Saturday, January 31, 2015

Deliciously Easy Pad Thai

I'm really excited about this recipe and the results it produced after only one attempt. Over the years I've tried making a number of my favorite restaurant dishes and have had mixed success. This particular recipe however, produced restaurant-quality results. It's exciting to think that the next time I crave Pad Thai, I will have to debate whether to eat it at a nearby Thai restaurant or make it myself.

Asian noodle dishes, particularly Vietnamese and Thai, have been this mythical creature I can sort of mimic, but can't quite figure out. While the recipes are straight forward, it's the rice noodles that trip me up the most. I've had really poor luck getting noodles to the consistency I've had in restaurants. I think I treat them much like I would egg noodles, which just doesn't work for the rice variety. This recipe I used gives some basic tips for getting your noodles right and I managed to nail it the first time. From start to finish, it took me 40 minutes to prepare. It's a pretty straight forward one pot dish and all things considered, inexpensive to make. While you can swap out tamarind paste for vinegar, if you have access to an Asian market, I'd make the effort to get the paste. The original recipe calls for a banana flower and preserved turnip. I actually did go looking for these items but not surprisingly, couldn't find them in Edmonton, Alberta. I omitted them from my own version of this recipe as a result.

Adapted from:

Serves 6-8


  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup peanuts or cashews
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 red chilis, minced
  • 1 package extra firm tofu, patted dry
  • 1 package (454g) Thai rice noodles
  • 12 t fish sauce
  • 4 T sugar
  • 6 T tamarind paste
  • 3 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 cup chives
  • 1 package frozen shrimp, thawed (454g)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 limes 


To start, soak the noodles in a pot of lukewarm water while you prepare the other ingredients.  Make sure the noodles are completely submerged in water. Mince the garlic, chilis and shallots together and set aside. Cut the tofu and chives into matchstick-size pieces and set aside in separate bowls. Mix the sugar, fish sauce and tamarind past in a bowl and set aside. Rinse the bean sprouts and shell the shrimp for later use.

Heat the oil on medium in a wok or large saucepan (I don't have a wok, so I used a large pot). Add the nuts, tossing well to coat with the oil. Once slightly browned, add the shallots, chilis and garlic, sautéing for about 3 minutes. Brown the tofu pieces over the course of 5-10 minutes. Drain and add the noodles tossing well to blend well with all the other ingredients. Test the noodles to ensure they are a soft, but firm consistency. If you prefer them softer at this point, add a little water to the pot. Add the sauce and again, toss well to coat with all the ingredients. Push the noodles to one side of the pot and crack the eggs into the remaining space. Let the eggs fry for about 1 minute and then blend them in with the noodle mixture. Add the shrimp and continue to toss the noodles until the shrimp have lost their translucency. Add two thirds of the sprouts and chives, combining them well with the noodles and set aside for 2 minutes. Serve the dish with lime wedges and top each serving with the remaining fresh chives and sprouts.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Winter Panzanella & Roasted Red Pepper & Lentil Soup

A belated happy new year to you! May your pots not stick and your belly be full. That is as wise a saying as I could come up with.

I am, like everybody else, back on the good-for-you-food bandwagon. I have traded my party shoes for runners and swapped trips to the wine bar with trips to the yoga studio. Actually I still hit the bar, but after yoga.

This year however, my partner in crime, Ruedi has gone walkabout for six months and while I'm excited for him,  I am missing my food Hoover. Nobody can suck back leftovers like Ruedi. In my haste to get groceries this week, I neglected to downsize these first recipes of the year in consideration of his absence. I should have known when the original recipe for the salad below called for six, count 'em, six freaking beets that I would wind up with way too much food!

So...while I was able to freeze the soup, I will never make the panzanella again. I ate this dish a total of eight times this week. It was great the first time, lovely the second time and doable the third time. After that, I felt like I was just choking it down to rid myself of the leftovers. I know Ruedi will be surprised that I ate all of the leftovers, because I rarely eat an item more than three times after I've made it. Well Ruedi, I did it. 

So, enjoy these lovely dishes, because despite the fact that I'm over them, they are great recipes and healthy ones at that. The panzanella has so many options for variation. If I was to make it again, I'd play around with different kind of vegetables, throw in some roasted cashews or seeds and cheese would of course make a good addition too. When doesn't it?

As for the soup, the tanginess of the peppers combined with pesto gives it a zing I really enjoyed. The original recipe calls for basil, but I couldn't find any nearby. I had loads of pesto on hand, so I opted to throw that into the soup instead.

Winter Panzanella



  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 6 medium beets. peeled and cubed
  • 2 fennel bulbs, chopped
  • 2 cups butternut squash chopped
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 4 cups bread, cubed
  • 2 cups kale, finely chopped
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 350F. Toss the bread cubes with a generous amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake them for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Combine the carrots, fennel, beets and squash in a bowl and toss with more olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place the vegetables on another baking sheet and roast them for about 30 minutes or until the edges are browned.

In a large bowl, combine the bread and roasted vegetables with the kale, shallots, parsley and apple and pour a generous amount of balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the mix. Add some coarse salt and fresh ground pepper and toss the salad well. Serve immediately.

Roasted Red Pepper & Lentil Soup

Note that you'll need to prepare the roasted red pepper sauce as part of this soup recipe. It can be made a day in advance if needed.

Adapted From:

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

  • 4 large bell peppers
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T pesto
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t paprika


Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the peppers in half and remove their seeds. Place them face down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the skin begins to blacken and bubble. When cooled, peel the skin off of the peppers.

Blanch the tomatoes by dropping them in a pot of boiling water for about a minute. Once removed and cooled, peel the skins from the flesh.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the garlic and let it flavour the oil for a few seconds. Follow with the onion and shallots, sautéing until translucent. Add the wine and simmer until reduced and syrupy in texture.

In a food processor or blender, combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion mixture and pesto and puree the ingredients. Pour the mixture back into the pan and add the lemon juice, pepper and paprika. Allow the sauce to simmer for about ten minutes and season to taste with coarse salt.

The Soup


  • 1 3/4 cups red lentils
  • 1 batch roasted pepper sauce (recipe above) 
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 t hot paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste


In a strainer, rinse the lentils well. Add them to a large pot with the eight cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium to allow the lentils to cook for 25 minutes. Once the lentils are soft add the remaining ingredients and allow to cook on medium heat for another 5-10 minutes.