Friday, September 16, 2016

Vietnamese Pork Salad

A colleague at work asked me on Monday if I was still posting recipes on my blog. I stumbled over my words a bit before I finally blurted out the honest truth:

"Not really."


I had to think about it for awhile to determine the reason behind my lack of food-related posts, my silence on the blog in general, really.

"Well," I started. "I've been writing about other topics lately and it seems I have a greater readership when I'm NOT writing about food. And to be quite honest," I continued, "I haven't really cooked anything good and worthy of sharing all summer."

Yikes. It's true but I didn't really like the sound of it as it rolled off my tongue. What have I been feeling my family? A lot of mediocre, apparently.

In my defense, we traveled a whole heck of a lot over the summer so many of my meals were at the mercy of the camp stove. But as I thought further about my lack of cooking creativity lately, I realized just how claustrophobic I have felt all summer long. When we weren't traveling (or packing for the next trip!), I was either working or clawing desperately for a minute to myself. I felt very much at the mercy of everyone else but me. In case you are in need of a visual, a friend shared a with me a little video clip that very much depicts with striking similarity what my summer hours at home looked like, me and my desperate pursuit for alone time:

Needless to say, it is VERY hard to do anything, creative or not, with littles underfoot. I'm still looking for my groove, searching for how to be a mom of school-aged kids (and maybe more importantly, how to survive the summers when they aren't in school!!!) But now that school is back in session, I'm very hopeful my kitchen will be pumping out delicacies again in the weeks and months to come. Thankfully, my youngest is pretty keen with the whisk so I'm sure he and I will spend a lot of our waking hours cooking while the big girls are in school. Hopefully we will have some successes that we can share in this space!

I did make one hit dish this summer that I'm excited to post. My garden, much like my kitchen, wasn't quite as happy this year as last, but I did manage to have great success in the herb and summer squash department, which is how I landed on this recipe. It is super fresh, herbaceous, and the kids were happy because it featured "pasta" (i.e. rice noodles). My husband took his first couple bites and exclaimed "You should definitely add this one to your rotation!"

Good man.

Nevermind that I made the very same dish the following week and his reaction was "Is this a new recipe?" Some memories, even good ones, can sometimes be short-lived. ;)

I tweaked the original recipe to feature a full pound of meat to make it a bit more filling (and so that you'll use up an entire package of ground pork rather than being left bewildered with a couple ounces in hand). If you are cooking for kiddos, I'd recommend holding the sriracha sauce in the dressing and serving it on the side instead for the spice-lovers. Feel free to play around with your ratios of lettuce and veggies and even get creative and substitute snap peas or blanched green beans when they are in season. Also, get generous with the fresh mint and cilantro and load up on the peanuts too. Serve the salad with a slice of fresh lime for squeezing and juicy watermelon wedges. Of note, the recipe can be gluten-free if prepared with gluten-free fish sauce for those of you who can't have gluten. Happy cooking and eating and I hope to be back with another yummy kitchen success sooner rather than later!

Vietnamese Pork Salad
(adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)

8 ounces uncooked rice vermicelli noodles
1 pound ground pork
12 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
1 tablespoon peanut oil
3 tablespoons chopped unsalted peanuts
3 tablespoons sliced green onions
2 teaspoons Sriracha
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 cup diagonally cut seeded cucumber
1 cup diagonally cut or julienned carrot
1/2 cup diagonally cut yellow squash
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

Cook rice vermicelli according to package directions; drain and rinse with cold water. Drain.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cook 8 minutes, stirring to crumble. Combine 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, and oil in a bowl; add to pan. Cook 1 minute; remove from heat.

Combine remaining 10 tablespoons juice, remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar, remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce, peanuts, green onions, and Sriracha in a bowl. Arrange lettuce, cucumber, carrot, and squash on a large platter. Top with noodles, pork mixture, cilantro, and mint. Drizzle juice mixture over top.

Serves 6

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posted by kelsie