Friday, April 2, 2010

Perfect Spring Dinner - Pad Thai

Last night I made a delicious dinner - Pad Thai accompanied by a Cucumber Pineapple Salad - it was light and flavorful - perfect for a warm weather evening.

The recipe for the pad Thai came from the back of the pad Thai noodle bag, it's a classic preparation, Americanized - pad Thai noodles are sometimes called rice stick noodles. You can find them in the Asia food section of most groceries. This recipe is Americanized as it calls for regular shrimp, readily available - authentic Thai recipes will call for dried shrimp - not as readily available.

The recipe calls for two ingredients you may not be familiar with - Asian Fish Sauce and Tamarind Paste - these are the flavors that make Pad Thai, Pad Thai - without them there is no flavor profile.
1. Asian fish sauce is a fermented fish sauce - and despite it's smell which is strong and slightly offensive, used in the proper quantity, it is the backbone of the flavor of Pad Thai.

2.Tamarind Paste is made from the pod of a tamarind tree, grown in Africa. It is very tart, and in this recipe is balanced with brown sugar. It can add a lovely dimension to many dishes.

Pad Thai
7 oz. Pad Thai noodles (soaked in cold water for 30 minutes, drained)
1 Tbsp. tamarind paste
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup shrimp (I used more, about 1/2 pound)
3 scallions, chopped
4 oz. firm tofu, drained, rinsed, cubed
2 eggs, beaten lightly
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 c. bean sprouts, rinsed
1 tsp. crushed chili pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped peanuts
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges

In a small bowl mix the tamarind paste with 1/4 cup hot water, press through a strainer, add the brown sugar to the strained liquid, discard the solids.

In a large skillet heat 2 Tbsp. oil, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, add the shrimp, onions and tofu and cook for about 3 minutes until shrimp are opaque.

Add eggs and cook about 30 seconds. Add noodles, tamarind mixture, 2 Tbsp. oil and fish sauce. Cook about 5 minutes, add bean sprouts and chili flakes, toss to combine.

Place noodles on a serving dish and top with peanuts and cilantro - garnish with lime wedges.

As a side dish I made a refreshing salad - Asian Inspired Cucumber and Pineapple Salad - this is so easy. I purchased a whole pineapple - so much more cost effective than purchasing the pre-cut pineapple. How can you tell if a pineapple is ripe - best way - smell it, specifically the base of it - it should smell sweet and feel heavy for it's size. A ripe pineapple will have a yellowing base.

Cutting up a pineapple is easy - no special equipment required other than a sharp knife. First remove the greenery by simply twisting it off.

Slice off the top and bottom so you have a flat surface to work with - don't want to cut yourself with an unruly pineapple.

Now remove the outside of the pineapple - using a sharp knife, peel about a quarter inch off as shown below, working your way around the pineapple. You want to be certain you have removed the pineapple's eyes - they have sharp thingies that you definitely don't want in your dish.

Now divide the pineapple into quarters and remove the center fibrous core from pineapple quarters.

Slice the pineapple as desired.

One whole pineapple cost $1.97 and yielded 2 quarts of fruit; one pre-cut quart of pineapple at my grocery cost over $4 - you do the math.
Here's a finished photo of the refreshing salad - yum! Perfect accompaniment to the pad Thai. Enjoy!

Photo Finish - I snapped this shot yesterday. It looks like a giant bird's nest that has fallen out of the tree. Whoever is creating this is on a mission - it's been growing for years. I assume that every twig that has ever fallen in his yard has been stacked around the base of this tree. Ahhhh, the year of the bird!

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