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|June Food Recap: Grilled Summer Dinners, Fresh Vegetables, Summer Fruit Desserts and Birthdays||Posted by: Chi Anh | June 27, 2012|
June is always my favorite month of the year. It is the middle of Summer, the month of my birthday, and the season of the tastiest fruits and vegetables! I have been so busy everyday working and picking up as much good fresh vegetables and fruits on the way as I can, to bring that Summer home onto the table. Summer in Hanoi is not exactly as comforting as Summer in Europe or anywhere on the other side of the globe, but it is pretty decent if you bathe as often as you can and stay inside airconditioning most of the time. I have yet to explore swimming in Hanoi, but maybe after I regain my bikini body.
Speaking of bikini body, I have officially started my new exercise regime (again), inspired by the one and only Anh Nguyen, who has been following her 12 Week Body Transformation program religiously. For the past week I’ve been waking up early everyday to do 10-minute intensive workout routines before going to work, and I already feel such a great difference both mentally and physically! My mood is much better, I am much more focused and efficient at work, I feel healthier (together with my effort in creating a healthier menu at home with Mom), and my appetite has also increased tremendously. I know you would wonder how a glutton like me could still grow appetite, but having a big appetite for healthy food is a true blessing!
You will see my healthy transformation in daily meals in my recap below (which include dishes I made at home or my test kitchen at Kitchen Art), with basic how-to for each dish that are so simple, you mostly don’t even need the recipe! Now let’s do the recap (all pictures were strictly taken by my trusty iPhone 4 only):
Yesterday the Chinese celebrated Dragon Boat Festival (DuanWu Festival) and we Vietnamese celebrated Tết Đoan Ngọ (basically means “Beginning of noon”, and is celebrated at noon on the 5th day in the 5th month of the Lunar Calendar). While the Chinese celebrate this day to commemorate the poet Qu Yuan, who committed suicide in the river (hence the delicious zongzi rice cakes and dragon boat racing tradition on this day), the ancient Vietnamese farmers also decide it’s the day they want to kill harmful insects in their crops, and usually dine on a lot of sour or acidic fruits and fermented rice to “kill” the “worms” in their tummies. This is probably the cutest (and grossest) custom in Vietnam I can think of. But I always happily “kill worms” in my belly with lots of seasonal lychee, longan, peaches, plums, and of course, the one and only Rượu Nếp (Sticky Rice Wine).
This dish is made by fermenting whole grain glutinous rice with yeast to produce a sweet, slightly alcoholic “rice wine” or “rice pudding”. It’s sweet, tangy, boozy taste and the chewy rice grains make this treat a great accompaniment with yogurt. It either comes in white or purple, depending on the variety of rice used. I prefer the white ones for its lighter taste, but I’m sure the purple ones are healthier as color always means more vitamins!
This month, I made it a point to eat healthier and we decided to have a vegetarian meal at least once a week. I’ve been exploring the vegetable shops near my Kitchen Art store more and realized they have quite a nice array of fresh western vegetables and herbs! It’s the expat district so it does make things easier for me to buy western produce. Mom can now relax a bit more on grocering at the local wet market, as I bring home more vegetables and fresh meats from the butcher near my shop every week. Some of you might wonder why I need to buy western produce when Vietnam is the land of greens. Reason being, the local greens are good and rich in fibre, but it’s always better to eat more variety of vegetables that are different in colors and textures to get the most nutrition! Plus, there are more exciting vegetarian meals to be made with western vegetables like Pasta Salad or Ratatouille (I’m sure nobody wants to eat Vietnamese Morning Glory and Tofu all the time, not even my parents). So while we eat healthier, it’s also important to keep exploring different ingredients for more flavors and excitement. You will know what I mean with “excitement” when you see this:
Pasta salad with Tuna, Zucchini, Snap peas and Cherry Tomatoes: simply toss everything with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and an extra kick from Balsamic vinegar, then season to your taste.
Stir fried Vegetable madness: Celeries, Red Peppers and Mushrooms, following the same stir fry methods on all my other stir fry dishes on this blog.
Or even this:
Fettucine with Baby Spinach, Grilled Eggplants and Ricotta cheese, which I made at Kitchen Art Studio. Find the recipe here.
Before you all get sick of my vegetarian meals, here is some treat for you carnivores (which seem to be most young Vietnamese nowadays, who always frown at the Vegetarian dishes I make, sobs). I’ve been grilling a lot recently (both meat and vegetables) as it’s just really satisfying to have a meal ready to serve within minutes and always tastes super refreshing with my favorite lemon/lime garlic dressing on top. Be it salmon, chicken breasts or tomatoes, zucchini or green beans, everything tastes great grilled! I may sound like I have a grill in my backyard, but I actually only have a grill pan and grill everything on my gas stove in the kitchen while sweating like a pig in the smoke. Yeah, not the best Summer cooking experience, but oh so worth it.
Grilled Chicken Breast with Tomatoes and French beans: marinate all ingredients with salt, pepper, olive oil and then let the magic happen on the grill. See the full recipe here.
Grilled Salmon with Potatoes and Yogurt dressing: marinate Salmon with salt & pepper and lemon/lime juice, grill it 3 min on both sides until opaque. Mix yogurt with garlic, lemon/lime juice, salt & pepper and fresh dill, spoon on top of Salmon and pan-fried potato wedges and you’re good to go!
In case you still find grilling a bit intimidating, here is a video of how I grilled chicken with vegetables on my Kitchen Art Cooking Show on YouTube (btw, subscribe please!!). Warning, the video is in Vietnamese and we haven’t had time to subtitle them. Sorry!
Ok let’s move onto dessert, shall we? I have been exploring with Summer fruits and it can’t get anymore exciting! It’s now lychee and dragon fruit season, so I made a beautiful Fruit Salad with Lychee, Red Dragonfruit (very rich in antioxidants and also shockingly and radiantly purple!), Pears and Banana. Just cut up all the fruits of your choice and toss them with a tablespoon of Honey and a generous squeeze of lemon juice! I added a teaspoon of Brandy for an extra boozy kick too. It would taste even more fresh with sparkling wine or champagne! (See Summer Fruit Salad with Sparkling Wine Syrup)
June is also the month of parties in Kitchen Art thanks to the birthdays (birthday of mine, our web admin/production editor, and our photographer) and farewell of our colleague who has moved to Singapore (sob). So the kitchen studio has been busy whipping up cakes for the parties (we usually don’t buy desserts or drinks from outside when we can make everything ourselves!). Here is what I made for the farewell party:
Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake, find the recipe here.
And what I baked for June & Kien’s birthday parties:
Peach Upside Down Cake, find the recipe here – just replace the fruit topping with any fruit you like!
Now to my favorite part, my birthday cake!!! Baked lovingly by my amazing girls at Kitchen Art. Thank you babes!
4-Tier Victoria Sponge cake with Kiwi, Mango and Cream filling, using the same Victoria Sponge recipe as the Strawberry Sponge above, baked in 4 different pans then piled together!
(Nom nom nom. Birthday cakes never go out of style!)
And finally here is me, the happy birthday girl, with my Kitchen Art darlings, who have been through quite a bit of food & kitchen adventure together with me in the past 4 months. Mwah!
(Picture taken by our dear Photographer, Kiyoshi Jiro Kien)
Whew! What a recap! And that was just was just the highlight. I eat and cook good stuff everyday so it’s kind of hard to share everything without boring you guys, so if you want more, do follow me on @doortomykitchen on Twitter or Instagram for more instant updates and food porn!
Have a great Summer everyone!
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