Dinner in a Blink: Pasta with Chèvre, Asparagus & Mint

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I love Jamie Oliver, but I was cursing him as my attempt to make his recipe for ravioli with minted-asparagus, potatoes and mascarpone went up in flames this last weekend. I wont get into details other than to say that the whole thing ended up being a real big mess and I was nearly forced to go to my Jamie Oliver-themed potluck party empty handed (I substituted with his easy and excellent “Chocolate Pots” at the 11th hour. When in doubt, bring chocolate!). Despite my ill-fated ravioli-making endeavor, I really can’t stay mad at Jamie because the combination of flavors inspired by his recipe — tangy-creamy chèvre, sweet asparagus, and bright herbs — is quite wonderful and works perfectly as a quick and delightfully spring-y pasta dish that comes together nearly as quickly as boxed mac and cheese. This combo would be equally great on crostini, as a topping for pizza or melted inside a grilled panini.

BTW: I’ll make sure to nudge Simran to share the recipe for Jamie’s ricotta and herb stuffed mushrooms that she made for the potluck — they were great!

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Quick and Fresh: Vietnamese Noodle Bowls

This is a go-to quick dinner because it doesn’t really require too much actual cooking. I also get to use my second favorite kitchen gadget, the nut mill, for chopping up the peanuts. [Chime-O-Matic rice cooker, you will always be my #1]. It’s light, refreshing and good for kids because they can pick and choose to customize their own bowl. You can also use rice noodle wrappers to make a little package instead, which is what I usually do with the leftovers. A great lunch for the next day! (The rice noodle wrappers — bahn trang, the ones you use for goi cuon–  are circular, and come dry in various sizes. You just submerge the wrapper in hot water for a few seconds until it’s soft and pliable. Fill and wrap like a burrito.)

You can include any combination of things you like, including grilled meat, seafood —  or just keep it vegetarian. Here are some of the basics we usually use:

  • Rice stick noodles boiled for ~2 minutes (until tender), then drained
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Chopped mint leaves and cilantro
  • Sliced carrots
  • Sliced cucumber (I like English Cucumbers because they’re crisper)
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Bean sprouts
  • Sliced chiles (this one’s for you, Simran)
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • Your favorite meat or seafood: Grilled, broiled or pan fried

I often use thin slices of marinated pork, broiled until carmelized using some approximation of this marinade.

  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 minced shallot
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 1 Tbl soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass (bruise it a bit and slice into large pieces you can easily remove)
  • Ground black pepper to taste

The only other thing you need is a basic Nuoc Cham dipping sauce and whatever hot sauces or other condiments you like. Here’s a Nuoc Cham recipe I like from Viet World Kitchen. Here a spicy peanut dipping sauce from Sunday Nite Dinner that would be good as well.

Super Delicious Apple-Mint Picnic Punch

At our recent de Young picnic, I made Giada de Laurentiis’ apple-mint punch which turned out to be super delicious. It’s summer in a cup: refreshing, not overly sweet, with a nice zippiness. The only problem was that I wished I had made more! I think doubling the recipe next time is most definitely in order and if you want to share with the kids, you can always substitute decaf tea. Here’s  a link to her original recipe.

In honor of so much yumminess, I made this little drawing. You can find out where where is Mr. Mint Leaf going with that snazzy, yellow umbrella by clicking on the picture!