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Posts Tagged ‘Culinary Adventure in Pacific Northwest’

Farm Dinner At Dog Mountain Farm

Dog Mountain Farm, located in Snoqualmie Vally near Carnation, Washington, offers summer farm dinner events that are a culinary delight. The dinners are prepared by a guest chef and served with wines from a local winery. I attended one of these dinners in  June 2010 and was blessed to experience a half day at the farm of sun-filled summer, a beautiful view of the Cascade mountains, and dining on white tablecloths surrounded by apple orchards. The farm offers various farm and culinary activities year round for all age groups.

View of the Cascade Mountain

September 2012 has provided the rare beauty of a long stretch of sunny days. Saturday, September 15th, the date that I cooked at the Dog Mountain Farm, was one of the most beautiful days among them.

The farm dinner guests arrived at 3pm. Farm owners Cindy and David welcomed everyone with champagne and an hors d’oeuvre, then took them on a farm tour.

Galloping Horse or Mar Hor with savory pork on plum brûlée

I was happy to have the hors d’oeuvre done just in time. The abundance of plums provided a good substitute for pineapple in the Thai hors d’oeuvre called Mar Hor or Galloping Horse, a savory pork mixture atop plum brûlée. I was pleased when I ate one to hear the excitement of taste from far away – like someone galloping a horse.

The Dog Mountain Farm raises French Grimaud Pekin and Muscovy ducks, Embden geese, French guinea fowl, and heritage turkeys.

While the guests toured the farm, I continued cooking—there were four more courses coming.

My Thai Farm dinner included wine pairings from the Wilridge Winery. The wines were served by the winery’s owner and winemaker, Paul Beveridge. Paul selected the wines exclusively for the menu above. They were Viognier Rosebud Vineyard ($11.89), Estate Nebbiolo Wilridge Vineyard ($210), Estate Sangiovese Wilridge Vineyard ($21), and Estate Mélange Noir Wilridge Vineyard ($21). The amazing wines, along with the details and personal stories that Paul shared, enriched the dinner experience.

Kabocha Pumpkin Soup with corn, kale, summer squash and lemon basil

The dinner was served around 4:30pm and I was able to pause at that point for just a minute to take in the sun rays that filled the farm kitchen. Then I ladled the Gaeng Leang – Thai country-style soup – into individual bowls. (Please click here for Gaeng Leang Recipe). Gaeng Leang is often served at Thai dinners to display local abundance. This one had a generous amount of lemon basil from the farm green house and was as authentic as my grandmother’s cooking 40 years ago!

Asian pear is crunchy, juicy, sweet and fragrant.

The third course was an Asian pear salad with mixed herbs and salad greens and a sweet chili vinaigrette. I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of the salad or write down the recipe, so I will have to recreate the recipe one day to share with you. This dish was totally impromptu. I adjusted my chili lime vinaigrette recipe by adding a few more ingredients to compliment the farm’s Asian pears and to echo the flavors of the overall dinner menu.

Braised Duck Curry

The fourth course was a traditional Thai duck curry, Gaeng Phed Ped Yang, made with Dog Mountain Farm’s French Grimaud Pekin. For more information and a recipe for curry dishes please check my future posts.

Thai Duck Egg Custard

Please click the picture above to see Pranee’s custard recipe

Coconut Duck Egg Custard Ice Cream

Please click photo above to see Pranee’s Coconut Duck Egg Custard recipe

Originally I had planned to make just one dessert: coconut duck egg custard ice cream with fried farm apples. But once I began cooking with the very fresh duck eggs, I could not help but make my mom’s Thai duck egg custard over black sticky rice, a traditional Thai dessert.

Once the five-course dinner was served I had a chance to relax, join in the conversation with the dinner guests, and take in the beauty of the double sunset—a beautiful sunset to the West and the reflected light on the Cascade Mountains to the East.

Where to find the Dog Mountain Farm Stand

For those of you who live in the Seattle area, Dog Mountain Farm has a stand at the Broadway Farmers Market on Sundays. Please check their website and then send them an e-mail to have them harvest fresh produce that you can pick up at the market on Sunday between 11am – 3pm.

Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen

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The Holy Herbs

It has been a busy summer for me so far. This has kept me away from writing, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t cook up a delicious dish for my Thai Kitchen blog. I have a lot of photos and notes and testings that have been done but that are waiting for me to write them up. While waiting for those posts from my food experiences in July, I have a delicious, unpretentious and impromptu dish to share with you. From my garden and Thai kitchen to yours!

Oregano Buds

Why oregano? Ten years ago, oregano was widespread via self-sown seeds in my Seattle garden near Thai spirit house. That year, my niece was visiting from Thailand and I used oregano in place of Thai holy basil when I prepared Phad Kraprow Gai (stir-fried minced chicken with Thai holy basil). I didn’t tell her that I’d used oregano and she didn’t notice the difference. Later on, when I told her it was not Thai holy basil, but Greek holy oregano we laughed! Fresh oregano has a peppery and pungent taste that I love and which is similar to Thai holy basil. Try using oregano in place of Thai holy basil when oregano leaves and blossoms are abundant in your garden.

Oregano Blossoms

Yesterday was my day off from traveling on the road and I was hanging around home and working in my garden. My girlfriend and I were immersing ourselves in the sun, surrounded by flowers, herbs and weeds. All of a sudden I realized that most of my oregano plants were blossoming. As it got close to lunch time, I began to think about what I could cook with those blossoms. I decided to make Oregano Blossoms Fried Rice for lunch. I cut the stems down to six inches long so there were some leaves attached to yield more leaves until the end of the summer.

Oregano Blossoms Fried Rice

Does frozen cooked rice work for this dish? This is the first time that I have experimented with previously frozen rice from my fridge. I thawed the rice before using it to loosen up the cooked rice grains and it worked perfectly well for fried rice. Off course my passion is to share what is happening in my Thai Kitchen with you, so here is my recipe for oregano blossoms.

Oregano Blossoms Fried Rice with Tomato and Garlic

Khao Phad Dok Oregano Makrua Thet Kratiem

ข้าวผัดดอกออริกาโนกับมะเขือเทศและกระเทียม

Oregano is not a Thai herb, but it has long been a substitute ingredient for me in the absence of my beloved Thai holy basil. Both belong to the mint, or Lamiaceae, family. The flavor undertones of both herbs are alike, and as a gardener I love herbs that can grow wide and are easy to take care of. Now that I have discovered how great oregano blossoms taste in this recipe, I will enjoy the same dish often this summer! Cheers to the holy herbs!

Serves: 2 to 4

3 tablespoons canola oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cayenne pepper, sliced (remove seeds if preferred)
1/2 cup oregano leaves and blossoms, stems removed
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
2 eggs
3 cups cooked rice, cooled or frozen
2 pinches of salt, optional
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
4 lime wedges
8 sting beans or cucumber or any fresh vegetable condiment, optional
 
Heat canola oil in a skillet or wok on high heat. Add garlic and stir until golden, then add onion, cayenne and oregano leaves and blossoms and blossoms. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Clear the center of the wok and scramble in eggs for two seconds before adding rice. Stir in soy sauce and  fish sauce. Serve with lime wedge, vegetable condiment and spicy fish sauce. (See recipe below).
 
© 2012 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com  
 
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Without a Rice Cooker

You can cook rice for 30 people, anytime, without a rice cooker! Since last November, my son and I have been preparing one meal a month for 60 homeless youth at Seattle’s [James W. Ray] Orion Center. The organization helps homeless youth get off the street and provides them with meals, education and shelter. The meal-calendar is posted and updated to allow members of the public to sign up to prepare a meal for these hungry youth. It has been a rewarding experience to take part in helping to build community. Thank you to a friend who also signed up to help prepare a meal with me. Together—without a rice cooker—we cooked lavender-turmeric scented jasmine rice for 30–6o hungry young people.

Rice can be cooked in a rice cooker, on the stove top, or in the oven. My recipe below is for rice cooked in the oven. I wanted to share the recipe so you would know that you do not need to buy a rice cooker in order to cook large quantities of rice. Instead you can purchase a large hotel pan and cook up to 30 servings of rice in about an hour.

Before putting rice and water in the hotel pan, it is best if all ingredients are hot before they are sealed up and placed in a preheated oven. (Here’s a link for an explanation as to how this method works: “Once water is heated past the 212°F mark, it stops being water and turns into steam. Steaming has an advantage over methods such as boiling or even simmering …..”. Moist Heat Cooking Method by About.com.)

About the recipe

Culinary Lavender

Today, the recipe I want to share with you is Kao Oop Kamin and Dok Lavender, lavender-turmeric scented jasmine rice. It works well served with Thai main dishes such as Thai curry dishes. I came up with the concept of adding lavender to turmeric scented jasmine rice about two years ago after I visited the Lavender Wind Farm on Whidbey Island and purchased a bag full of culinary lavender. After that visit I began adding lavender to everything. My friend, Kathy Gehrt, a local expert on cooking with lavender, says ” you can infuse anything with lavender” just be careful not to over use the lavender. You can learn more about cooking with lavender from Kathy’s book as well as her blog “Discovering Lavender.

One day I simply played with turmeric powder and lavender in a rice cooker. I found it had an alluring and somehow surprising fragrance. After making this dish I forgot about this new flavor and scent combination until sometime later when I heated up the leftovers and experienced the same unexpected delight. The next time I cooked this recipe was at the first dinner I prepared at the Orion Center. My friend was puzzled by the rice’s flavor and fragrance—”What is it in this steamed rice?

Thai jasmine rice, culinary lavender and turmeric

The sweet perfume of lavender complements the pungent turmeric, which is also known as Indian saffron. This amazing blend gives off an alluring aroma and gives the rice a subtle flavor that allows you to serve it with any cuisine. You can find culinary lavender in jars or in the bulk herbs section in a natural food store.

Playing with lavender and turmeric in a rice cooker

Lavender-Turmeric Scented Jasmine Rice

Kao Op Khamin Dok Lavender

ข้าวอบขมิ้นลาเวนเดอร์

Lavender-Turmeric Scented Jasmine Rice

Yield: 30 cups cooked rice

When I cook this at a large event, I measure up the jasmine rice, turmeric, lavender and salt beforehand and store them in a large ziplock bag. Each bag will provide a main course or side dish for 30 servings. You can bake enough in your oven to serve 30 people. In a commercial kitchen, where the ovens are larger, you could double the recipe and bake each in a separate hotel pan—one on the top shelf and another one on the bottom shelf. For smaller portions at home, set the oven temperature at 350°F and bake for 30 minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes. The rice to water ratio is 1 to 1 ½.

1/4 cup canola oil
10 cups jasmine rice
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
3 tablespoons culinary lavender 
2 teaspoons salt
16 cups boiling water
2 sheets 2 ½-foot-long aluminum foil 

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place large pan on high heat on the top of your stove and add canola oil. When the oil is hot, add rice, turmeric, lavender and salt and stir for 1 minute. Pour the rice mixture into a hotel pan and then pour in boiling water. Stir well and cover tightly with foil. Put pan in the preheated oven and let it cook undisturbed (no peeking) for at least 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the foil. Stir and serve.

Summer 2010 at Lavender Wind Farm, Whidbey Island

 
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
 
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Not Just for Fine Dining, Golden Trout

Last Saturday I went to the Pike Place Market to get the fresh fish of the day for my family dinner. Golden trout caught my eye. When I visited the market last summer, only City Fish carried it. This time around it seemed that every fish stall had a pile of golden trout, so I thought this would be a perfect time to share my recipe with you for Steamed Golden Trout in Lime-Chili-Garlic-Dill Sauce. The pictures were taken a while ago, but the recipe is timeless. It is based on Phuket Pla Nueng Manao—steamed fish in lime juice—but the way I prepared it reflects my new home in the Pacific Northwest.

Golden trout is a sub-species of rainbow trout, both of which are related to salmon. The pale pink color of the flesh and its texture are a really amazing mixture of both trout and salmon. There are many ways to prepare golden trout, but today my favorite is to steam them. I love cooking fish whole, so using the oven is a quick way to go.

The golden trout I bought was from a farm in Idaho. Golden trout’s natural habitat is the “clear, cold headwaters of creeks and lakes at elevations above 6,890 feet,” but most golden trout come from fish farms. This is because you may fish for them for your personal consumption but not to sell them commercially. Most golden trout in the markets are from the Idaho Trout Company. From my research I learned that fly fishing for rainbow trout and golden trout is a very popular activity.

Fresh Rainbow Trout from Pike Place Market

When it comes to steaming fish, I am my grandma’s grandaughter. I ate many meals of steamed fish with my grandmother, like Clay Pot Lemongrass-Steamed Fish (Pla Nueng Morh Din). I hope you will have a chance to cook a few of her recipes. Several of them are featured in the Asian Grandmothers Cookbook by Pat Tanumihardja. At home here in Seattle, I have adapted my grandmother’s recipe into an easy and fun way to prepare fish for my friends and family. My recipe below reflects my quick and easy method for doing this at home. I will let you decide which way you prefer.

Garlic, Lime, Dill and Purple Chili

PLA NUENG MANAO

ปลานึ่งมะนาว

Steamed Golden Trout with Lime-Chili-Garlic-Dill Sauce

Servings: 4

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

If you love fish, this recipe works for all occasions! It is light, fresh and delightful — yet easy to prepare. While steaming the fish, prepare the sauce. When the fish is cooked, just pour the sauce over it and serve with hot, fragrant jasmine rice.

1 whole golden trout, or any fileted fish (cooking time may vary)
4 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and smashed
large sheet of parchment paper and foil
10 cloves garlic, peeled
5 Thai red chilis, purple chilis, jalapeno or Serrano peppers
1 cilantro root
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped dill or cilantro
4 lime slices for garnish

Using a mortar and pestle, pound garlic, peppers, cilantro root and salt until smooth. With pestle, blend in sugar, fish sauce and lime juice until sugar dissolves. Stir in dill. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place 1/4 cup water in a 9” x 13” baking pan, then spread the lemongrass out. Place the trout on the bed of lemongrass and sprinkle salt on top of the fish. Cover the dish with parchment paper and then the foil, wrapping it around the edges to form a seal. Bake until the fish is cooked, about 10 to 15 minutes. (The good thing about steaming is you never overcook the fish). To check if the fish is done, insert a knife into the thickest part of the fish and lift the flesh away from the backbone. If it is easy to separate the flesh from the backbone, then it is done. If not, steam a little bit longer.

Place trout on a serving dish along with all of the steaming water. Pour the lime sauce over the top, then garnish with sliced limes and serve with jasmine rice.


Cook’s Note:

~Thai chilies are recommended for this recipe because they have a lingering flavor; you may remove seeds if needed. To control the spiciness of your finished dish, use 2 chilies for mild, 3 or 4 for medium, and 5 or 6 for a full spicy flavor.

~Always add the fish sauce before the lime juice to keep the sauce vibrant and fresh tasting.

~Best of all is to prepare the sauce while the fish is cooking. If you have a steamer, you can steam the fish in a serving size bowl and pour the sauce on top just before serving.

~The sauce can be used as a dipping sauce for any seafood, including mussels, clams and crab meat.

I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 

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A Divine Fruit, Persimmon ลูกพลับ 

Here in Seattle, I have been savoring persimmons during all of November and now into December. Persimmons reached their peak this last week. The abundance of this fruit at peak season provides a low price and high quality sweet fruits and this is when I am inspired to cook with persimmons. This year in my kitchen I found two delicious new ways to cook with them: persimmon-orange butter and persimmon upside-down cake. Today I will share with you my discoveries of this divine fruit which only appears once a year.

Fuyu Persimmon fruit – ลูกพลับ

The yellow-orange color of persimmon and its aromatic sweetness make this fruit special. In the U.S., the season for persimmons is in November and December, and they give us  a special way to celebrate the holiday seasons. Persimmons arrived in the U.S. and Europe over 200 years ago. There are two varieties in Seattle market: Hachiya and Fuyu. The former is recommended to eat when it is fully ripe. The latter, Fuyu, is my favorite and it is the variety most commonly available, so my focus today will be on the Fuyu persimmon.

Fuyu persimmons (Diospyros Kaki L) are native to Northern China. It is an ancient fruit—a fossilized persimmon was found in the tomb of the emperor of the Han Dynasty. Fuyu persimmons first traveled from China to Thailand in 1937, but they did not become widespread until the Royal Project Foundation under Kasetsart University  conducted a study in 1969 that grew various varieties of persimmons in Thailand and led to the successful establishment of persimmon farming in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Phetchabun. These are three persimmon varieties in Thailand: Xichu, Fuyu and Hyakume. (Source: 111 Thai Fruits by Nidda and Thaweethong Hongvivat published by Sangdad). The season for harvesting them is from July till September each year.  The nutritional benefits from persimmons are priceless. It is high in potassium, vitamin C, and much more.

Unripe Fuyu persimmon early in the season

When the hint of green disappears from the skin and is replaced by a yellow-orange color, one can snack on unripe Fuyu persimmon, though the ripe ones are the best. Persimmons can accompany an assorted cheese platter, much like pears or grapes, or combining green salad with bacon. For dessert, last year I found my pleasure by adding persimmons in coconut milk to my pearl tapioca pudding just before serving. This year, in the process of creating a dessert for 70 people, I found myself preparing persimmon-orange butter to serve over sweet sticky rice. Then came persimmon upside-down cake; this was magically created right after baking cranberry upside-down cake for my family. For an impromptu inspiration, all we need is to have plenty of persimmons around while they are in season.

Fuyu Persimmon

Persimmon-Orange Butter

Yield: 2 cups

You can use persimmon-orange butter on just about everything, or you can eat it plain like apple sauce. This is my favorite way:  served with sticky rice, on top of peanut butter and fruit butter for the sandwich.

6 fully ripened Fuyu persimmons, peeled and chopped
Zest of one orange
6 oranges, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons triple sec
3 tablespoons butter

Place persimmons, orange zest, orange, salt, sugar, cinnamon stick, triple sec and butter in a large saucepan. Let it cook on medium heat until softened and all juices from the fruit have evaporated, about 30 minutes. Stir often during the cooking. Remove cinnamon stick. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The Making of Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

Sliced persimmon, brown sugar, star anise and triple sac

When I was looking for a spice to compliment the flavor of persimmon, I picked up my cinnamon powder from Vietnam and star anise powder from Thailand. After smelling the star anise, I decided it was a sure thing. At that moment my eye glanced over at the star-shaped center of the persimmon and I decided to place a star anise in between the slices of persimmon. The star anise mirrors the pattern of the star-shaped center of the persimmon. Perfect.

Right Side Up

I was also happy that I had some persimmon-orange butter that I had created on another day. This allowed me to add some persimmon flavor in the body of the cake.

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

I used organic brown sugar, but any brown sugar would do the work.

A Perfect Persimmon-Star Anise Upside-Down Cake

The pretty star-shaped centers creates a perfect look for this upside-down cake.

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

Burnt brown sugar with creamy  soft persimmons melt in your mouth, almost like a crème caramel.

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake

เค้กลูกพลับ

I baked Yankee Cranberry Upside-Down Cake many times last week, which is what led me to this project.  I played around with persimmons and spices I had in the kitchen, and by the time the cranberry upside-down cake was finished, my persimmon-star anise upside-down cake was ready to go in. It became totally a different cake with its own flavor profiles, but it was the Yankee Cranberry Upside-Down Cake that inspired me with confidence.

Baking time: 35 to 40 minutes

Serves: 8 to 12

6 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons star anise powder, divided
1 tablespoon triple sec, divided
3 persimmons, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 6 pieces, each about 1/3 inch thick
5 star anises, whole
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons persimmon-orange butter, persimmon pulps or orange marmalade
 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cover a 9-inch spring form pan with 2 tablespoons melted butter, then sprinkle with brown sugar, triple sec and ½ teaspoon star anise powder to cover entire surface. Arrange persimmon slices and star anise as shown in the photo above.

Combine flour, baking powder, remaining star anise powder and salt.

Beat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and the sugar very hard by hand until they are well mixed. Then beat in eggs, one at a time, very hard by hand until the mixture is custardy. Whisk in ½ cup of the flour mixture, mix well, then whisk in ¼ cup buttermilk; continue this method of adding the flour and buttermilk until you finish with ¼ cup flour.  Pour the batter into the center of the springform pan, smoothing it with a spatula to make it evenly cover the persimmon.

Bake on a rack in the center of the oven until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes. While the cake is still warm, invert the cake onto a serving platter.

credit: http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/yankee-cranberry-upside-down-cake-687053/

Photos: © 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen

Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
 

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Are Winter Squash Leaves Edible?

I enjoyed the Seattle sun last Wednesday at the Columbia City Farmers Market along with the delicious food from the stalls. I purchased a few fresh vegetables from various farmers and, like always, a bunch of winter squash leaves from a Hmong farmer’s stall. This time the squash leaves prompted me to cook and share with you a recipe from my Thai kitchen: how to cook winter squash leaves –Yod Namtao – ยอดน้ำเต้า.

Winter squash leaves are edible. In fact, all parts of squash family plants are edible, from leaves to stems, flowers, fruit, skin and seeds. The young leaves and stems are shown in the photos above and below. These edible greens become available when a farmer cuts back the leaves on a plant in order to encourage it to produce fewer but larger fruits. Winter squash leaves are popular in rustic-style cooking in Southeast Asia and they are great sources of fiber and other nutritional benefits.

Winter Squash Leaves and Blossoms - my visit to Hoi An Market 2009

Though they may feel a little rough to the touch, the young leaves from winter squash have amazing flavors when cooked. They have a  spinach-like texture, but are richer and denser with a bite to it in flavor. Like any leafy green vegetable, you can stir-fry, steam or stew them. In my kitchen, I either blanch them in salted coconut milk or saute them with butter, then add water and chicken stock and cook them down until the leaves are softened but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Last year I made a winter melon leaves stew with dried fish and shallots using a Hmong farmer’s verbal recipe. It was similar to my Watermelon Rind Soup and made a delicious vegetable stew.           

Winter squash leaves are only available in the summer and only at the Hmong farmers’ stalls. Because of this limitation, I never fail to purchase a bunch of winter squash leaves each visit to the market. Supporting the Hmong farmers also helps me to ensure that there will be a continuing supply due to the demand. When you get a chance, please pick up some winter squash leaves at a Seattle Farmer Markets near you and give them a try.

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Winter Squash Leaves Boiled in Salted Coconut Milk

Yod Namtao Luak Kati

ยอดน้ำเต้าลวกกะทิ

Winter Squash Leaves in Salted Coconut Milk

One bunch of winter squash leaves weighs about a pound. After removing all of the twine holding them together and the hard stems, the soft edible part weighs about six ounces; the rest goes into a compost. If I have time, I use a peeler to remove the rough skin on the stems then cook the stems down until they are soft, about 8 minutes.

There are many ways to prepare winter squash leaves, but blanching or boiling them in salted coconut milk produces my favorite quick and easy side dish. This same method can also be used with many other leafy green vegetables, which can then be served with Thai Chili Dip. You will be surprised how the flavor of winter squash leaves and leafy green vegetables are complimented by just a little coconut milk and salt.

 
Serves: 4
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
 
6 ounces winter squash leaves (see preparation above)
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt

Bring coconut milk, water and salt to a boil on medium-high heat. Then add the squash leaves, using tongs to turn them around to make sure they are all cooked in the liquid—like blanching the leaves in a coconut broth. Cook from 3 to 5 minutes until the greens reach your desired degree of tenderness. Serve with the broth as a side dish, or with warm jasmine rice as a main dish.

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen  
I Love Thai cooking 
 Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com . 

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Drink Me

It has been exactly a week since I returned from Thailand and I am still trying to catch up with our Seattle summer. My friends have all assured me that I didn’t miss much during the past month as we are still having the same cold weather we had in June. This July, Seattle hit the record lowest temperature for summer, so all I really need to catch up on is eating the plentiful seasonal fruits and vegetables from the local farmers markets and nearby towns.  

Hami Melon

During my first grocery shopping back here in Seattle, my cart was full with all sorts of berries. And then my eye caught on a good-looking melon that I haven’t tried: Hami melon. It is grown in California and available from mid-May to July and from September to December. I let it ripen at home for a few days and its sweet aroma was inviting me to taste it. The sweet scent reminds me of the Thai long muskmelon that I used to grow a long time ago in my organic garden in Phuket—it grew abundantly despite my lack of knowledge and farming experience.

Hami Melon

Hami melon is a type of muskmelon, a Chinese melon variety. A good one can taste sweeter and have a higher sugar content than most other varieties of melon. I decided to make a smoothie with coconut milk to duplicate Taeng Thai Kati, a famous Thai muskmelon dessert made with coconut milk, but we will drink ours instead of eating it. I kept the flavor profile and the amounts of ingredients the same as in Taeng Thai Kati, but added a generous amount of crushed ice and simple syrup to turn it into a nice cold smoothie. I used only one-third cup coconut milk in my recipe, a perfect amount to make a smoothie, a healthy summer drink. But if you are looking for a nice milkshake-like drink and dessert combo, add a scoop or two of coconut ice cream; it would taste heavenly. When a sweet flavor is needed, honey or palm sugar simple syrup are good choices to add a dimension of sweetness and aroma.

Coconut Melon Smoothie

Stock up on a few cans of coconut milk, then anytime the sweet floral scents of melon invite you, all you have to do is prepare this recipe. Hami melon is hard to resist, especially when it is combined with alluring fresh coconut milk. Drink me.

Coconut Melon Smoothie

Nam Kati Taeng Thai Smoothie

น้ำกะทิแตงไทยสมูทตี้

Serves: 2 to 4

Yield: 3 cups

16 ounces (see note) diced Hami melon, seeded, peeled and diced, or substitute honey-dew melon
⅓ cup coconut milk or coconut ice cream, more as desired
1½ cups crushed ice
2 tablespoons palm sugar simple syrup, optional (see note)
pinch of salt

Place melon, coconut milk, ice, sugar and salt in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and serve right away with a straw.

Pranee’s Note

A 4-pound Hami melon (medium size), seeded, peeled and diced will yield about 2 pounds of diced melon.
 
To make palm sugar simple syrup, place a disc of palm sugar (about 4 tablespoons) and about ¼ cup water in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Cool and chill. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week.   Yield: ¼ cup.
 
© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen  
I Love Thai cooking 
 Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .

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