Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lemongrass Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Rice Vermicelli Salad


Here is my first "it's too hot to cook" post of the summer! Over the summer I still do a lot of cooking in the house, but most of our proteins and even veggies are made on the grill. And then there are some nights when I don't even want to turn the stove on at all and I crave light and healthy meals. This Vietnamese pork and cold noodle salad is light and refreshing - perfect for a hot summer night.

Besides not wanting to stand over a stove, I was inspired to make this dish because of my desire to use 2 specific ingredients - the pork chops I picked up as well as a package of rice vermicelli noodles my dad had recently brought me from a day trip to Philadelphia's Chinatown. I came across a recipe on the Food and Wine web site for Lemongrass Barbecued Pork with Rice Vermicelli Salad

I never used lemongrass in my own cooking before - I have only enjoyed it in restaurants. As soon as I cut of one end my entire kitchen was filled with the best lemony aroma ever - I knew this was going to be a good marinade! The pork marinated in this lemongrass mixture for several hours before grilling.

The sauce/dressing starting by making a paste of jalapenos and garlic followed by some cilantro and lime juice. Bright yet spicy!

The original recipe called for only noodles, carrots and cucumbers in the salad. I added a few ingredients to make this more of a salad that reminded me of these Vietnamese spring rolls.

This really turned out to be the perfect summer meal. It was satisfying and filling yet healthy. Simple yet packed with so many flavors. Bright and refreshing yet spicy. I'll definitely make this one again - soon!

Lemongrass Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Rice Vermicelli Salad
Source: Food and Wine

I made several small changes to the recipe noted below in italics.

  • 1.5 lbs boneless pork loin  (I used a pork tenderloin and did not slice it until after it was grilled)
  • 3 large stalks of lemongrass
  • 4 large garlic cloves (for the marinade)
  • 2 large shallots, thickly sliced
  • 1.5 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Asian fish sauce (I haven't found a fish sauce I like so I used a mixture of approximately 2 Tbsp Worcestershire, 1 Tbsp vegetable broth and 1 tsp hoisin sauce in place of the fish sauce)
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 lb rice vermicelli (this stuff goes far - I used 4 "nests" from the package and could have fed 6 people)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 3 Thai chiles or 1 jalapeno, thickly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 c Asian fish sauce (I used my substitution again, making sure it equaled 1/3 c total when mixed)
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 c finely chopped mint
  • 1/4 c fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 c water
  • Veggies: sliced cucumber, red pepper, carrots, green onions, some sort of crunchy green (lettuce or Napa cabbage), bean sprouts
  • In a food processor, finely chop the garlic, lemongrass and shallots. Add the sugar, fish sauce (or substitution), lime juice, vegetable oil and soy sauce and process to a paste. In a large shallow dish, coat the pork with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (I marinated this for 5 hours).
  • About 30 minutes before you plan to eat: In a large bowl, cover the rice vermicelli with cold water and let soak until pliable, about 20 minutes. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil (the only time you will need your stove!) Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Drain the rice vermicelli and add it to the boiling water. Cook, stirring, until barely tender, about 1 minute. Drain the vermicelli. Rinse the vermicelli in cold water and drain thoroughly.
  • Make the dressing: In a mortar, using a pestle, pound the garlic cloves to a paste with the chiles and sugar. Stir in the fish sauce, cilantro, mint, lime juice and water.
  • Grill the pork: Light a grill (heat to medium high). Lift the pork from the marinade, leaving on some of the flavorings. Grill the pork over a hot fire until nicely charred, about 2 minutes per side. Because we grilled a tenderloin instead of slices, we used Jon's tried and true method for grilling pork - sear on all sides over high heat; place foil on the grill, put pork on the foil, and let it cook over medium heat until temp reaches 150 degrees max; remove from the grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Plate everything: place noodles on your plate and add veggies; top with some of the dressing. Slice the pork into thin slices and place over the salad.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

French Onion Cheese Bread

On Saturday morning I was sitting at my daughter's gymnastics class with my iPad so I could browse recipes to finalize my Father's Day Menu. I only had a small bowl of yogurt that morning, and my daughter claimed my Kind bar as her own before class, so I was starving. Looking at mouth-watering food pics while hungry is pure torture, especially when I was searching for some sort of bruschetta or crostini using Gruyere cheese. So many pictures of gooey melted cheese and crusty bread. Why was I doing this to myself??

After pulling myself together and focusing, I decided on a recipe for French Onion Cheese Bread that I found on the web site foodiecrush. Upon reading it I figured that it would taste like French onion soup just without the broth, and I was right. The French bread base is the crouton, and then there is a layer of creamy and nutty melted Gruyere cheese followed by some sweet caramelized onions. I served these as an app but can also see them being a great side.

Caramelizing the onions takes a while, but once that is done (and you can do it ahead of time), these are quick and easy.

French Onion Cheese Bread
Source: foodiecrush

My notes and small changes are noted in italics


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only (I used 1/2 tsp of dried thyme)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 4 French rolls, split in half (I used half of a baguette, split in half and then each piece halved = 4 total pieces)
  • 2 cups Gruyère or Fontina cheese, shredded (I used just over 1 c of Gruyere)
  • Caramelize the onions: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and thyme leaves and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat to medium low, add the sugar, salt, and pepper; stir and cover and cook for 1 hour (mine took 35 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for another 10 minutes or until onions are caramelized, stirring occasionally.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Place bread halves on a baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese then spoon caramelized onions on top.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese has melted and bread turns golden brown.
  • Cut into pieces and serve immediately. Garnish with extra thyme leaves if desired

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Roasted Garlic and Lemon Pasta with Brown Butter and Gruyere

I wish I could take credit for this recipe. I love to create new dishes and experiment in the kitchen, but putting the ingredients from this recipe together in one dish is something I never would have thought of on my own.

But even though I can't take credit for this recipe, I bumped it ahead of a few original recipes I have waiting to post because it is THAT good and needs to be shared.

The other night I asked Jon to throw a bulb of garlic on the grill while he was making steaks. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but knew I wanted to use it the next night. I also had half of a block of Gruyere cheese left over that I wanted to use - roasted garlic and Gruyere are so perfect together. So I googled "roasted garlic and Gruyere recipes." At first I was finding a lot of ads for roasted garlic Gruyere cheese. Um, yum! I think I need to find some!!! After looking for a bit I came across a recipe for Roasted Garlic and Lemon Rigatoni with Brown Butter and Gruyere on the Blog Baker by Nature. I read the recipe and knew it would be fabulous.

I can't say enough good things about this pasta dish. Every bite gives you so many flavors that all work perfectly together - sweet roasted garlic, light and bright lemon, nutty brown butter and creamy and nutty Gruyere. Our sides really complemented the dish too - roasted Brussels sprouts and some roasted cherry tomatoes. I may have eaten 2 servings and then had the small amount of leftovers for lunch the next day and I already want to eat it again.

Roasted Garlic and Lemon Pasta with Brown Butter and Gruyere
Source: Baker by Nature

  • 1 head of garlic, bottom cut off
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta, cooked 3 minutes short of al dente (you want them not raw, but not quite there yet; they will finish cooking in the butter/lemon sauce)  *reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water
  • 5 tablespoons butter, browned (THIS is a great tutorial on making perfect brown butter)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon (original recipe calls for 2 but 1 was plenty)
  • 1 cup fresh grated Gruyere cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Crushed red pepper
My notes and changes are in italics
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). Carefully slice the bottom off of head of garlic. Place in a small oven proof baking dish (or wrap in foil), drizzle with olive oil, and place in the oven to bake for 55 minutes. Remove garlic from baking dish to cool while you make your pasta. Or you can make this ahead of time. My husband roasted the garlic on the grill the night before I made this dish, and then I stored it in the fridge.
  • Fill a large pot with water and salt, and bring to a boil. Cook pasta for 5-6 minutes, or until just slightly under al dente. Drain and quickly run pasta under cold water to stop the cooking. Return pasta to pot. ** Make sure you reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water
  • Squeeze cooled garlic cloves out from the head and place them in a food processor or blender; set aside.
  • In a small pan cook butter over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it’s just browned and smells slightly nutty (see this link if you have never made brown butter before). Pour butter into the food processor, then add the reserved pasta water, parsley, lemon zest, and juice of one lemon; pulse until smooth.
  • Add mixture to pasta (as well as some red pepper flakes), stir, and heat on medium-low for 3-4 minutes, just until the pasta has warmed and is al dente. Remove from heat and stir in Gruyere. Taste, then add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Right before serving drizzle olive oil over pasta and toss lightly. Serve warm with grated cheese.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tomato-Basil Quinoa with Spinach and White Beans

Does anyone else agree that tomatoes and basil were just meant for each other? Combine them and the taste just screams summer.

Over the winter I don't keep fresh basil around unless I need a lot for a recipe. Instead I use the basil paste that comes in a tube -

Have you tried it? I love it! Each tube has the equivalent of 3 bunches of basil and is guaranteed fresh for 3 months when kept in the fridge.

This tube of basil and a container of grape tomatoes in addition to my desire to eat a healthy lunch were my inspiration for this dish. I always turn to quinoa when I want something both healthy and filling.

To really infuse the flavor of the basil through the dish, I cooked my quinoa in a tomato-basil broth.

 Tomato-Basil Quinoa with Spinach and White Beans

  • 1 c dry quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 c vegetable broth (note, this is more than you usually need to cook 1 c of quinoa, but we are also cooking the tomatoes and beans in the broth)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 oz canned white beans, rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp basil paste from the tube (or several leaves, chopped)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 oz fresh baby spinach
  • Optional: 2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Timing is important on this - you want to start your quinoa and step 2 simultaneously. Once step 2 is done it will be time to add your quinoa to the tomato mixture.
  • Combine quinoa and broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
  • At the same time, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onions; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes, white beans and basil; sauté 3-4 minutes.
  • Pour the pot of quinoa and broth into the tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer until the quinoa has cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. You may need to add a bit more broth to finish cooking the quinoa if the broth is absorbing too quickly.
  • Once the quinoa has finished cooking, add the spinach and stir to wilt.
  • Optional: stir in some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or cheese of your choice.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pepperoni Pizza Rolls

A few weeks ago I made Baked Egg Rolls that were filled with ground pork and lots of veggies. My little one and I had so much fun making them together that I wanted to do something with the remaining egg roll wrappers.

I checked out my fridge and spotted the package of string cheese I just bought as well as a package of sliced pepperoni - instant inspiration! These pepperoni pizza rolls were crunchy, gooey, fun. They would make a great appetizer for a party or game day. We enjoyed them as dinner - I rounded out the meal by serving them with some sautéed baby spinach.

Pepperoni Pizza Rolls
(for 8 rolls)
  • 8 egg roll wrappers
  • 4 reduced fat string cheeses
  • 24 slices pepperoni
  • Pizza sauce (for in the roll and for dipping)
  • Cooking spray
One note: when working with eggrolls, be sure to keep the wrappers covered with a wet paper towel as they are waiting to be used. Once I would finish rolling one, I'd cover it with another wet paper towel. You don't want the wrappers to dry out and crack before you cook them.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • Lay one wrapper on a cutting board (lay it so a point is facing you).
  • Spoon a small amount of sauce just below the center of the wrapper, spooning from side to side.
  • Place three slices of pepperoni on top of the sauce, going from side to side
  • Put one of the halves of string cheese on top of the pepperoni.
  • Roll the rolls - Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Lay a wrapper flat on the sheet (like a diamond - pointed end facing you) and spoon a small amount of sauce onto the bottom third of the wrapper. Add three slices of pepperoni somewhat overlapping from side to side, and then top with one of the halves of string cheese. Fold the bottom of the wrapper over the ingredients and fold in the sides. Roll it once and fold in the sides again. Roll it until sealed (about 1.5 more turns) and place seam side down for baking. Continue rolling all of the rolls until done and then spray them with cooking spray.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Note: when I made the pork egg rolls I flipped them halfway through cooking. I didn't flip these until 3/4 of the way through cooking since the cheese wanted to ooze out. I put the broiler on at the end to brown up the tops.