Happy Year of the Rooster, Friends and Neighbors!
I must admit, I’ve been a little down this year after this cluster…jam of an election, but with the arrival of Chinese New Year, I am going to try to keep my chin up. At least a bit more than I’ve been doing, which should be dead easy, since my chin’s been so low that it’s practically buried underground like an ostrich. I’m not proud of it, but hey, I’m human.
I’m hoping that this year will get rosier, and since I,
kitchywitchy kitchybitchy, was born in the Year of the Rooster, maybe it’s gonna be an okay year for me. For us. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Another optimistic sign is that this year, I wasn’t sick on Chinese New Year. I feel like the last five years (at least) I’ve been hacking up a lung or stuck with some nasty affliction that dampened my enthusiasm for the holiday. This year, I could throw a feast!
Oh, wait. Scratch that. My husband was stuck working wonky hours this past weekend, so I spent the Lunar New Year solo. Well, the girls were around and the dog was underfoot constantly, but you get what I mean. Husband was working the 2pm-11pm shift for several days running, so a big old spread with dumplings and spring rolls and steamed fish and noodles was out. This could have put me in a funk but I decided to be chipper about it because a) my husband working strange hours means he still has a job, which is pretty good news and b) the weather wasn’t cold and shitty and c) I wasn’t sick.
My solution was to make my husband and I a nice, Asian-style weekend lunch. I didn’t go with traditional Chinese dishes, mainly because I am selfish and I prefer Vietnamese food. Vietnamese food is my favorite kind of food on the planet. Also, Vietnamese food is on the lighter side, and my husband needed to be alert for a long swing shift. I didn’t want him nodding off in front of his computer screen, so I went with a beef and noodle salad–heavy on the beef and the salad, light on the noodles.
I couldn’t bear to cut out the noodles altogether because I love noodles. Life without noodles makes me sad, and I’d already been sad earlier in the week when I attempted to make the horrendous buzzkill that is cauliflower rice.
Why did I think I could believe Katie Lee, that scrawny little mood-killer, when she told me that I could make fried rice using little nubs of cauliflower instead of leftover jasmine rice? “You’ll never even miss the rice,” she said. “It tastes exactly like the real thing,” she said.
Liar! You’re a liar, Katie Lee, and I know better than to trust you because you also advocate strongly for green juice and quinoa! I should know better!
Anyways, after that disappointment, I wasn’t going to eliminate my beloved rice noodles from my Vietnamese salad. I was just going to use a leetle lighter touch with them than usual. It was okay, though, because it wasn’t snowing outside (snow sends me running frantically for the noodles and the buttered rice and the bowl of mashed potatoes). Plus, it meant I could be a little more generous with the steak, and I’d picked up a lovely, well-marbled piece of protein for the occasion. We deserved some modicum of pampering.
I whipped up a zingy marinade for the beef and let it hang out for a couple of hours in the refrigerator. I did a quick pickling of some vegetables and tossed together some fresh herbs (God, I love living in this modern world where you don’t have to wait until summer to get your mitts on fresh basil and mint!) and set some water on to boil for my noodles.
A quick kiss of that beef on the grill (I used an indoor grill pan because it’s not that balmy in January) and we were ready to roll. It wasn’t the Rooster Feast of My Dreams, but I must say, it was a mighty fine lunch.
And now…drumroll please…here’s my extra bit of good news!
After months and months of futzing and cursing and flailing and failing on my part, the comments section of the blog is finally fixed! I am beyond excited about this, because I’d been getting lots of frustrated messages from readers who took the time and care to comment and then couldn’t see them after they’d hit submit. And I had to keep saying, “I know! But I’m really stupid and I can’t fix it and I don’t know what went wrong!” Argh! It suckity-sucked and I could not, for the life of me, get it ironed out.
So many thanks to the lovely Sarah Fite (who also designed this blog for me–she’s an amazing web designer) for digging me out of my technical misery!! I lovelovelove you and am so grateful.
Those of you who haven’t given up on me and are still reading, you can comment now, if so inclined. This makes me very happy.
Maybe the Year of the Rooster is going to turn out, after all.
Vietnamese Beef, Noodle and Herb Salad
serves 4 (or 2 in the dead of winter when you think you’ve picked up a tapeworm)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (I use the bottled kind; if you use fresh, peel it and cut into a few chunks)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (3/4 to 1 lb) NY strip steak, trimmed of fat
1/3 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 jalapeno, thai or serrano chile, sliced
3 ounces rice noodles (you can find these in the ethnic section of almost any supermarket)
2 cups lettuce, torn
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup basil, torn
1/3 cup fresh mint, torn
1 cup hothouse cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
Extra sliced chiles, if desired
Combine first 6 ingredients in a mini food processor or blender; whirr until combined. Put the mixture into a zip-top plastic bag, add steak and refrigerate 1-2 hours, turning occasionally.
In a medium bowl, combine carrot, sugar, lime juice vinegar, fish sauce, garlic and chile. Stir until sugar dissolves and let sit about 10 minutes.
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
Preheat grill to high heat. Remove steak from marinade and grill, with the lid closed as much as possible, until cooked to desired doneness; about 7-8 minutes total for medium rare, turning once.
Remove steak from grill; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
While steak is resting, combine the lettuce, herbs, cucumber bean sprouts and chile, if using. Add carrot mixture. Toss gently. Add rice noodles; toss.
Slice steak thinly. Place on top of salad and sprinkle chopped peanuts over.