Bun Larb

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Brian is home and we are having so much fun playing with food. Because of his extensive travel, he is a wealth of knowledge about Asian ingredients, flavors combinations, and ingredients. Korean, Thai, and Japanese dishes are more deeply understood by a person who has eaten them in their country of origin, rather than tasted only in their American adaptations.

There are two recipes with which we have been preoccupied. Bun cha, is a Vietnamese dish consisting of grilled pork patties with rice vermicelli. Larb is a Lao meat salad which is popular in Thailand.

Because I am less committed to authenticity than my son, I feel free to pick his brain and come up with hybrids that are usually delicious, though conceptually corrupt.

I hope you enjoy this delicious bastardization.

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Bun Larb

Serves 4

1 lb ground pork or turkey
2 tbs raw rice
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. chicken stock
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbs fish sauce or soy sauce
1 large shallot, peeled, cut into rings
1 med spicy chili, minced
2 tbs raw cane sugar or brown sugar
1 lime, zested

8 oz rice vermicelli, cooked according to package directions, rinsed in cold water
Whole butter or leaf lettuce leaves, washed and dried

Garnishes: lime wedges, cilantro, mint, cucumber, radishes, peanuts, daikon salad (matchstick daikon and carrot with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil), extra fish sauce or soy sauce

Toast the rice in a microwave for 45 seconds. Alternatively, heat it in a small pan until fragrant. Grind to a powder in a spice grinder or food processor.

Mix the cornstarch and 2 tbs stock in a small bowl.

Heat remaining stock in a 12 inch skillet. Add ground meat and cook, breaking up clumps, until very little pink remains. Add fish or soy sauce, sugar, shallot, chili, lime juice and zest, rice powder, and cornstarch slurry. Cook until the meat is coated in thick sauce.

Serve in lettuce leaves with vermicelli and garnishes.

Wine suggestion: a spicy Reisling or Gewurtztraminer.

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Posted in dinner, gluten free, main course, salad, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Duck Pappardelle with Ducky Broccolini

As you can see from the pictures above, we escaped Warwick last week for a few precious days of sun and sand. We ate wonderful, summery food on Grand Cayman Island, mostly prepared by me. And then, we returned to the deep freeze!

As the plane landed at JFK and I saw the bleak landscape, I experienced an overwhelming craving for pappardelle pasta with a rich, clingy, unctuous, slightly tomatoey mushroom sauce.

This was an inconvenient craving because I can neither get duck legs, whole duck, nor pappardelle locally. Undaunted, I forged ahead.

Before deplaning, I ordered some ridiculously expensive imported pasta on Amazon. I’d briefly considered making the pasta myself, but my craving was for the texture of dried, pasta, no eggs. I love homemade pasta, but that wasn’t the texture I wanted here. And let me tell you, I will order it again, it’s that good.

The next morning, I sent Bob to Belvale Market, where I knew he could get duck breast. Yes, he had several hundred emails in his inbox and dozens of phone calls to return, but he fully understood the importance of this urgent mission.

Then, I set about researching the issue of breasts rather than the more melting, succulent legs of duck for such a dish. I found little on the interwebs. I spoke at length to Brian, who rightly pointed out that this dish should rightly be made with confit. But I remained determined and was prepared for failure.

The resulting experiment was such a success, I had to write it up here. Plus, Meg asked.  As did several friends on the ATK page. The sauce is velvety, rich, and very ducky. The combination of sauce and the wide pasta embodies the the succulence of my fantasy.

Was it better than a sauce made with confit? Probably equal. And, I can make it any time I want. And now, so can you!

Duck Pappardelle with Ducky Broccolini

1 whole medium duck breast, halved
1 onion, sliced
2 small carrots, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
12 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1/3 cup dry white wine
12 oz pappardelle
2 small bunches broccolini, trimmed, washed, and dried
Lots of fresh parmesan and chopped fresh parsley (optional) for serving

For the sauce:

Score the skin of the duck in cross hatches. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a cold skillet 9 inch skillet skin side down over medium heat. Sauté 15 minutes or so, until skin is golden and crisp. Turn and cook 3 minutes. Remove duck to a plate to cool.

Pour off and reserve all but 1 tbs fat. Sauté the onion, carrots and celery over medium heat in the duck fat, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables just soften, 5-6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Break up the tomatoes with your hands or with a knife. Add them and the wine, bring to a simmer.

Remove and save the skin from the duck. Nestle the breasts into the simmering sauce, and cover the pan. Cook for 15 minutes or so at a bare simmer, until the breasts are cooked through. Take the breasts back out of the sauce and shred the meat with two forks. Add back to the sauce.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of boiling water to boil and salt liberally. Cook the pappardelle until just tender. Drain, reserving a cup of cooking water. Toss the pasta with 3/4 of the sauce, adding cooking water if needed to coat all the pasta. Serve the remaining sauce in a nice bowl on the side. Top the dressed pasta with lots of parm and a sprinkle of parsley.

For the broccolini:

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place the broccolini on a sheet pan and drizzle with as much of the reserved duck fat as you dare. Add salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the broc out on the pan, leaving a corner open. Cut the reserved skin into small dice and place in the clear corner. Roast the broc and skin for 10-12 minutes or until the veg are just tender and the skin is crisp and brown.

Serve the broccolini topped with crispy duck skin. Write a letter of apology to all the other vegetables you have ever or will ever eat.

Blog note: The post is dedicated to my beautiful, brilliant daughter, Megan McGrath, who recently completed the heroic tastk of finishing her Master’s Thesis. And who will LOVE this recipe.

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Stuffed Winter Squash

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It will come as no surprise to you DebsPots readers that I am a fan of all types of squash. How could we ever forget the ultra famous: Very Excellent Guest Post about Zucchini. By Brian? Or the Foodgawker hit: Zucchini Fries. Not to mention vegan wonder: Epic Thai Zucchini Noodles. Oh, I think I need to go downstairs and make all of these right now.

But this time of year, the winter squashes have my heart. Squash Reconstruction features butternut in a fun, delicious architectural guise. And the spaghetti squash recipes: Squashsagna and Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai are both healthy and satisfying.

This fall, I was inspired by a dish we ate at Dan Barber’s Stone Barns that features a new hybrid call Honeynut. It looks like a small, dark butternut. The taste is sweet and the flesh is silky and creamy. When our dear friend, Cheryl Rogowski offered me one at Warwick’s Farm Market, I was thrilled. We tasted it simply roasted first, and then I began brainstorming.

Last week, at the wonderful Public Market in Rochester, I found a couple of beautiful specimens and brought them home to experiment. This sweet/savory vegetarian main course is the result. Consider it for the non-meat eaters at your Thanksgiving table.

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Stuffed Winter Squash

Simply omit the cheese for a vegan dish.

Serves 2, multiply as needed

1 honeynut, small butternut, acorn, or delicata squash, stemmed, seeded, and halved lengthwise
1 small turnip, trimmed and diced
1 small hot red pepper (I used a cherry pepper), minced
½ lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned and torn into small pieces
1 can or pouch chick peas, drained well
1 scallion, minced
2 tbs. olive oil, divided
½ cup grated sharp cheddar (optional)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line two sheet pans with parchment. Season the squash with salt and pepper, and place flesh side down on one pan. In a small bowl, toss the turnip and minced pepper with 1 tbs. oil, salt and pepper. Place on same pan with squash.

Place mushrooms on second pan, and toss with the remaining oil, salt and pepper.

Roast all the vegetables for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is tender. Let cool for a few minutes.

Scoop out most of the squash flesh, leaving about ¼ inch layer to make a sturdy shell. Place flesh in a big bowl, and mash slightly. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Try not to eat it all before you stuff the shells.

Fill the squash shells with as much of the mixture as you can resist eating. Return to oven for 15 minutes or until heated through and slightly browned. Serve immediately.

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Posted in dinner, gluten free, healthy, main, supper, main courses, thanksgiving, Uncategorized, vegan, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carne Adovada

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Do you, like me, have a love-hate relationship with social media? To the extent that it replaces real life interaction, does it present a problem for us as individuals and society? Is the way it taps directly into the primitive reward system of the brain causing us to put ourselves in harm’s way?

I’ve had moments of engagement, enchantment, often followed by disappointment, sometimes even anger or hurt. Like any form of human interaction, group behavior can have aspects of magic, but can also bring out the worst in us. The anonymity of the format has the effect of making it all the more seductive to our baser feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

One corner of social media that has had my respect, affection, and attention lately is a Facebook group for members of America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated, and Cook’s Country. It’s a closed group, so consists of people who are really serious about food. And to belong, you have to agree to a few rules; this tends to keep things focused and prevent much unpleasantness from happening.

To my delight, I was challenged recently to a throwdown. My opponent suggested a dish that we would both create, and post pictures and a written description of our experiences. The dish in question was the one I am sharing here, a rich pork stew containing a full-flavored, lightly spicy sauce made from dried chilies. Since I am not generally a lover of dried spices and chilies, I probably would have skipped this one had I not been given this interesting invitation. But far be it for me to back down from a duel!

As you, my beloved readers know, this has not been an easy year in my life. To my slight surprise, this opportunity captivated my imagination, my energy, and got me motivated. I had a lot of fun, and for that I am extremely grateful. It was wonderful to be engaged in a project. And, as a bonus, we all really enjoyed the results!

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Carne Adovada

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated with only minor modifications to my taste.

3-4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder (butt), trimmed, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
sea salt
4 oz. dried New Mexico Chilies, wiped clean, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1 inch pieces
4 cups boiling water
2 tbs. honey
2 tbs. distilled white vinegar
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. cayenne

Place pork in a large bowl and toss with 2 tsps. salt. Refrigerate for an hour.

Place chilies in medium bowl and pour water over to cover. Preheat oven to 325°.

Drain the chilies and reserve 2 cups of the soaking liquid. Place the chilies, honey, vinegar, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and 1 tsp salt into blender and process to a paste. Add one cup of soaking liquid and blend until you have a smooth, thick liquid, adding up to ¼ more liquid to maintain a vortex. Add remaining liquid and blend for 1 more minute.

Place pork in a Dutch oven and pour chili sauce over, stirring to coat all the meat. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, and place in the oven for 2 ½ hours, until the meat is very tender. Stir well and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This is terrific with rice and beans. Or make tacos using store bought or homemade corn or flour tortillas (yes, I made my own corn tortillas). Pile on all the fixins and don’t forget the pickled onions!

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I used the leftovers to make the best empanadas ever!!! They were irresistable!

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Shortly after these were devoured, we made our annual trip to the orchard for apple and veggie picking with family. When I saw the wonderful bounty of hot chilies, I decided to make a fresh chili variation. Subbing in stemmed, seeded, hot and medium chilies for roughly the same volume as dried, I added a couple of tomatoes and a peach, and proceeded with the recipe, no need for added water. The results were fabulous! The pork was tender, well seasoned, and flavorful, with good, but not overpowering heat. We liked this fresh version even better than the original!

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Posted in baked goods, dinner, main, pork, pottery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Pickled Red Onions

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We arrived early for our anniversary (32 years!) dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Thirsty after a walk in the field (yes, we pilfered quite a few ripest blackberries), we had enough time for a cocktail at the bar before our seating.

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Watching the bartender, I was intrigued by what he was making for an incredibly famous looking gentleman to my left. I inquired. The answer was, “a Gibson with a pickled ramp.” Of course, we had to try this! The drink was a revelation. You can be sure that next spring when I visit my newly identified patch of ramps (sorry, it’s a secret), I will be pickling some to have with my homemade gin.

But how to use this brilliant idea in the meantime? Something seasonal…I started with  garlic scapes. Very good. But then I got inspired by the idea of some color. Yes. Red onion. And what could be more appropriate here in Warwick with the onion fields in full flourish here in Pine Island’s Black Dirt?

I think the resulting Gibson was even better than the one at Blue Hill. And certainly prettier. But then, as I do, I got a bit carried away with pickled onion production. It was just a matter of time before I started exploring other uses for my new favorite ingredient. They found their way into a quesadilla, a dip, and quite a few salads. I know you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.

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Pickled Red Onions

Makes about ½ cup, multiply as you like.

I think these are so pretty with all the pink color. But feel free to use white or yellow onions. I’m sure they’d be wonderful with a sweet variety, like a Vidalia. This makes what I feel is a perfectly balanced pickle, with plenty of sweetness to offset the sour and salty. But you may vary the type of vinegar, amount of sugar, or salt to your taste.

1 red onion, sliced
½ cup white balsamic or cider vinegar
1 ½ tbs. cane sugar
1 tsp. salt

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Use immediately or pack into a jar and refrigerate.

Below, I’ll give you a few recipes to get you started on your pickled onion journey. Further down, you’ll see some more ideas. I’m sure you’ll think of lots of other possibilities and hope you’ll post them for me in comments.

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Red Onion Gibson

Makes one cocktail.

1 shot gin, we like Tanqueray, or make your own
½ tsp. dry vermouth
1 tsp. pickling liquid
garnish: pickled onions

Place 1 cup filtered ice cubes in cocktail shaker or jar. Add liquid ingredients. Stir for at least a full minutes. Use a cocktail strainer to pour the drink into a well-chilled, beautiful martini glass. Garnish with a piece of onion. Make another one for a loved one. Clink.

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Red Onion Sauce or Dip

This is terrific with Corn Fritters. Or serve alongisde raw or lightly cooked, chilled veggies or chips. Slather it on grilled meats, poultry, veggies, or mushrooms. Serve it with cold or hot steamed or grilled seafood. It is amazing on a turkey or roast beef sandwich or with Crispy Chicken, oven fried potatoes, or Zucchini Fries.

Makes one cup-ish.

1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup sour cream
juice of ½ lemon or lime
dash hot sauce
1/3 cup drained Pickled Red Onions, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients to combine and refrigerate for at least ½ hour to allow flavors to marry.

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Quickie Pickled Red Onion Pizza

1 naan, pita or tortilla
1/3 cup cheese of choice
2 tbs. drained Pickled Red Onions

Place the flatbread on the rack of your oven or toaster oven. Top with the cheese. Toast or broil until the cheese is melted. Top with onions.

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Other ideas:

Bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, pickled onion.
Top a simple green salad with feta, walnuts, pickled onion.
Stir into a cold grain, such as barley or farro, for a quick salad. Add pine nuts and raisins.
Toasted pita, hummus, pickled onion.
Top steamed veggies, like asparagus, broccoli, or green beans.
On a steak.
Add to your cheese board.
Garnish a stew.
Garnish a Roasting Pan Supper.
Topping for Turkey Chili. Or Veggie Chili.
Filling with sour cream for a baked white, yellow, or sweet potato.

And, in memory of my dear dad: whitefish salad on a toasted raisin bagel. Add onions. Insist that the sweetness of the bagel works perfectly with smoked fish and everyone must try it.

Blog note: The gorgeous watercolor above was painted by my amazing daughter and favorite artist, Megan McGrath. Thanks, Meg!

Posted in appetizer, condiment, easy, gluten free, snacks, Uncategorized, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mapo Tofu and Korean Chicken Salad

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Last week, Meg was home and we were talking about cooking and blogging. I remembered out loud that the original idea for DebsPotsBlog was to consolidate my recipes and food ideas in one place for my grown kids, neices and nephews, and their friends and loved ones (hi Max and Amanda!).

Toward that end, I plan to experiment with taking a slightly new direction. I’m going to try to post more frequently and include more of what I’m cooking.

So, dear readers, please leave me comments and let me know what you think as I flail around trying to find a format that makes us all happy!

I’ve fallen in love with Gochujang lately and want to share two fabulous dishes in which it features prominently. Mapo Tofu is on repeat around here. If you google around, you’ll find many different recipes. This one is my very own and it’s splendid. I hope you love it. Korean Chicken Salad is brand new, from Milk Street. It’s easy, healthy, and so satisfying.

Mapo Tofu

This dish is delicious on its own, with rice, rice noodles, or rice cakes.

Serves 4

1 lb. ground pork, preferable humanely raised, organic
1 block firm or extra firm tofu, drained, cubed
1 large onion, sliced
1 tbs. neutral oil
2 tbs. gochujang
1 tsp. Korean hot pepper (gochugaru)
½ small head napa cabbage, sliced
1 scallion, sliced
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch
¼ cup water

Mix the soy sauce, cornstarch, and water, and set aside.

Sauté the onion in the oil for a few minutes. Add the pork and cook for 4-5 minutes over high heat or until the pork starts to firm up and brown in spots. Add the gochujang, gochugaru, and cabbage and continue to cook until the cabbage begins to soften.

Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until sauce thickens. Add the tofu and warm through.

Top with scallions, and serve.

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Korean Chicken Salad

Serves 3-4

This is a slightly scaled down version of Milk Street’s wonderful one-bowl salad meal. Terrific with leftover grilled chicken.

4 oz. green beans, trimmed, cut in half
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, plus 2 tbs. for garnish
1 small persian cucumber, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 scallion, sliced

1 large cooked chicken breast (grilled is great), shredded
1 ½ tsp. gochujang
1 tsp. yellow mustard
2 tbs. water
2 tbs. lemon juice

salt to taste

Dressing: Place the 1/3 cup pine nuts in a mini food processor and grind to a paste. Add the gochujang, mustard, water, and lemon juice and blend.

Mix the chicken with half the dressing.

Cook the green beans for 4-5 minutes in salted water, drain, and shock in ice water. Drain again and pat dry.

In a large salad bowl, combine the beans, cucumber, cabbage, and tomatoes. Add the remaining dressing and toss well. Mound the chicken salad on top. Garnish with the scallions and reserved pine nuts. Serve.

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Posted in chicken, dinner, dressing, gluten free, low carb, lunch, main course, main dish, one pot meals, pork, poultry, supper, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bao Buns

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07f7e16f-eebd-43f8-bbb0-c908b7add2c2There are two loads of laundry in a basket on the floor and a list of patients waiting for return calls. I am in the kitchen slicing scallions and working on a shopping list for a new recipe I want to develop.

In the shadow of months of turmoil, loss, and illness, my peculiar priorities emerge with confusing clarity. I have little energy or patience for work or social obligations. To be in nature, to be quiet, and to nourish myself and my partner well, these needs are strong. I want to run, to walk, to hike, to cook, and to eat.

Comfort foods with strong, bold flavors, that’s what I want now. These plump little buns call to mind my Mom’s favorite dim sum dumplings. On the cusp of pasta and bread, with the appeal and versatility of both, they are chewy, pillowy, and mildly sweet.

I made them on Tuesday and served them that stormy night with crispy nuggets of pork belly, hoisin, and a slew of crunchy and soft additions. Thursday, they got a reinvigorating steam bath, and were filled with grilled shrimp and a similar array of garnishes. Sadie and the hummingbirds kept us entertained on the deck while we munched.

Versions of baozi or bao buns trace back in history to the third century, AD, in China. There are many versions across myriad Chinese cultures. They are often served for breakfast or for snacks. I’ve made a similar dish that is a steamed bun filled with sweet barbequed pork. This style (the bun and fillings served separately) allows for the incorporation of different textures and flavor combinations in every bite.

Here, I give you a recipe for the buns and for the quick pickle that I served on both nights. I also provide links to recipes for the pork belly and the grilled shrimp.

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Bao Buns

Thanks to Yi Jun Lo at Food 52 for her mother’s bao recipe, which I used as the basis for mine.

The bun recipe is vegan. If you want to keep the fillings plant based, too, glazed tofu makes a wonderful filling.

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus some extra for rolling out the dough
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup warm water
¼ cup cane sugar
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 teaspoon neutral cooking oil

Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor and mix or process until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough proof for an hour or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, cut out 10 squares of parchment, 4 x 4”.

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece against a cutting board to create a smooth ball. Let all the balls rest for 5 minutes. Then, working with one at a time (cover the rest with plastic while you work), use a rolling pin to flatten the ball into an oval about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide. Then fold the oval to create a sort of half moon that looks a bit like the tush of a person lying on their side (now you know why they are called buns). Place the little dough butt on a square of parchment. Cover all the finished tushies with plastic and let them proof again for 45 minutes or so. They will be puffy and lush.

Set up a steamer basket over boiling water. Steam the buns for 10 minutes. You may have to do this in batches. Serve immediately. If you need to reheat them, they resteam beautifully in just a minute or so. Or, place them on a plate under a damp towel and microwave for a few seconds until they’re hot. Be careful not to nuke them for too long or they’ll become tough.

The traditional filling for these buns is pork belly. Here is a terrific recipe.

We also like them with glazed grilled shrimp. Here’s a simple and easy recipe.

I served both the pork and shrimp fillings with a simple, quick cucumber pickle. This one comes from Momofuko’s David Chang via Food 52.

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Cucumber Pickle

2 small kirby or seedless cucumbers
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. cane sugar

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Additional garnishes and condiments:
Hoisin
Avocado
Cilantro
Basil
Mint
Scallions
Sesame seeds
Chili oil
Sriracha

To serve: Pull apart the fold of the bun and brush on hoisin and/or sriracha or chili oil. Fill with pieces of the pork, shrimp, or tofu and add herbs, avocado, etc. to your taste. Make sure to have lots of sparkling wine or beer and a big pile of napkins. Salad is optional.

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This lilac bloom was cut from the tree next to our deck. It grew from a cutting taken from the tree we gave my mother for mother’s day when my siblings and I were teenagers. Mom died in March of this year, missing the lilacs she always loved to see bloom for Mother’s Day. I post this here to honor her legacy.

Posted in appetizer, bread, breakfast, condiment, lunch, main, snacks, supper, Uncategorized, vegan, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments