Fresh, light and delicious, Vietnamese summer rolls are a great appetizer or light meal any time of the year. Crisp vegetables, bright herbs and shrimp are rolled in a rice paper wrapper, with a side of sweet and salty peanut sauce for dipping.
If you’ve ever eaten at a Vietnamese restaurant (or had the pleasure of traveling to the country, you adventurer), you’ve probably had summer rolls. They’re sometimes called “fresh spring rolls” or “salad rolls”, but not to be confused with traditional spring rolls, which are often smaller, fried, and filled with cooked vegetables and pork. These are the epitome of fresh and light, filled with finely shredded raw vegetables (we used purple cabbage, carrots, cucumber & scallions, as well as butter lettuce), lots of bright herbs like mint, cilantro and basil, rice vermicelli noodles and poached shrimp, all wrapped up like a translucent burrito in a rice paper wrapper.
We love the flavors of Vietnamese cooking (as you can tell by some of our previous recipes: Vietnamese-style baked chicken and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops (Thit Heo Nuong Xa). I first made Vietnamese Summer Rolls over a decade ago and I’ve been wanting to make them again ever since. When we found out we were going to have a weekend houseguest, our 12-year-old niece Charlotte, who is an adventurous eater and a great cook in her own right, we thought these would be a fun dish to make together.
Tender chicken, caramelized onions and Swiss chard in a creamy garlic sauce, topped with a blanket of buttery, flaky, ultra-crisp phyllo dough. This is comfort food pretty enough for the fanciest dinner party, but tasty enough for a relaxed family meal.
I think it was probably about 12 years ago that my mom bought us our first piece of really good cookware, a 5-quart Le Creuset dutch oven. At that point, we were still using a cheap, thin-gauge pan set I had bought in college, which burned pretty much anything that got near it, even if the oven wasn’t on. Being the weirdo that I am, I even remember the first thing I made in it, Duck Leg Ragu. I remember it, not because it was particularly amazing, but because while I was cooking it, something miraculous happened … The bottom of the pan didn’t scorch before the duck had browned. There wasn’t a blackened ring of sauce in the exact same shape as the burner. It was a red-sauce miracle!
That’s when I realized that investing in a few items of really special, well-made cookware was much better than having a crappy set of pans in every size. Since then, our special collection has slowly grown, and I love each piece. We cook a lot (I know you’re shocked) and I use these skillets, fry pans, and grill pans almost daily. The great thing is, well-made cookware lasts for generations so if you have kids, tell them whoever helps in the kitchen inherits the good stuff.
Three layers of delicious: these ultra-decadent peanut butter bars are a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The base is a crunchy, buttery graham cracker cookie, the middle is a generous layer of creamy whipped peanut butter and the top is silky chocolate ganache sprinkled with chopped roasted peanuts. Get ready to perform some crowd control.
A couple of weeks ago, I was working on a list of ideas for treats Matt and I might make for the fifth annual For Goodness Bake sale (an amazing event, hosted by our lovely friends, Kristen Pratt and Tara Tornello). This thing is a big deal and our fellow Beaconites go all out, making all kinds of delicious cookies, cakes, tarts, cupcakes and savories, all to sell for a good cause. It’s kind of like the Great British Baking Show, but without a tent and with a lot more cursing (we are Americans, remember).
So I’m reading the list to Matt who, to be fair, has spent a long day fixing computer whatsits and thingamajigs (technical terms), so he’s on the Playstation, drinking a can of beer, and barely paying attention to what I’m saying. “Brown Butter Hazelnut Blondies” get a shrug. “Lemon and Rosemary Tarlets” get a pout and narrowed eyes. “Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars”: a huff and a raised eyebrow.
“Whipped Peanut Butter Bars with Chocolate–”
“That one,” he interrupts, throwing the game controller aside, suddenly as focused as a lion in Sainsbury’s that just spotted a shepherd’s pie in the sale bin. I described my idea, a buttery cookie crust studded with crunchy peanuts. Whipped, almost airy peanut butter buttercream. Chocolate ganache topped with chopped roasted salted peanuts. Yeah, now he’s paying attention.
This vegetarian side dish or main course features roasted cauliflower in a fragrant, creamy sauce, spiced with ginger, cinnamon, anise, and more, and studded with plump raisins and slivers of crisp almonds.
When your childhood introduction to most vegetables is through their boiled varieties, you might be forgiven for seeking any alternative – anything at all! – to another plate of pallid, soggy specimens. I’m not saying rural England in the 1970s was unimaginative when it came to mealtimes, but … well, yes, that is actually what I’m saying. I am saying exactly that. Nothing was immune to the standard preparation (boiled beyond all recognition). I couldn’t again face parsnips or rutabaga (what we called “swede” and which was generally served up in tiny cubes from a can) until well into my 30s. And then, of course, there was the poor old cauliflower. It’s such a healthy food – packed with nutrients and vitamins, but if you’re just going to boil it to death, what’s the point?
This article is part of our collaboration with Serious Eats.
Fish pie might seem like an essentially British recipe, but there’s no reason why it can’t be made in America. By finding your best local options for fresh fish (or a fantastic on-line resource like Sizzle Fish) and using your grill or smoker to enrich salmon, you’ll end up with a great catch!
It’s a funny thing, food writing. Cooking has so much potential to bring people together, but recipes can also create rifts of disagreement that can simmer for years (OK, rifts don’t simmer, but, you know what we mean). As a case in point, a while back we posted a basic recipe for pasta, minced beef and tomato sauce that in Emily’s family had gone by the name of “gamush” since time immemorial. We hadn’t exactly imagined it would lead to a kum-ba-yah reunion, but we got two swift pieces of feedback from opposite ends of the family, both claiming that they had invented it, and both mentioning that we had gotten the recipe quite wrong (but in different ways). Posting a variation on a favorite recipe can be like tackling a religion – you’re going to get diehard believers who have A Correct Way to make something and no deviation will be tolerated; and there are more casual members of the church who don’t really mind what you do with the recipe so long as you don’t put raisins in it.