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Thai One On

How delicious is Thai food? Warm, spicy noodles, loads of fresh veggies, and peanut sauce. Oh, glorious peanut sauce.

The Smiling Elephant has become my favorite Nashville Thai spot. Located only a few blocks from my house, this authentic Thai restaurant is cozy and addictive. The cute owner (who built the place himself) generally takes to-go orders and acts as the cashier, all while wearing this adorable T-shirt.

I decided to try my own hand at a little Thai cooking when I came across a super simple recipe for Thai beef cups. So easy. So yummy. So making this again.

Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 3-4

3 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon sugar
3 limes
1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ red onion, sliced vertically
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Green leaf lettuce, rinsed & dried (or cabbage if you prefer)
Dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped if you like

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add 2 teaspoons oil to pan. Cook ginger and garlic for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add beef and brown.
  • Whisk together remaining oil, sugar, the juice of two limes, fish sauce, water, and red pepper in a large bowl. Add the beef mixture, onion, and cilantro. Toss well.
  • Fill lettuce leaves with beef. Top with peanuts and serve with lime wedges.


2 Comments

1 CSA Delivery, 2 New Recipes

I got my first CSA delivery. Yay! The contents included bok choy, scallions, strawberries, kale, kohlrabi, romaine lettuce, and a couple bites of baby broccoli. Check it:

Maybe it’s just the novelty, but I’m in love with the CSA. It was so exciting to open the box and see what was inside, and then I had to figure out how to use some of this stuff. Bok choy + kohlrabi = Asian to me, so I went with this recipe that my sweet friend Laura turned up (she’s part of my CSA group and also got kohlrabi, which no one knew what to do with). This recipe used three of the treasures in the box, so I decided to try it. And I felt so adventurous because:

1. I’ve never cooked Asian food at home. (My mom used to make chop suey out of a can. I kid you not. I’m not even trying to pretend that counts. Gag. It’s a wonder I wasn’t scarred for life.)
2. I’ve never cooked with bok choy. (Though I have eaten it many times.)
3. I’ve never seen or heard of kohlrabi. (Called me sheltered if you must.)

Though the deck seemed stacked against me, I went for the above recipe, and it was a-ma-zing. Below is my final take.

Veggie Green Curry with Brown Rice
2 liberal servings

1-2 cups brown rice
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small- to medium-sized kohlrabi, trimmed, peeled, and cut into batons
1 baby bok choy, leaves and stems cut into bite-size pieces
1 can light coconut milk, plus ¼ can water
2-3 tablespoons green curry paste, to taste
Kosher salt
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • Prepare rice according to instructions.
  • Heat sesame oil in a medium sauté pan.
  • Sauté onion with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until softened and starting to turn golden.
  • Stir in garlic, cooking for 1 minute.
  • Add kohlrabi and sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add bok choy and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add coconut milk, then fill can ¼ way with water and add to the pan. Stir in curry paste. Season with salt. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve curried vegetables over rice, and garnished with scallions.

Next time, I think I’ll:

  • Cook the rice properly. Or invite over a friend who knows how. I never make rice, so I wasn’t sure what to buy, and mine was not good. Ick.
  • Add mushrooms and/or tofu and/or other veggies and/or seafood. You could put dirt in this sauce and it would taste good.

Side note: Did I mention that this dish was incredible? I couldn’t believe how easy and delicious it was. Plus, my kitchen smelled yummy-sweet like coconut milk. Mmm … I can’t wait make this again and try to improve it.

I did say two recipes, so here you go.

These heavenly little berries were also stashed in my box from Avalon Acres, so this Strawberry Tart recipe from Cooking Light sounded like a good idea.

Lovely Strawberry Tart
Serves 8-10

Crust:
36 honey graham crackers (9 sheets)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 teaspoons water
Cooking spray

Topping:
6 cups small fresh strawberries, hulled and divided
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Filling:
2/3 cup (about 5 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • To prepare crust, place crackers in a food processor; process until crumbly. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, butter, and 4 teaspoons water; pulse just until moist. Place cracker mixture in a 9-inch round tart pan lightly coated with cooking spray, pressing into bottom and up sides of pan to 3/4 inch. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • To prepare topping, place 2 cups strawberries in food processor, and process until smooth. Combine strawberry purée, 2/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute. Remove glaze from heat. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  • To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, ¼ cup sugar, and extracts in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over bottom of cooled tart shell.
  • Combine the remaining 4 cups strawberries and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange berries over filling. Spoon half of glaze evenly over berries (reserve remaining glaze for another use). Sprinkle toasted nuts around edge. Cover and chill 3 hours.

Side notes & next time: Let me just say, this thing was a process. Not a difficult process, but there were many steps and dishes to deal with. And then, I went and screwed up several things. Like:

  • The original recipe says to use a 9-inch dish. Well, mine was more like 12 inches.
  • Also, I had to make the crust twice. (Of course twice, MKR.) I accidentally added 4 tablespoons of water instead of 4 teaspoons the first time, and it turned into a paste rather than a crumble. It was a delicious paste, but a paste nonetheless.
  • The recipe says to use half the strawberry glaze and to use the rest “for another use.” I’m thinking, Why on earth would it tell me to do this? What other uses? (Although, in its glazey state it smelled and tasted like raw fruit roll-up matter. Incredible. I could make my own fruit roll-ups. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.) So, I used it all, reasoning that my pan was too big so maybe I needed the extra. The tart tasted delish, but it was kinda runny.

What a great first-time CSA experience! I tried new ingredients, new recipes, and a new style of cooking. I even made new mistakes. Sometimes those are happy accidents and sometimes they are flat-out wrong, but there’s always room for a great learning opportunity.


3 Comments

Good. Berry Good.

In 8th grade, I took Home Ec. Now, I have a terrible memory. But, for whatever reason, there are several things about this class that I can clearly recall. We discussed the differences between deodorant and antiperspirant. We sewed square pillows (mine was kelly green). And we baked blueberry muffins.

Home Ec was a breeze for me until those blueberry muffins. I put the blueberries in with all the other ingredients, and when my partner and I mixed the batter, the berries squished and turned everything a bright blueish-purple. Only then did I consult the recipe and realize that we were supposed to fold in the berries at the very end, precisely to prevent this royal blue tragedy from happening. I couldn’t tell you the name of the teacher or who my baking partner was, but I do know that I got a C on that assignment for not following directions properly. It broke my little overachieving heart.

I don’t think I’ve baked blueberry muffins since that incident. Until last night, when I made this fabulous version from Cooking Light that weigh in at only 190 calories and 5g of fat. I basically followed their recipe to a T, but I’ll post it here, too.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
Makes exactly 16 muffins

1 2/3 cups quick-cooking oats
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil (I used vegetable oil because it was what I had)
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 large eggs
2 cups frozen blueberries (You can also use fresh, just skip flouring them)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

 

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Place oats in a food processor; pulse 5 to 6 times or until oats resemble coarse meal. Place in a large bowl.
  • Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to oats; stir well. Make a well in center of mixture.
  • Combine buttermilk and next 3 ingredients (through eggs). Add to flour mixture; stir just until moist.
  • Toss berries with 2 tablespoons flour, and gently fold into batter. Spoon batter into 16 muffin cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle 2 tablespoons granulated sugar evenly over batter.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove from pans immediately; place on a wire rack.

 

I’m really happy with the way these turned out. They aren’t too sweet, but I like that. Sometimes healthy muffins are cardboardy, but these are surprisingly moist. Also the lemon zest adds a subtly bright flavor.

Side note:
Since the recipe said it made 16, and I had a mini muffin pan, I thought, Why not?

This, however, turned out to be a mini muffin massacre. The minis fell apart when I took them out of the pan. It was Home Ec 1993 all over again.

Next time, I think I will:

  • Not try to make mini muffins.
  • Add wheat germ to the batter to make it even healthier, which I meant to do but forgot.
  • Use fresh berries instead of frozen.