Weekly Salad 20: Fresh Peas with Lettuce



The summer season is finally here and I’ve been trying to fit as many u-pick dates as I can for the various fruits and vegetables that are available in our area. Our first picking took place at Rowe’s Produce Farm in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Like good ol’ city folk, we got up at sunrise and headed out to the fields to pick their strawberries as well as their peas. Picking peas is not so bad because they’re usually clustered together. Shelling them wasn’t bad either (better than shelling favas, that’s for sure).

Fresh peas are a real treat if you can get them. They have a firm flesh that is not as starchy as canned or frozen ones tend to be. They’re nice any way you prepare them – steamed, sautéed or boiled. For this salad, gently steam the peas until they’re just cooked and toss them with lettuce and top with a poached egg for an easy and delicious salad.



With the green shells, I made a quick soup by cooking them with some chicken broth, one small peeled potato (to add body to the soup), one garlic clove, some onion, and S&P until soft. I blended the whole thing and strained it through a sieve. You can add a little milk or cream to the mix before serving. Nothing to waste – rien ne se jete.







On Saturday, June 21, Pierre and I ate our last lunch at Everyday Cook in Kerrytown – downtown Ann Arbor – it was the restaurant’s final day before closing. It was a bittersweet time for us as we appreciate what they were doing there, providing fresh, inventive food from a daily changing menu featuring local ingredients. I ordered Chef Brendan’s Chicken & Chorizo Paella with Peas & Roasted Red Peppers and Pierre ordered the Pork Tenderloin with Quince Aioli & Orange Asparagus Salad. Both were great. I wish I knew how the quince aioli was made – it tasted divine. We also shared a St. James tart with none other than KitchenChick – who, incidentally, sat at the same table as us. We wish the chefs and the owners much luck and hope that they find another food venture that can excite people the way Everyday Cook did.

Check out these blog posts:

Picking strawberries and peas from Four Obsessions

Fresh peas two ways from KitchenChick


Bon appétit!


Weekly Salad 19: Gỏi Mít – Vietnamese Green Jackfruit Salad


Goi Mit


Here is a salad that we had in Viet Nam on our last trip. It’s a nice change from the usual Gỏi of either cabbage, cucumbers, lotus root, mango, and papaya, – which I love all the same. Green, unripe jackfruit is something I didn’t grow up eating but have come to really enjoy since trying it in Viet Nam. Until fairly recently, the only types of jackfruit available in the States were the canned version that was packed in syrup, dried or perhaps frozen in plastic packages — all of ripened fruit. Nowadays, fresh and ripened jackfruit has become available, though still quite dear. To see what the inside of a fresh jackfruit looks like and watch a video on how to harvest a ripened fruit, head over to WhiteOnRiceCouple‘s post here.

Outside of Southeast Asia (as well as parts of South America, Australia and Africa), young and unripe (green) jackfruit (Mít Non) is mainly available packed in water or brine and canned. Unlike ripe (yellow) jackfruit, unripe jackfruit can be eaten whole – that is, flesh and seeds, as both are still tender. It has a fairly neutral taste that seems to absorb whatever dressing you give it and serves as a textural contrast to the shrimp, pork, sesame seeds (or peanuts) and crunchy fried shallots. My favorite brand for green jackfruit is Richin – I’ve found that the fruit is never discolored but is white and unblemished and the texture tender without being mushy.


Green Jackfruit



INGREDIENTS: (4 main-dish servings)

  • Three (3) cans – 10 oz. (280 grams) of green (unripe) jackfruit
  • juice of 1 small-medium lime
  • 1 Tbl. (15g) sugar
  • 1 (5g) tsp. salt
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) poached pork tenderloin or pork belly [chicken breast can also be substituted]
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) fresh unpeeled, de-veined shrimp
  • large handful of Viet. coriander (rau răm) and spearmint (rau húng)
  • 1 Tbl. (15g) lightly toasted white sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbl. (45g) Crispy Fried Shallots (hành phi)
  • sweet-sour dressing – (nước chấm)
  • lightly crushed, freshly roasted peanuts (optional)
  • shrimp chips (bánh phồng tôm) or Viet sesame rice crackers (bánh tráng mè)

In a skillet, dry-fry the shrimp for several minutes until opaque in color. Allow to cool before removing shells – leaving the tails intact. Set aside.

Poach the pork until cooked through. The internal temperature should reach 160F. Allow to cool before thinly slicing into 1/4 inch (.5cm) strips. Soak the jackfruit in clean water for about 15 minutes. Drain and (using your hands or a potato ricer) squeeze the jackfruit segments to remove excess liquid. Cut the jackfruit segments into thin strips, similar in size to the pork. In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar, lime and salt. Once dissolved, add the jackfruit along with the pork and toss to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the marinated jackfruit and pork with the shrimp and herbs (I leave the herbs whole, but you can roughly chop them if you prefer). Just before serving, toss the ingredients with 2-3 Tbl. of Nước Chấm (add more or less depending on your taste). Transfer to a serving plate. Scatter sesame seeds, fried shallots and crushed peanuts (optional) over the top of the dish. Serve with shrimp chips or sesame rice crackers.


Bon appétit!


Weekly Salad 18: Mango Salad




Mangoes are a favorite fruit of mine. I’ll take a mango over a pear or an apple any day – yeah, even a Michigan apple(!). When I have in mah hot hands some ripe mangoes, you will undoubtedly find me eating all of the fruit and then standing over the sink and gnawing the seed, my hands and wrists covered in sticky mango juice. Because that is the only sensible thing to do.

Perhaps not as popular or common as papaya salad, mango salad (Gỏi Xoài) has all the crunchy and herbally goodness of the version made with papaya. Traditionally made with firm, green mangoes (Xoài Xanh), it’s another simple and rather addictive salad that is great for the muggy weather we’ve been having here. WanderingChopsticks has a really, really great version here. For mine, I used regular, very firm, unripe mangoes that I peeled and then shredded using the blue Kiwi knife, some fresh spearmint, some sliced red bell pepper, and the usual sweet-tart-tangy dipping sauce.

Bon appétit!


Weekly Salad 17: Grilled Romaine and Parmesan




When I think of salads, I think of crisp, cool vegetables and lettuce. I don’t always think of cooking lettuce but the times I’ve tried it, I’ve realized how nice it can be. Cooking, particularly grilling lettuce seems to really bring out its sweetness and flavor. Romaine is a fairly hardy lettuce that can really stand up to the heat of the grill. It goes from being firm and crisp to tender and juicy in a matter of minutes. For this salad, I cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise and generously brushed the cut sides with olive oil before grilling them for about 2-3 minutes until slightly wilted. After that, all they need is sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, a final drizzle of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese. Serve warm.

Bon appétit!





Weekly Salad 16: Goat Cheese with Candied Kumquats and Chive Vinaigrette




The other day, I came home after a very long day to find a parcel waiting for me in the hallway. It was sent from Denise and Lenny from the wonderful ChezUs blog. Without even taking off my shoes, I went straight for the box. Oh, I’m just messin’ with ya, Ma — I always take my shoes off first 😉

Inside, I found a beautiful loaf of Portuguese sweet bread, candied kumquats (which came in an ultra-cool Weck jar) and some fresh kumquats they had found at the market in San Francisco. Pierre and I ate the bread with some of the kumquats the next morning for breakfast. As we were eating, all I could do was nod be all, like, Totally, Dude.

The bread was like a moist, slightly dense panettone. Although I often find candied fruits and preserves too sweet for my taste, the kumquats’ acidity and tartness really balance the sugar syrup nicely in the preserves. Denise and Lenny, Muito Obrigado and if you decide to open a mail-order business with this bread, write me down for the first dozen 🙂




Now that spring is finally here (or is it?), my fresh chives are starting to make a comeback and I’ve been eager to make a vinaigrette with them. They’re not fully grown so I had to resort to herbal thievery and stole some that were growing on the other side of a neighbor’s fence. Yes, I stole some chives. And a small dogwood branch.

I used the candied kumquats in this salad and they added such a delicious tangy-sweet taste to it. With creamy goat cheese and a fresh chive vinaigrette, it’s a simple and elegant salad for any day of the week. To make the chive vinaigrette, add fresh, finely chopped chives to some dijon mustard, olive oil and wine vinegar + S&P and mix together to form a smooth, emulsified dressing. Just before serving, toss your salad greens with the dressing and top with goat cheese and a few slices of candied kumquats.




bread with kumquats


Bon appétit!



Weekly Salad 15: Gỏi Bắp Cải Gà – Vietnamese Chicken & Cabbage Slaw


Viet Cabbage Slaw


I’ve slacked off a bit with posting my weekly salads. No need to be alarmed – I haven’t quite fallen off the wagon. (I did, however, eat 2 Coney hot dogs a day for three days straight, last week.) Those things are so awesome. Anyway, to balance my meat-on-a-bun binge, I’ve enjoyed this salad. It’s sort of an everyday salad because the ingredients are ones many of us usually have in stock. If you like coleslaw but want something healthier but still bright and flavorful, you could try this salad. Also, because there is no mayonnaise or cream in the dressing, it’s great for parties or picnics as there’s less of a spoilage issue.

I used Taiwanese Cabbage – which can be distinguished by its flatter shape. When cut in half, each side has an oblong shape. The leaf ribs of this cabbage are smaller and narrower than regular cabbage and it has a slightly milder (& sweeter?) taste. You can also use regular cabbage, as I often do. Red cabbage would also be nice, for both color and flavor.



INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings)

  • 1 head green [Taiwanese] cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 lb. (450 g) cooked [leftover] chicken meat (dark/white), hand shredded
  • 2 shallots, sliced into thin rings
  • large handful of fresh mint, leaves left whole or roughly-hand torn
  • large handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • large handful of freshly ground, toasted peanuts (optional)
  • approx. 4 Tbl. (60mL) of Spicy Sauce/Dressing (for this salad, replace 3 Tbl. (45mL) of white rice vinegar for the lime juice)


Combine all ingredients except for the peanuts and dressing. When ready to serve, thoroughly toss with the dressing and scatter the ground peanuts over the entire dish.

Bon appétit!


Weekly Salad 14: Spicy Calamari


Squid salad


Do you think I ate that all of that Nutella Bread Pudding? I can tell you with a clean conscience that I did not. I enjoyed my generous serving and the rest went into the metabolic abyss that is Pierre’s stomach.

Wandering Chopsticks outed my inconsistency and indeed, it seems wrong to post a diet salad one day and then proceed with a gazillion calorie-laden and thigh-enlarging bread pudding the next. But the key word is Moderation – a word that rises and falls in its efficacy around here but one that I subscribe to nevertheless.

I do make and eat a lot of Vietnamese and various other salads regularly. I also exercise [fairly] regularly. Still, I’m no willowy twig. I eat chocolate and butter and cream and whatever else I like on occasion but I try to be conscious of the amount and to not over-eat. While my weight may fluctuate somewhat at times, I am committed to eating right most days – well, except on Sundays and on any ethnic holiday 😉

These salads keep me *in check* and they manage to delight me as well.



INGREDIENTS: (2 main dish servings)

  • 1 lb (500 g) cleaned small squid (calamari), tentacles left whole and body cut into 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) rings, drained and patted dry
  • 1/2 large english cucumber, de-seeded and cut into thin, 2-inch (5cm) julienned strips
  • 1 medium sized red bell pepper, de-seeded and cut into thin, 2-inch (5cm) julienned strips
  • cilantro
  • white sesame seeds,for garnish
  • 1.5 Tbl of Spicy Sauce/Dressing
  • cooking oil


Add oil to your wok or skillet and turn the heat to high. Quickly fry and sear the calamari for about 45 seconds (not more than a minute). Remove from heat and toss with the rest of the ingredients.

Next, pat yourself on the back for getting a healthy, tasty meal together in such little time.

Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!


Weekly Salad 13: Gỏi Dưa Leo – Vietnamese Cucumber Salad with Shrimp and Pork…and Some Foolishness


Vietnamese Cucumber Salad


I mentioned a few times before how special Gỏi is and how different it is than salad here and here. This particular dish has a rather special place in my heart because I once lost some seriously chubby, Asian poundage eating it every week for about 6 months [insert legal disclaimer] as part of a healthy, balanced diet that included plenty of exercise.

Many people, particularly women, gain the notorious Freshman 15 in college. For me, it was more like Freshman 30+. When you’re not even 5 feet tall, that ain’t right, man. Of course, it didn’t help that Asian people (like my parents and their friends) are blunt, careless jerks who will not hesitate to say, “Wow – you so fat and ugly! What da hell happen?”

After many failed attempts at low-carbing, de-toxing, Atkins, etc., I realized that white people’s diets were not going to work for me. I looked at my mom and my cousins and saw that they kept their trim figures by eating healthy, Vietnamese food and by getting out and moving about everyday. They didn’t deprive themselves of food they liked but they understood and practiced portion control and moderation. Another thing they didn’t have was a guilt complex with food. If they had a high calorie or fatty snack/meal, they would enjoy it and balance it with other healthy food and exercise.

I started to eat Vietnamese food again, particularly Vietnamese salad (Gỏi ) – on a regular basis. This proved to be a wise choice as Gỏi can be so varied and interesting; thus I did and have not become bored with eating the same ol’ nappy salad for lunch/dinner — I didn’t *fall off the wagon*. Coupled with regular exercise, I lost almost 30 of those crazy pounds (okay, that number’s fudged a bit since last Thanksgiving, but hey…)




INGREDIENTS (2-4 servings):

  • 2 large English cucumbers (approx. 2.2 lbs/1 kg), cut into very thin *half moons*
  • 1 Tbl. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) pork shoulder, poached and then cut into thin strips (the size of matchsticks)
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) shrimp (I use the 31/40 size), poached with their shells on and then peeled once cooked
  • 1 large carrot, finely grated
  • large handful of peanuts, roasted and crushed
  • 1 Tbl. freshly toasted white sesame seeds
  • large handful of Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), stems removed


  • 2 red chilies (Thai bird)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 2 Tbl. sugar (+ more to taste)
  • 2 Tbl. fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water


Make your dressing by smashing the chilies and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Add the sugar, lime, fish sauce and water. Mix thoroughly to dissolve all the sugar. Taste and add more sugar/fish sauce/lime according to your preference. Set aside.

Using a sharp knife, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise or and if you have a Japanese Mandoline, use that to then slice it into thin half moons. Add them to a large bowl and toss with the salt and sugar. Allow to sit for at least 1/2 an hour. The salt will cause the cucumbers to weep their water.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients – the pork, shrimp, carrot and garnishes (peanuts, sesame seeds and herbs). Drain the cucumbers and rinse well with water. Next, take a handful of the cucumbers and squeeze and ring out as much liquid as you can. (A potato ricer will also do a nice job of this step.) Mix all the drained and squeezed cucumbers with carrot, pork, shrimp and herbs. Right before serving, toss with the dressing and garnish with the sesame seeds and peanuts. (Preparing the cucumbers this way wilts them but I find them a nice textural contrast to the crisp carrots and tender pork and shrimp and crunchy peanuts.)

Bon appétit!


I want to leave you with a few photos I took on Sunday in downtown Ann Arbor where the 2008 Festifools took place. FestiFools brings students and community volunteers together to create unique public art (mostly large, papier mâché ) that is free and accessible to everyone. It was a glorious day with blue skies and warm weather. You can also view some fabulous photos from the festival’s official photographer, Myra Klarman, here.


Fesifools 2