Friday, January 23, 2015

Thai rice noodle salad

I created this rice salad after a bit of experimentation with Moosewood's Sri Wasano's Infamos Indonesian Rice Salad recipe.  I quickly decided I preferred rice noodles and large chunks of vegetables, over the brown rice and diced vegetables the original recipe called for.  And once again, I couldn't resist the addition of fresh grated ginger.

Collect your ingredients, your favorite chef knife and cutting board and get ready for a sumptuous, flavorful, aesthetic delight.

Combine the following in a four cup pyrex measuring cup or equivalent size bowl and set aside:
     1/3 cup peanut oil
     3 tbs. sesame oil
     2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
     1/2 cup orange juice
     2 tbs. soy sauce
     2 cloves garlic, mashed and diced
     1 tbs. fresh ginger, diced finely
     1 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (I usually use more)
     8-oz can crushed pineapple, including the juice

In a large bowl, combine the following:
     3 scallions or green onions cut diagonally in 3/4" pieces
     1 stalk celery chopped in 1/4" pieces, crosswise
     3-4 miniature, red or orange bell peppers - top them, rotate your paring knife down inside the whole pepper to remove the seeds, the cut across in circles
     8-oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
     8-oz fresh mung bean sprouts
     a large handful of fresh snow peas
     1/2 cup dried cranberries
     1 cup whole cashews

Bring 8 cups water to a boil, remove from the burner, and add 14-oz stir-fry rice noodles.  Let soak for 10 minutes and enjoy a glass of your favorite Sauvignon Blanc while you get the table set and the candles lit.  (Truth be told, in my kitchen the wine is being sipped and candles are lit as soon as I put my apron on and get started…!)  The Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc became a house favorite here last summer after discovering it in a Bar Harbor restaurant in Maine.  

Drain the noodles once they are soft and pliable, but still a bit firm.  Rinse with cold water and add the noodles to the large bowl with the vegetables.  Combine gently, lifting not stirring, then add the sauce and continue to combine, careful not to mush the noodles.  Top with 2 tbs. sesame seeds and serve.  

-OR- Cover the sauce, and the vegetables and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.  Cook the noodles closer to the time you want to serve the salad but let them cool before combining all the ingredients and serve cold.  Leftovers are delicious, but never seem to last long!

I personally love a summer meal of salads, homemade bread, and a nice crisp, fruity wine.  For a table of 8, make the Thai rice salad, wheat berry salad, a fresh green salad, two fresh loves of bread or crusty baguettes with olive oil for dipping, and serve with a generous offering of warm conversation and couple bottles of sparkling water with fresh lime, and some chilled wines.  Top off the evening with a dollop of lemon sorbet and fresh berries.  

And don't forget the flowers, candles, and linens...

apricot rosemary rice pilaf

This recipe has become a staple since finding the initial version in "Moosewood Restaurants new classics" cookbook.  I've varied it little, save to add shitake mushrooms to the mix, sometimes toasted almonds, and trying different blends of rice for the color and texture options they provide.  My favorite is a combination of red and brown rice.

Prepare your fresh ingredients ahead of time for seamless meal preparation:
     3 cloves of garlic, mashed and minced
     1/2 cup diced vidalia onion, or 1/3 cup red onion, cut in small strips
     1 cup shitake mushroom caps, sliced (I often use more, as I love the meaty texture)
     1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
     1/3 cup sliced unsulphured dried apricots

Prior to heating the skillet, have the prepared ingredients, spices, and olive oil sitting conveniently to the side of the stove.  I typically use sea salt, dried red pepper, and ginger.  On this particular evening I was preparing Christmas Dinner for my staff, and the pilaf was accompanying a Moonshine Molasses Ham from our local charcuterie, Rooster Street Provisions.  

You'll need a total of two cups of rice - usually a tougher variety of wild and/or basmati rice works best.  Rinse the rice beforehand, and let drain in a colander until you are ready for it.

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the bottom of the skillet, then add the garlic and onions, sautéing until the onion turns translucent. 

Place the drained rice, rosemary, and spices in the frying pan and sauté' another minute or two until the rice is coated with oil.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until rice is tender - typically about 45-50 minutes.  

During the last 15-20 minutes when most of the water is absorbed, stir in the mushrooms, and add the apricots toward the end.  Remove from heat, top with grated parmesan cheese and cover until you are ready to serve dinner.  This dish will keep nicely warm on the stove in the cast iron skillet, or it can be put in the oven after it's turned off when any baking is done.  

I'll need to post a pic of the completed dish next time I make it - just realized I nicely documented the process and not the end product!