Posts Tagged ‘Top 15’


We all want to be useful. (FISH SAUCE)

April 12, 2011

During a recent class at the Astor Center, I was asked a question that I thought deserved public answering. One of the recipes we prepared included fish sauce. As an ingredient that is often used sparingly, my student wondered how to make a dent in the bottle that sits around after being used only once in an experimental while. In other words –allow me to paraphrase– ‘what the hell do I do with this stuff?’

A little background on fish sauce; it is the liquid extracted from salted and fermented fish or shrimp. Lending an aquatic (as in the bottom of an aquarium) and briny note, it is a major ingredient in many Asian cuisines. Each country has its own process by which they produce the stuff but Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Laos, Korea, Southern China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan all use a variation of fish sauce in alot or at least a little of their cooking. In my experience with Vietnamese food, it is a ubiquitous and staple item, sort of like the t-shirts they sell in tourist shops that say ‘Good Morning Vietnam!’.

The truth is, it stinks like no one’s business only to be intensified when heated. This should stop aforementioned no one from using this product. Once mixed with other ingredients it turns on its magic, amplifying the existing flavors, doing that umami thing that I can’t describe. It does something to make a dish taste as delicious as it did sitting on a small plastic chair, overlooking the beach at Nha Trang.

Wikipedia does a great job of providing mostly the truth and lots more fish sauce details. My mission is to list a few ways to help get through that bottle a little quicker.


  • in a curry
  • in salad dressing
  • as a marinade
  • as a dipping sauce
  • in a peanut sauce
  • in a crab cake or fish croquette
  • in a vegetable soup/stew (fish sauce loves kale!)
  • in beef stew
  • in (Asian style) chicken soup
  • in fried rice
  • sprinkle on fish before roasting/grilling
  • in a dumpling filling
  • tossed with noodles
  • in kimchi
  • in a stirfry

(‘in a stirfry’ is such a cop-out.) Enjoy!


When life gives you winter… (WINTER PESTO)

February 18, 2009


Of course basil looks like hell, it’s winter! And i love basil, I really do, but it is one of those things that literally reeks of summer and is therefore best saved for those months that end in -une, -uly, -ugust and -eptember. At that time it will take over flowerpots, markets and menus with its brilliance. We can brainstorm 101 things to do with basil, and I look forward to it.

This does not mean that in more dismal months one cannot enjoy a fresh, healthy, bright green pesto sauce. Really! It only takes a few slight adjustments and voilà, we are dressed for the season. In the following recipe, I did not use parmesan cheese, a traditional pesto ingredient, but feel free to blend in 1/4 cup for added deliciousness. Also, use your creative chef license and substitute other wintry herbs for the ones I chose.

1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley, packed
20 fresh sage leaves
2 cups baby spinach, packed
1/2 shallot, roughly chopped
1/2 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon wine, rice or cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth. If this is too many greens for your appliance, process half of them and then add the remaining leaves on top. Process again and season to taste.
  • Makes 1.5 cups of pesto
Let the brainstorms begin!!! Top 15 uses for this or Any-Time-of-Year Pesto:
  1. On toasted bread that is smeared with a little goat cheese (I took down almost a whole loaf this way)
  2. As a dip for fresh vegetables
  3. Tossed with hot, cooked pasta
  4. Mixed in with cooked rice for a lovely ‘green rice’ side dish
  5. Drizzled over roasted spaghetti squash
  6. On a roasted rack of lamb
  7. Mixed into cous-cous with a few chunky vegetables
  8. As dressing for a chicken salad (with or without added mayo)
  9. Topping for most any fish
  10. Inside a fish taco
  11. Garnish on a pureed soup
  12. Over beets
  13. On top of a hearty minestrone soup
  14. Tossed with potatoes before or after roasting
  15. In an omelette/scrambled eggs
What else…?