Vanna’s Nam Van – Coconut Milk & Fruit Dessert

Our dear friend Vanna is the most amazing cook.  Literally everything she makes is the best I’ve ever eaten – no matter what she’s cooking!

Last night she was in town and made supper for all of us, including one of my favorite desserts – Nam Van, and she shared the recipe with me.

Nam Van is a popular dessert in Southeast Asia, and it’s a fruity, coconut milky dessert that’s unlike anything you’ll ever try. More liquid than a pudding, it’s refreshing and not overly sweet. The green jelly make it a pretty light green color, too.

We are lucky to have a great Asian Market close by, so we were able to pick up all the components, but you can always order these items online as well.  All the fruit and coconut milk was Arroy-D, and the green jelly is Chin Chin brand.

Next time I’ll photograph it before it’s all gone!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup palm sugar (or 1/3 cup brown sugar)
1/2 cup water

1 can lychees in syrup  (save lychee syrup)
1 can longans in syrup
1 can rambutans in syrup
1 can toddy palm seeds
1 can jackfruit in syrup

3 cups of coconut milk (We used Arroy-D cartons.)
2 cups ice
2 cans Green Jelly (We got Chin Chin brand)

1 cup fresh cantaloupe chunks
1 cup fresh muskmelon chunks

Make a simple syrup with palm sugar and water, by heating them in a pan until it comes to the boil and the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

Open all the cans of fruit. Drain the syrup and rinse all the fruit.  Be sure to save the lychee syrup – you’ll add it back in later!

Palm seeds are oddly slick and sticky at the same time, but add a wonderful chewy texture. Don’t freak out – just put them in a colander and rinse them really well.

Place all rinsed, canned fruit into a large bowl.

Add the coconut milk, lychee syrup and about half the simple syrup. Stir the fruit gently until well mixed. Add ice and stir more until the mixture is a little chilled.Stir very gently and taste – adding more of the simple syrup as needed.

Shake the jelly out of the can, and cut it into 1/2″ cubes.  Cut melons into chunks and add both to the coconut fruit mixture, again stirring very, very gently.

Refrigerate at least a couple of hours.

To serve, add a little crushed ice to a bowl or cup and fill with fruit and coconut mixture. The ice helps keep it cool.

You could probably save time by refrigerating the cans and carton of coconut milk overnight so they’re cold to start with.  Still add ice to the mix and to the cup – this lightens the milk a bit.

Borracho (Drunken) Beans

I’d never heard of Borracho (Drunken) Beans until just a few days ago. This recipe is from Kiki810 on Allrecipes – with a few minor changes.

Kiki uses two cans of tomatoes and 1/4 cup of pickled jalapenos. Being as there a quarantine and all, I didn’t have that but thought a can of diced tomatoes and one of Rotel might do. I also added a little cumin and bacon for a more smokiness. The beer cooks out for the most part, but leaves a nice complex flavor.

You honestly don’t need to soak the beans overnight, and there is some consensus that the beans taste better if you don’t.

Ingredients:

1 pound dried pinto beans, washed
2 quarts chicken stock or water
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle dark beer (can also use  light beer)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz.)can Rotel tomatoes with jalapeno peppers (regular or mild)
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ Tbsp dried oregano
1 ½ cups chopped fresh cilantro (I used stems also, roughly chopped.)
1 strip of bacon, chopped or 1 Tbsp bacon drippings

Wash beans and put in a large pot, covered 1″ deep with boiling water. Simmer 2 hours, stirring from time to time to prevent beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot and add water as needed.

Add all other ingredients, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for another 1 1/2 hours. Liquid should reduce quite a bit – so it’s not soupy, but more stew-y.

Mash a few beans to thicken the sauce. Makes a great side dish, topped with a little cheese, more cilantro and sour cream. It’s also great as a taco with with cheese, sour cream, chopped fresh tomatoes and salad greens.

Leave out the bacon drippings for a great vegan version.

Thai Salmon Red Curry

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Salmon by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

We love the Mae Ploy Curry pastes, and the red Curry Paste is used in one of our favorite Thai dishes from a wonderful local Thai restaurant, Red Salmon Curry.  Salmon works out beautifully in this curry, but you could really use any firmer fish.  The Red Curry Paste is pretty spicy – so go easy on it the first time.  Love the heat?  Go for the full 1 1/2 Tablespoons! Serve with rice.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup mushrooms, halved
1  to 1 1/2 Tbsp Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste (use less if you don’t like it too spicy!)
1 cup cauliflower florets
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in slivers
1 can coconut milk
1/2 can water
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
1/2 to 1 lb salmon fillet, skin removed and cut into 1″ pieces
Fresh lime juice (1/2 lime)
toasted cashews (optional)
fresh basil (optional)

In a large, deep frying pan, heat oil and saute onions for 3-4 minutes until softened.  Add peppers and saute another couple minutes.  Add mushrooms and continue sauteing 3-4 minutes until the water has released and partially dried up.

Form a well in the middle of the veggies and add a little more oil.  Add the curry paste and saute lightly for a minute or so.  Stir to combine with all veggies.  Add cauliflower and ginger and stir again. Add coconut milk, water and fish sauce.  Bring to a simmer and let cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add spinach and salmon and cook 3-4 minutes, or until salmon pieces are pink through.
Serve with rice, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice on top.  Sprinkle with cashews and fresh basil if using.

Skip the salmon for a vegan version.  You can use other vegetables if you have them.  If using a stiffer veggie like carrots or potato, cook them in boiling salted water for several minutes until they are just about done, and then add them with the baby spinach.

So, so good!

Kale, Apple, Cabbage, Carrot and Goat Cheese Salad

This is based on a recipe from the Pioneer Woman and Natalie Perry, but features substitutions based on what I had in my pantry. It’s a really substantial and flavorful salad that was very satisfying as a main dish. Lots of bright flavors and colors!

Salad ingredients:
6 oz. baby kale
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 ounces grated cabbage and carrots – about 3 cups? Can also use brussel sprouts
2 medium apples, cored and diced
1 cup candied pecans (see note #1)
4 oz. goat cheese
1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or baked sweet potatoes (see note #2)
handful craisins

Dressing:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 tsp whole grain mustard
4 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

In a large salad bowl, add kale, lemon juice and first Tbsp of Olive Oil. Gently massage the kale for a minute until it has softened a bit and started to turn a little darker green.

Add the shredded veggies, chopped apples and candied pecans.

Make the dressing in a mason jar, shaking vigorously for 30 seconds until well combined. Add to the bowl, and mix gently until everything is coated.

Drop goat cheese, sweet potato (or butternut squash) and craisins on top and serve.

Note #1: To make candied pecans, in a small frying pan add pecans, 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has dried up. Be careful – it burns easily!

Note #2: peel and dice butternut squash into 1″ squares, toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Or, do the same for sweet potatoes. Roast at 425 until browned and soft about 15-20 minutes. Poke with a fork to make sure they’re done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Vegetable Paella

I’ve had my eye on Caroline’s Vegetable Paella recipe from TasteLoveandNourish.com for a long time, and I finally decided to give it a go.  She has wonderful plant-based recipes with tons of flavor.  Here is a link to her completely vegan original recipe. Caroline adds artichoke hearts to her, but I think it was fine without them.

Fortunately, I had almost all the ingredients in my pantry, and was able to make a few substitutions that worked well.  I don’t know about you, but during this time of social distancing and staying home, I’m learning to be much more creative!  I roughly halved her recipe since I’m only cooking for three right now.

Ingredients

1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 Tbsp hot water
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil or bacon drippings (to add smokiness)
1 large onion, diced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used half regular button and half baby bellas)
2 big cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 very small zucchini, halved and sliced

1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/4 cups short-grain rice (I used Arborio)
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
14.5 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (or regular diced tomatoes), drained
1/2 cup frozen green peas
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1/4 cup big green Italian olives with pimentos,halved

handful fresh parsley
drizzle extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, pour hot water over the saffron. Set aside for at least fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Move a rack to the bottom third of your oven.

Keep the onion, mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, spices (see below), rice, white wine, broth and saffron/water in bowls near the stove – you’ll be adding them separately and cooking them fairly quickly.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven safe skillet over medium high heat.
Add the onion and cook for just two minutes.
Add mushrooms and cook without stirring for about two minutes. Stir and cook for two more minutes or until just beginning to brown.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Add the zucchini slices and continue cooking for three minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the spices: paprika, smoked hot paprika, cayenne, thyme and bay leaves, salt and pepper. Add to skillet, stir and cook for a minute or two.

Add the rice and stir to coat.
Add the white wine. Simmer until reduced by about half.
Add the vegetable broth and the saffron with the water. Stir gently and bring the pan to a simmer. Cook for a couple of minutes.
Scatter tomatoes over the top.
Transfer the pan to the bottom third of the oven, and bake for 15 minutes.
Scatter the peas, capers and the olives over the top.
Continue baking the paella for 10 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Remove the bay leaves.
Garnish with fresh parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Ground Turkey Fried Rice

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cup grated carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1-2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 cups cooked brown rice chilled in the fridge (or 1 packet frozen brown rice from Trader Joe’s, thawed)
1 tsp sesame oil

Garnishes

cilantro, rough chopped
green onions, sliced into little rings
sesame seeds
Sriracha
fresh limes, quartered
Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise (optional)

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add eggs and scramble fairly quickly, chopping them as they cook. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add in turkey, onion, carrot, garlic, ginger, and black pepper and saute for a few minutes, stirring to break up the meat.

Stir in soy sauce, vinegar, hoisin, and chili garlic sauce. Continue cooking until meat is no longer pink.

Stir in peas, scrambled eggs and brown rice and cook until heated through.

Drizzle with sesame oil and serve with garnishes. (Kewpie is our addition – Samir puts Kewpie on everything and I have to admit it was pretty delicious – but not strictly necessary.)

Note: I used an Indian Chili Garlic sauce which is hot, garlicky and a little sweet. If you can’t get Chilli Garlic sauce, substitute a blend of 1 1/2 Tbsp Sriracha, with 1/2 tsp brown sugar and 2 cloves of garlic, crushed. If you have fish sauce, add a 1/4 tsp of fish sauce, too.

Bok Choy, Eggplant and Peppers with Oyster Sauce

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Beautiful Bok Choy Photo by Jodie Morgan on Unsplash

We love baby bok choy and chinese eggplant.  When I saw them looking all fresh and delicious at the Asian market, I couldn’t resist.  I grabbed a beautiful red pepper, too and it made for a quick and easy supper.   The recipe is from foodandwine.com with a few tweaks of my own.

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. baby bok choy, washed and patted dry
2 small Chinese eggplants* (about 1 ½” x 10″) halved and cut into ½” half circles
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut into 1″ squares
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 big tsp chopped garlic (or two cloves fresh minced)
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame seeds

2 cups basmati or jasmine rice**
3 and 7/8 cup water
1 tsp salt

Rinse rice well and start cooking with water and salt on medium heat. Once it starts boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

In a large frying pan or wok, heat oil on medium/high heat. You can use peanut oil or canola, but I had Olive oil handy so I just used that. Add ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly.

Add bok choy and cook, moving it gently but constantly so the garlic and ginger don’t burn.  Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add eggplants and peppers and continue cooking and tossing for another minute.

Add oyster sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce and cook for another minute or so until everything is warmed through. If the bottom of the pan is starting to brown too much, add a couple of tablespoons of water, and scrape up the bottom.

Remove from heat, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice.

*You could probably substitute a small regular eggplant for the Chinese eggplants. Don’t think it would be the same without the Bok Choy. If you can only get regular bok choy, wash and pat it dry and then slice it into four quarters.

** Jasmine or another long grain rice would be great, but I always have basmati, so that’s what I used.

Ali’s Tom Kha Thai Soup

My son Ali made this soup for dinner at our house a couple of nights ago and I don’t think I’ve ever had better. It was so delicious that I kept taking a little more rice, and then a little more soup until I’d eaten way more than I should have!

This recipe makes a very large pot of soup, but it freezes well and taste even better the next day. Thanks, Ali for sharing this amazing recipe.

Ingredients

2 large onions, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup Thai Tom Yum Paste*
4 cups chicken stock or veggie broth
4 cups water
6 Kefir Lime leaves*
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 package fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (can substitute button mushrooms)
2-4 Tbsp Fish Sauce* (to taste)
4 large or 6 small fresh tomatoes, diced
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
24 oz. coconut milk
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste

3 cups jasmine rice, cooked with 2 tsp salt

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot. Add onions and 1/3 cup water. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes until onions are softened, but not browned.

Add Tom Yum paste, stir well and cook for a minute or two. Increase heat to medium and add chicken stock, water and kefir lime leaves. Bring to a boil and add chicken and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are soft and chicken is cooked through.

Season with fish sauce to taste, and add fresh tomatoes. Continue to cook 3-4 minutes and add cilantro. Remove from heat and add coconut milk. Finally, add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a bowl with a side plate of jasmine rice. (You can put the rice in the soup bowl first, but we love to take a scoop of rice and dip it in the soup.)

*If not available locally, these ingredients are available online. I’ve also seen the Tom Yum Paste referred to as Hot and Sour Paste. Substitute Tofu for the chicken and add it last with the coconut milk for a vegetarian version.

Tex-Mex Black Bean, Roasted Pepper and Rice Supper

A great vegetarian skillet supper that was simple, delicious and hearty. I didn’t really have anything much in mind for supper tonight and threw something together from what I had in the pantry and fridge. Maya loved it and I’d definitely make it again.

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp crushed Garlic
1 bag frozen fajita peppers from Trader Joe’s, or 2 fresh peppers cored and sliced into 1/4″ strips
2 Tbsp taco seasoning mix  (I used McCormicks.)
1 can black beans, drained but not rinsed
1/4 cup salsa
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups cooked rice
1 cup Mexican or cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a skillet and saute onions until softened. Add garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add frozen fajita peppers and taco seasoning mix and saute until the liquid from the frozen peppers is mostly gone. Add the black beans, salt and pepper and the salsa. (You can add a little water if anything is sticking to the bottom of the skillet.) Cook for another 5-6 minutes stirring occasionally until the black beans are warmed through. Dump in the rice and fold the bean mixture and rice together, cooking for a few minutes until the rice is warmed. Sprinkle the cheese on top, remove from the heat and cover for a couple of minutes.

Serve hot with a simple arugula salad. Yum!

Leave off the cheese for a vegan version.

Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce over Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Rice

Our friend Sharon recently served us this incredibly delicious Vegeterian/Vegan dish and was kind enough to share the original recipe with me, from CookieandKate.com. I made it almost exactly as shown, and then a couple nights later used the leftover peanut sauce as a dipping sauce for oven-roasted sweet potatoes. It is so delicious and uses ingredients you probably have in your pantry already.

INGREDIENTS

Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup soy sauce (Can use Tamari to be gluten-free)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 and 1/2  Tbsp honey (or agave nectar, to taste)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp water

Roasted vegetables

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1 inch long, ½ inch wide chunks
1 red bell pepper, cored, deseeded, and sliced into bite-sized strips
about 2 Tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil)
1/2 tsp cumin powder (I used more than original recipe.)
1 tsp Sea salt (to taste)

Rice and garnishes

1 1/2 cup jasmine rice (could use any rice, really)
3 green onions sliced into thin rounds (green and white parts)
Handful cilantro, chopped
Handful peanuts, crushed

Sriracha sauce on the side (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix 2 Tbsp of olive oil, salt and cumin. Put the sweet potatoes in a roasting pan and drizzle with about 2/3 of the oil. Drop the peppers in the remaining oil and toss them. You’ll add them to the pan a bit later.

Spread the sweet potatoes out, but leave about 1/4 of the pan empty. Bake for 15 minutes and toss. Then add the peppers in the empty space and continue roasting for another 20 minutes.  Check to be sure the potatoes are cooked and the peppers are soft and starting to caramelize.

In the meantime, cook the rice. Add 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice and 1 tsp kosher salt to a pot. Add a bit less than three cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cover and cook for 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Make the sauce: in a bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. If the sauce is too thick whisk in a little more water.

To serve: Spoon rice onto a large serving dish, and top with sweet potatoes, then peppers, a nice heavy drizzle of sauce, and sprinkle chopped green onions, cilantro and peanuts. Serve any extra sauce in a little pitcher.

To serve it as a dipping sauce for sweet potato fries, just gently stir in the onions, cilantro and peanuts. So good!