Thai pork salad (larb)

In Thailand, larb is part of a meal that includes roast chicken, sticky rice, and papaya salad (somtam). Aroy maak! This is America’s Test Kitchen’s version of that delicious Thai salad. Traditionally, it is served warm or at room temperature. This dish comes from the northeastern region of Thailand called Isaan. ATK’s version is missing two key ingredients: chopped cooked chicken innards and chopped fresh chilies. As I’m not a fan of these parts of the chicken, I don’t miss them, but chopped fresh chilies, not just dried chilies, I do. Adding chopped chilies could increase the heat of this dish to inedible for some, and unless your palate is trained for this, I wouldn’t advise it!  As it is, this version isn’t bad. It’s missing something though; I think it’s not sour enough. Larb is, typically, salty, sour, sweet, and spicy. Anyway, as in all cooking, it’s a matter of adjusting the dish to suit your taste.

INGREDIENTS
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), trimmed of silver skin and fat, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon white rice (see note)
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium shallots , peeled and sliced into thin rings (about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons juice from 2 limes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (add more, to taste)
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves head
1 head Boston lettuce, washed and dried, leaves separated and left whole

 INSTRUCTIONS
1. Place pork chunks on large plate in single layer. Freeze meat until firm and starting to harden around edges but still pliable, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your freezer. The Teeny Tiny Kitchen freezer took 40 minutes! Sigh.

2. Meanwhile, heat rice in small skillet over medium-high heat; cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool 5 minutes. Grind rice with spice grinder, mini food processor, or mortar and pestle until it resembles fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds (you should have about 1 tablespoon rice powder). It’s not necessary to wash out the food processor for the next step.

Cook’s Note: My food processor wasn’t able to grind the rice into a fine powder. I definitely need a spice grinder for this.

3. Place half of meat in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, 5 to six 1-second pulses. Transfer ground meat to medium bowl and repeat with remaining chunks. Stir 1 tablespoon fish sauce into ground meat and marinate, refrigerated, 15 minutes.

4. Bring broth to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook, stirring frequently, until about half of pork is no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon rice powder over pork; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until remaining pork is no longer pink, 1 to 11⁄2 minutes longer. Transfer pork to large bowl; let cool 10 minutes.

5. Add remaining 11⁄2 tablespoons fish sauce, remaining 2 teaspoons rice powder, shallots, lime juice, sugar, red pepper flakes, mint, and cilantro to pork; toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature with lettuce leaves.

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low salt vietnamese rice noodle soup with meat

Vietnamese rice noodle soup or pho is a light soup. And most people would agree that it’s “light”  because it doesn’t have cream in it. It has low-sodium chicken broth from a can in it.  It’s true that canned low-sodium chicken broth is more convenient, but let’s talk about how much salt is good for you. According to the Mayo Clinic we should consume 2300mg salt per day or 1500mg if you are over 51. If you use canned low-sodium broth and use the fish sauce (1/4 cup), salt (to taste), and soy sauce (2 tablespoons low sodium)  in the amounts given in the original recipe, then you will consume between 1440-1450mg sodium per serving. So I made many changes to this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Light and Healthy cookbook.  I made the soup using home-made broth as its base. I have also cut down the fish sauce as well as  eliminated the soy sauce and the sugar–you don’t need it if the salt is reduced. And, I suggest tasting the soup before adding any more salt or seasoning sauce.

Broth (home-made)
2 onions, minced, about 2 cups
1 tablespoon fish sauce
4-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemongrass stalk, bottom 5 inches only, trimmed and sliced thin (See note)

Note: Cut off and discard all but the bottom 5 inches. Trim the stem end. Peel and discard any discolored sheaths on the stalk. Split the stalk in half lengthwise then mince each half crosswise.

1 teaspoon canola oil
4 chicken wing tips
10 cups water
2-4 star anise pods
2-4 whole cloves
Salt and pepper

Noodles, Meat, Garnish
12 oz (1/4 inch wide) dried flat rice noodles
3 cups bean spouts
1 cup fresh Thai basil (see note)

Note: You can substitute Italian basil. Simply roll a bundle of  leaves into a cigar-shape then slice thinly.

1 cup fresh cilantro, leaves only (see note)

Note: Wash and dry a bunch of cilantro. Holding the stems in one hand and resting the leaves lightly on the cutting board, slice downward with a sharp knife to take off the leaves.

2 scallions, sliced thin on the bias
1 fresh Thai, Serrano, or jalapeño chili, stemmed, seeded if desired, and minced
1 lime, cut into wedges
12 ounces beef or pork tenderloin, sliced 1/4 inch thick medallions. If you wish, you can slice larger medallions in half.

  1. For the broth. I combined the onions, 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass, and oil in a large pot. Two large pots, actually, since the Teeny Tiny Kitchen needs a Dutch oven.  Then I covered the pots and cooked the onion mixture over medium  low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions  softened, 8 to 10 minutes. I turned up the heat to medium and added the chicken wings then sautéed them until they were no longer pink. I reduced the e heat to low and covered the pot(s) again. I simmered the chicken 20 minutes to release their juices. Meanwhile I froze the beef or pork so it will slice easier.
  2. While the chicken was simmering, I boiled the water in a kettle.  To the chicken mixture in the pots, I stirred in the boiling water, star anise, and cloves and simmered again. I covered the pots and reduced the heat to low, cooking until the flavors blended, about 20 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer, I strained the broth, discarding the solids, tasting and adjusting seasonings with fish sauce or salt and pepper. I combined the two pots of  broth into a clean pot.
  3. For the noodles, meat and garnish. I boiled 4 quarts water in a large pot. I removed the pot from the heat, added the noodles, and let them sit, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender but still chewy, about 6-10 minutes. Don’t let the noodles sit too long. By this time, the meat was ready for slicing.
  4. Immediately I drained the noodles, dividing them evenly among individual serving bowls, topping each with 1/2 cup of the bean sprouts, and set them aside. Next I arranged the basil, cilantro, scallions, chili, and lime wedges on a plate and set them aside for garnishes.
  5. To cook the meat, I returned the strained broth to a simmer over medium high heat, then reduced the heat to low. I added the meat to the broth and braised it until it was no longer pink, about 1 minute. Here’s a tip: I dunked the meat in the soup using a Chinese cooking strainer.  Ladle the hot soup over the noodles and serve, passing the garnishes separately. The meat should have that just-tender melt-in-the-mouth feel so don’t overcook it!

Per 1 1/2 cup serving: Cal 360; Fat 5g; Sat fat 1.5g; Chol 40mg; Carb 60g; Protein 18g; Fiber 2g; Sodium 1440mg (these figures will vary if you make your own broth)

Variation

  • Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup with Chicken. Follow the recipe for Low Salt Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup with Meat by substituting 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts with the broth in step 2 and simmering until the chicken registers 160-165˚F on an instant-read thermometer, 10-15 minutes. Remove the breasts from the broth before straining. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite size pieces. Substitute the shredded chicken for the meat in step 5.

Per 1 1/2 cup serving: Cal 340; Fat 2.5g; Sat fat 0g; Chol 35mg; Carb 60g; Protein 18g; Fiber 2g; Sodium 1450mg (These calculations will vary if you make your own broth)

the 500-calorie dinner: hoppin’ john, summer squash soup, and watermelon yogurt ice

Tired of dieting but must eat! These recipes came from Eating Well’s dinner menus which offer a main dish, a side, and a dessert, all for 500 calories. What a bargain! Now I’m starting the sequence with dessert, a cool delicious ice, because dessert takes the longest time to make, in fact! The second recipe is a light soup. The third one is a variation on the southern dish Hoppin’ John, and it is made with lean pork chops rather than with bacon or salt pork.

Watermelon-Yogurt Ice
This is so refreshing! Especially on a warm night in the Teeny Tiny Apartment.

Ingredients
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups diced seedless watermelon, (about 3 pounds with the rind)
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preparation
1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan.Cook,stirring,over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a glass measuring cup and let cool slightly.
2. Puree watermelon in a food processor or blender,in 2 batches,pulsing until smooth.Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the cooled sugar syrup, yogurt and lime juice until combined. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another large bowl, whisking to release all juice. Discard pulp.
3. Pour the extracted juices into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturerʼs directions. As an alternative, pour into a shallow metal pan and freeze until solid, about 6 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer to defrost slightly, 5 minutes. Break into small chunks and process in a food processor, in batches, until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately or transfer to a storage container and freeze for up to 2 hours.

For one 1/2 cup serving: 74 Calories; 1 g Fat; 0 g Sat; 0 g Mono; 2 mg Cholesterol; 16 g Carbohydrates; 2 g Protein; 0 g Fiber; 21 mg Sodium; 155 mg Potassium

Golden Summer Squash and Corn Soup
This soup reminds me of the classic Chinese corn soup. It was rather bland so I suggest adding salt and pepper to taste. And a dash or two of hot sauce like Sriracha! Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 medium summer squash, (about 1 pound), diced
3 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme or oregano, divided
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup fresh corn kernels, (tinned is okay)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash or two of hot chili sauce, optional but recommended
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese

Preparation
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook,stirring,1 minute.Add squash and 1 teaspoon herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash starts to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the squash is soft and mostly translucent, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)If you have an immersion or wand blender, then puree the soup in the pot.
3. Return the soup to the pan and stir in corn. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add hot sauce, if using. Serve garnished with the remaining 2 teaspoons herbs and feta or goat cheese.

For a scant 1 cup serving: 111 Calories; 6 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 6 mg Cholesterol; 13 g Carbohydrates; 5 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 462 mg Sodium; 497 mg Potassium

Blackeyed Peas with Pork and Greens
This one was quite tasty. I added 2 extra cloves of garlic; you can never have too much garlic. Remember not to overcook the pork or it will get tough.

Ingredients
1 pound boneless pork chops, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup instant brown rice
8 cups roughly chopped kale leaves, (about 1 small bunch), tough stems removed
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, preferably hot
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

Preparation
1. Toss pork with salt and pepper.Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.Add the pork and cook, stirring, until just cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
2. Add onion,tomato paste and rice to the pan and cook until the onion softens,about 4 minutes. Add kale and garlic and cook until the kale begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in broth, vinegar, paprika. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until the rice is done, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved pork and black-eyed peas and heat for 1 minute.

For one serving (1 1/3 cups): 281 Calories; 8 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 45 mg Cholesterol; 32 g Carbohydrates; 22 g Protein; 5 g Fiber; 405 mg Sodium; 740 mg Potassium