A passion for food + fashion

Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

In Food, Recipes on June 30, 2009 at 8:29 am


Vowing to make use of the prolific Vietnamese cilantro in our herb garden, last night I took a page out of Mai Pham’s book Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table to make this Hue Chicken Salad (ga bop). I was apprehensive about serving it to my husband on several levels, not the least of which had to do with the fact that this dish has zero guilt factor, which all too often correlates to zero pleasure. Not to mention that “we’re having salad for dinner” doesn’t usually elicit an enthusiastic response. Additionally, Vietnamese cilantro is quite pungent, sort of like cilantro on steroids so it’s a love it or leave it flavor. The herb is also enjoyed by Vietnamese Buddhist monks to stave off sexual urges, also like steroids, and assist in their celibate lives. But I digress.


Above is the Vietnamese cilantro—or rau ram as it’s known in SE Asia—which has taken over our herb bed. I love how fragrant and pretty the leaves are. I let Tiny G play with a sprig in the garden while I was picking herbs to bring inside. Much to my surprise, my husband TOTALLY flipped over dinner and has requested that it go into regular rotation. It’s so flavorful, with a bit of heat from the chilies and exotic intensity from the rau ram.

But I may have told a teeny white lie about serving a guilt-free dinner. Mai Pham’s excellent and healthy recipe follows with a slightly less angelic suggestion from yours truly. The recipe virtuously has you boil half a chicken in salted water. She suggests serving ga bop on a bed of butter lettuce leaves. I ended up reserving two cups of the water from the chicken to make basmati rice, which adds to the sin factor with a hint of chicken fat, but gives just the right note of depth to the rice.


(Adapted from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, by Mai Pham)

Sea Salt

1 organic chicken leg and breast, scored for faster cooking
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 small yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, rinsed (about ½ cup)
2 Thai bird chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped or to taste
1 cup loosely packed rau ram (Vietnamese Cilantro) leaves or mint leaves
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup basmati rice
Fill a pot with 2 quarts water and bring to vigorous boil. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt and chicken and bring water back to  boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from  heat and let the chicken sit in the pot, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Reserve two cups of boiling liquid for rice.

While chicken cools, bring two cups broth to boil. Add 1 cup basmati rice, return to boil, and then reduce heat to simmer. Keep covered and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.


In a medium bowl, combine lime juice, onions, chilies, rau ram and oil and toss gently.


Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken. Hand shred the meat into ¼-inch thick strips and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar and gently massage into the chicken. Gently fold into onion and rau ram mixture. Serve over rice.

Gran Torino

In Film, Food on June 29, 2009 at 8:21 am


Last night we watched Gran Torino in HD, and I was struck by several things. First, Clint Eastwood is still smokin’ hot. Second, there are few things more beautiful in this world than a 1972 Gran Torino. Third, food played an important role in the film, bridging cultural gaps and communicating where language couldn’t. I’m inspired to try something Southeast Asian tonight, and maybe I can use some of the Vietnamese cilantro that is taking over our herb garden.

Cherry Tomatoes and Bocconcini

In Food on June 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm


We have a ton of basil—both sweet and purple—so I’ve been using it almost every night. This super easy salad has been in heavy rotation. Grab a box of cherry tomatoes, a tub of bocconcini (small balls of buffalo mozzarella) and toss with aged balsamic, salt and pepper and fresh basil. We have a “Black Cherry” tomato plant, and I can’t wait for the cherry tomatoes to ripen to use in salads and on pizzas and tarts!


Fusilli Carbonara

In Drink, Food, Recipes on June 28, 2009 at 9:09 am


I probably make carbonara about once a year because let’s face it, the dish doesn’t exactly land in the health food category. My husband was surprised at just how easy it is to make, thinking it was one of those “restaurant dishes” with magical powers, which somehow could not be recreated at home. My favorite version gilds the lily with heavy cream. And I like to use the Rustichella d’Abruzzo fusilli, which is spaghetti-length hollow corkscrews and nice and toothy, which you really need to stand up to the richness of carbonara. If you can’t find the Rustichella d’Abruzzo brand, I’d recommend going with a thick spaghetti or bucatini instead.

Fusilli Carbonara

17.6 ounce box of Rustichella d’Abruzzo fusilli

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces peppery pancetta, chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup grated parm

4 large egg yolks

1 cup cooked peas

Freshly ground pepper

Cook pasta in heavily salted water until al dente. Reserve 2 tablespoons pasta water. Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and sauté pancetta about 7 minutes.


Add shallots and garlic and cook for another minute. Add cream and cook for about 2 minutes, cream will start to thicken slightly.


Add the cooked pasta to the cream mixture in skillet and stir to coat pasta. Cook for another minute. Remove from heat and add reserved pasta water, parm, egg yolks, peas and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Serve with a crisp, high-acid bone-dry white wine to cut through all that fat. I think Gavi from Piedmont is perfect.



Were you…

In Fashion, Film on June 25, 2009 at 7:33 pm


…a Kelly, Sabrina or Jill? Most of us who were born in the 70s at one time or another played Charlie’s Angels


I was a Kelly, luckily not a Sabrina, but sadly never a Jill (or later a Kris). Though Farrah Fawcett-Majors, as she was billed at the time, was only on the show for one season, I think it’s fair to say she’s the most memorable Angel of all. And a gifted painter.

HauteLook for Kids!

In Baby Love on June 25, 2009 at 8:19 am


Calling all moms, if you’re not already a member of HauteLook.com (where fashion, beauty and design labels sell current merch direct to customers at up to 75% off), this might be the sale that hooks you. Over the next few days HauteLook is catering to the tiniest of customers with baby chic from Feather Baby, Dwell Studio Kids, Liz Lange, Tokidoki and more. The Dwell & Tokidoki just went up on sale a few moments ago…

Mixed Messages

In Food on June 24, 2009 at 8:07 am


Here’s a dinner conversation that took place recently with my husband in a restaurant in Belgium:

What I said: “I’ve never heard so much Phil Collins in my life.”

What he heard: “I’ve never had so much self confidence in my life.”

The bottom line is that bad music can quickly derail a conversation. Conversely, when I stop to think about it, some of my best dinners have taken place in restaurants with killer soundtracks: Momofuku’s mix of Bowie, Modest Mouse, Wilco; Pizzeria Mozza’s classic rock with the Stones and Who in heavy rotation; and then as cliché as it might seem, Billie Holiday moodily piping through the speakers at Bouchon in Napa Valley. What’s better than bistro fare with blues?

Far Niente: Sweet Doing Nothing

In Food on June 23, 2009 at 8:57 pm


In addition to being the name of a winery that turns out killer Cabernet, far niente translates roughly to “sweet doing nothing” or as Webster’s says “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.” I was reminded of the value of far niente the other night when I decided to put an Italian spin on dinner, when in fact I should have let the produce relax pleasantly in carefree, unadorned idleness. We had defrosted two awesome bone-in New York steaks (we have a freezer full of beef from Heritage Foods USA) and had picked up some corn and red onions from the farmers market. Our newly planted herb garden is totally out of control—who knew Italian parsley multiplied like rabbits?—so I plucked a handful of Italian parsley, basil and lemon thyme for a makeshift pesto with leftover Marcona almonds to go on the steaks.


Meanwhile, my husband grilled our loot to perfection. 


Inspired by a Mario Batali recipe I’d seen, I brushed the grilled corn with balsamic and olive oil, sprinkled with mint from the garden and some red pepper flakes. For the onions, I’d made a balsamic glaze stovetop with more lemon thyme and crushed garlic. And here’s the deal. The pesto on the steaks was great, but did the steaks need the adornment? No. And the corn? I’ll take my corn on the cob with plain old melted butter ANY day. And the grilled onions with the balsamic glaze were certainly enjoyable, but the onions were so perfect, so sweet that again, they didn’t need to be “dressed up.” So next time, I’ll save the herbs for a salad and serve the rest of dinner far niente.

I Dream of Dries

In Fashion, Out of Town on June 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm


Recently my husband and I found ourselves with a couple hours to kill in Antwerp, so I did what any rational person would do in said city and made straight for the Dries van Noten mother ship on Nationalstraat. It’s incredible, and a visit is truly a fashion rite of passage. I was particularly obsessed with belts and baubles, but inexplicably exercised restraint and didn’t purchase. However, now that I’m home I can’t get these sandals off my mind. What was I thinking???

Picture 1

Happy Father’s Day with Balsamic Strawberries on Top

In Food on June 21, 2009 at 9:39 am


I’m married to a man who loves his cheesecake. Over the past few years I’ve tried making a variety of them, always coming “close” to his ideal but never quite hitting the mark until now! My sister and I dug deep through the Bon Appétit archives to find this recipe from the September 1996 issue for Mascarpone Cheesecake with Balsamic Strawberries. The crust is so retro (almond biscotti crumbs and butter, when was the last time you had biscotti???) that it almost seems revolutionary. And then the strawberry topping is simply market-fresh berries drizzled with your best aged balsamic. We added a heady dose of cracked black pepper for added intensity. Oh. My. God. You could also serve these over vanilla gelato and they would be insane. [Note: it is really important to use the aged “riserva” stuff, which usually runs in the neighborhood of $40+ for 100ml]


To bake the cheesecake itself, first you wrap a springform pan in tin foil. It’s going into a water bath, so it’s important to make sure the tin foil is extra tight so water doesn’t seep in. Then press the crust into the pan.


Then spoon in the decadent cream cheese filling, made super rich and creamy thanks to a generous amount of mascarpone. The prepared cheesecake goes into a water bath and bakes for a good hour and fifteen minutes, or until top is golden brown.


Start this project early in the day, because after baking, the cheesecake needs to cool for an hour before going into the fridge to chill. The recipe says to chill overnight, but we broke into it after four hours and weren’t sorry even for a second. And now I think we’ll have some more for breakfast. Happy Father’s Day!