Saturday, February 27, 2016

Vietnamese Beef and Watercress Salad (Bo Xao Sa Lach Son)

The funny thing about having a mom who is an awesome cook, is that you don't even realize how good you had it until someone else points it out to you.  This happened recently on a visit home to my parent's house in Houston.  We had a casual lunch at home and my mom made bo xao sa lat song, a watercress salad with marinated beef, to accompany our meal of rice and various vegetarian dishes.   Growing up, I'd probably eaten watercress salad once a week and not thought much about it.  But then my husband kept on talking about how good it was.  And I came to my senses and realized, yes, it is delicious! 

It's a shame not more people eat watercress.  It's crunchy and refreshing, with a hint of bitterness and sweetness.  I wouldn't be surprised if it became the next kale.   I like to make green smoothies with any leftover watercress I might have.  I used to have to go to the Asian grocery stores to find watercress, but now it's pretty easy to find at any local grocery stores.

Bo xao sa lat song is very quick and easy to assemble.  Traditionally, it is topped with sauteed thin slices of garlicky, marinated beef, but another vegetarian riff on this salad is to replace the beef with hard-boiled eggs and avocado. A quick vinaigrette finishes off the salad.

  • 2 bunches watercress, washed with thick stems removed
  • 1 lb. thin sliced lean beef (examples: bo tai or filet)
  • Marinade: adjust to taste
    • 1 tbs. oyster sauce
    • 2 tbs. soy sauce
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 2 tbs. canola oil
    • 1 tbs. sugar
    • fresh pepper
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced and rinsed under cold water or quick-soaked in white vinegar and water to remove raw taste
  • vinaigrette: adjust to taste
    • about 1/3 c. white vinegar
    • 2 tbs. canola oil
    • 1 tbs. sugar
    • 1 clove minced garlic 
  • nuoc cham* see previous bun thit nuong post for recipe
  1. Stir together oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic, canola oil, sugar, and pepper until sugar is dissolved.  Adjust marinade to taste.  Marinate beef at least 1 hour, overnight is even better.
  2. In a large shallow bowl or plate, add watercress, tomato, avocado, and red onion.  
  3. In another small bowl, combine vinaigrette ingredients
  4. Quickly sear beef over a very hot grilling pan.  Do not move beef around, allowing each side to sear and slightly caramelize for about 20-30 seconds per side.
  5. Top salad with beef and dress with nuoc cham and vinaigrette.  Mix well and serve.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Valentine's Day In: Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Rib-Eye Steaks with Sauteed Mushrooms and Roasted Red Potatoes

This year, like every year, Reid and I decided to celebrate Valentine's Day in.  I think there is very little desire, for most people, to fight the crowds, reservations and hastle of going out on Valentine's Day.  Heck, if you've been together for more than a year, or are older than 8 years old, you probably don't even celebrate Valentine's Day anymore.

Well, we still celebrate Valentine's, even though we know it's a stupid, not-historically-accurate, Hallmark-sponsored holiday.  Mostly because it's an excuse to eat chocolate.  And pamper each other a little.  And give each other cheesy cards like this one I made Reid:

From Julius
So we often end up just having a nice meal in.  This year I'm making a cheese plate (thanks to my Antonelli's cheese of the month subscription), linguine with lobster in garlic cream sauce, and chocolate molten cake.  I also made some last minute chocolate covered strawberries.

So excited about my Antonelli's cheese-of-the-month subscription
In past years, I've often just made a nice, easy steak dinner.  Like the one below:

Rib-Eye Steak with Sauteed Mushrooms and Crispy Roasted Red Potatoes
  • 2 organic, grass-fed ribeye steaks, about 3/4" thick
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 tbs. flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 8-10 small red potatoes, washed and cut in halves
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Toss potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic, and rosemary together and spread out on a single layer on baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until soft through and crispy on edges.  Turn potatoes to get sides evenly crisp on all edges, 2-3 times during roasting time.
  2. While potatoes are roasting, heat a cast iron (or any heavy bottomed, oven-proof) skillet in the oven.
  3. Carefully remove skillet from oven and add mushrooms, salt and pepper.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add parsley.  Move mushrooms to one side of skillet and add butter to remaining surface of skillet.
  4. Salt and pepper both sides of steaks and place in cleared area of skillet.  Sear 2-3 minutes per side for rare to medium-rare steaks.  Remove steaks from skillet and allow to rest for 5 minutes under a foil tent.
  5. Plate steaks, topped with sauteed mushrooms and any pan drippings.  Add potatoes.  Serve with vegetables or side salad.

For a last minute gift, I made quick and super easy chocolate covered strawberries.  Way better and way cheaper than store-bought ones.  You can use premium chocolates and customize toppings.  I cannot stress how easy these are to make.  If you have kids, have them make them!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
  • 1 lb. organic strawberries, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips or coins
  • optional decorations (sugar sprinkles, nuts, melted chocolate)
  1.  Melt dark chocolate chips over a double boiler or in the microwave by placing in glass bowl and microwaving for 45 seconds.  Stir and heat for increments of 20 seconds until melted.
  2. Dip strawberries in chocolate.  Place on wax paper lined baking sheet.  Add toppings/decorations as desired.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.