marinade of fish sauce, soy, garlic, oil and a teaspoon of sugar.

Rafe again grilled the meat perfectly, and we assembled our bowls with our ingredients. We made the lettuce the bottom layer, then rice noodles, beef, mint and basil (fresh from the garden!), peanuts, cilantro....and covered everything with a healthy splash of nuoc cham....which I soon discovered is a very polarizing part of this dish.

You see, the major ingredient in nuoc cham is fish sauce. Anyone who has ever had fish sauce knows what an absolutely offensive smell it carries. I will be the first to admit how gross it smells. But the taste? sublime. It really heightens the whole dish and makes it sing....mixed with the sugar, chilis and lime juice it hits every note on the palate, and brings all the pieces of the dish into perfect harmony.

Rafe's first mistake was smelling the fish sauce. It's so damn pungent its tough to get it out of your nose. Suffice to say he wasn't a fan, but does enjoy steak and veggies, so he was happy to dress his next helping in lime juice and soy. So all wasn't lost. And I got to take the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I call that a win-win.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dessert Quesadilla

Tortilla Land tortillas do not necessarily have to be limited to savory applications.

Enter, the dessert quesadilla. I came up with this gem on a night when my chocolate craving needed to be met lest I go on some sort of rampage.  

I mixed some leftover ricotta with a little maple syrup and cinnamon. After I cooked my tortilla on both sides I filled it with the ricotta and some nutella, folded it and continued to cook it until the filling was warm and melty.

Crisis averted.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Steak Tacos

Rafe and I love tacos (as is evidenced by several posts about them), but one of Rafe's biggest pet peeves about at-home tacos are the tortillas. It seems that no matter what brand I buy, they're never quite as tasty or soft as the tortillas in restaurants. 

With hundreds of Tortilla Land tortillas shipped to them, Megan and Meghan were anxious to pawn them off share. So I was really excited to come home from our Tortilla party with some packages of my own to try!

My mom had recently gifted me 4 large ribeye steaks from her local meat market and we always have taco fixings - so I whipped up a quick marinade of garlic, lime juice, cilantro and soy. Rafe worked the grill while I prepped taco fixings.

Part of the prep work was warming the tortillas; these tortillas aren't quite "ready to use". They are actually par-cooked. Before you fill these tortillas you place them on a hot griddle or pan for 60 seconds. They puff and brown and pretty much smell terrific.

Our steak came out a perfect medium rare (Rafe's grill skills are unparalleled this season). We added the meat to the tortillas along with cheese, red onion, salsa, tomato and avocado and dug in.

Rafe, being a taco enthusiast and tortilla critic offerred this opinion of the Tortilla Land products (I'm paraphrasing): 
They still aren't as good as the tortillas you get at a legitimate Mexican dining establishment - but they're better than any other tortillas I've had at home.

So there you have it. Not sure where you can buy these - but I'll definitely be looking for them as soon as my stash is used up.

Is there a food you make at home that is never *quite* as good as the restaurant version?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tortilla Land Potluck

I lived in Boston for 5 years - and although I love my new home in CT I still miss that dirty water. Luckily, I still have lots of friends in town, so I get to be a frequent visitor.

Last weekend I made the long drive down 84 and 90 to Boston. After I scooped Michelle up, we headed over to Megan's for a little party.  Megan and Meghan had both received gobs of tortillas from Tortilla Land that needed to be used up by August, so Megan offerred to throw a potluck. In attendance were Michelle, Meghan, Bianca, Elizabeth, Christine, Emily (and her adorable pup, Sadie!) and of course, our host, Megan.

Everyone brought something different to go with tortillas!

I brought a CT salsa that I consider my favorite bottled salsa....and the label is pretty awesome too.

Bianca made her famous guacamole
And I may or may not have eaten most of it- I love guac!

Meghan made an addictive salad of corn, tomatoes, cilantro and jicama. It was dressed with a blood orange olive oil and was so delicious, crunchy and refreshing!

And Megan made chicken chimichangas that were out of this world. The filling was SO flavorful.

I also brought some mixed veggies that Megan sauteed to put into quesadillas.

Elizabeth assembled the quesadillas on the griddle.

No fiesta is complete without cocktails... Christine wowwed us with her margarita making skills.

Mmmm - Guava Margarita!

And just when I thought I couldn't eat anything else, Megan casually mentions that she whipped up a dessert that morning.....And then brings out this gorgeous cake.

In addition to hosting, making a main course, and dessert, Megan showed us how she finishes her beautiful baked moving the cake from the pan onto a cake stand, and putting the final touches on the decoration. Amazing.

And it looks just like the picture.

I had so much fun with the girls....and was excited to bring home some tortillas for my own creations....more on those to come!

What would you make for a Mexican fiesta?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Welcome to Miami

I am so excited!! I'm currently on my way to Miami to celebrate one of my best friend's bachelorette parties! I met Kirsten at my previous job in Boston and we were immediately pals. Once I moved across the street from her, it cemented our friendship. We spent lots of nights enjoying impromptu dinners, splitting bottles of wine on her roofdeck or my stoop, and early morning runs along the Charles. 

She and her fiance Will also introduced Rafe and I, but that is a story for another time.

For a friend like Kirsten, you would travel across the globe for anything she needs (or post a picture where she looks cute and you look....pale).  So lucky me - she needs me in Miami for a weekend of sun and fun....twist my arm.

As much as I'm excited to go on our fun girls weekend....I'm going to miss my boys (Rafe and Roscoe).

So much fun lies ahead!!