Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Love My (Fresh) Vegetables

During the summer I like to eat my veggies raw.   But I get a little sick of green salad.  Vietnamese salad is a perfect way to eat a lot of veggies with a lot of flavor, especially when you are sick of plain old salad greens salads.  This salad might look complicated, but the components are easy to make and can be prepped in advance and since you don't have to cook the veggies, it is faster to put together than a lot of meals.  It is also easy to adapt since you can use whatever you have on hand.

This recipe originally called for two types of pork, but I prefer thin, medium rare slices of grilled flat iron steak.  Chicken, shrimp, or tofu would work great as well. 

Vietnamese Salad with Flat Iron Steak
adapted from Quick and Easy Vietnamese by Nancie McDermott
For the steak:
1 flat iron steak, roughly 1.3-1.5 lbs
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 bunch finely chopped green onions

For the salad:
1/4 lb dried thin rice noodles, soaked in very hot water for 20 minutes  (vermicelli or linguini style can be used, just check soaking times)
Nuoc Cham dipping sauce (recipe follows)
Pickled carrots and radishes (recipe follows)
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cucumber halved and sliced thin
1/2 can baby corn
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, sliced in half, seeds removed and sliced thin
1/2 cup peanuts or cashews

Nuoc Cham:
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce
5 Tablespoons fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients in jar with lid and shake well.  Smash garlic first with side of knife for extra flavor.

Pickled carrots and radishes:
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 bunch red radishes halved and sliced thin

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in pan over medium heat.  Cook for 5 minutes or until sugar is well dissolved.  Transfer to cake pan to cool in fridge or (briefly) in freezer.  Once cooled, pour over carrots and radishes and mix well. 
Start by making marinade for steak.  Make crosswise cuts across steak to aid in marination.  Combine steak with fish sauce, brown sugar, oil, salt, pepper, and green onions and toss to coat.  Set aside while preparing other ingredients.  (OK to be on counter 30 minutes prior to cooking.  If marinating early in the day, put in fridge, but put on counter 30 minutes prior to cooking.)   Heat grill for cooking.

To cook:
Soak noodles in very hot water.  After 20 minutes, drain, and rinse in cool water.  Drain and set aside.

Prepare accompaniments.  I like to make the pickled carrots and radishes and the nuoc cham first so they have plenty of time to let the flavors meld.  Arrange shredded cabbage, cucumbers, baby corn, cilantro, jalapenos, and nuts on a platter.  

Finally, grill steak 5 minutes on each side or until medium-rare.  Slice thin on diagonal.  Can also be cooked in cast iron pan if no grill is available.  

The fun part of serving this dish is that you can let your guests assemble their own serving.  Start with noodles.  Add veggies and then top with meat.  Finally add Nuoc Cham sauce and sprinkle nuts on top.  

You will never be disappointed with this dish! 

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