Fried Green Tomatoes

I mentioned yesterday that Nick and I bought green tomatoes on Monday so I decided to tackle making fried green tomatoes for the first time ever! I did some research (as always) before choosing a simple recipe from a blog called “Pretty Tasty Things.” I pretty much left this recipe alone other than adding in a little cayenne to the flour for some extra heat.

Whenever I batter and fry anything (which isn’t all that often), I look for a batter that uses flour and buttermilk as part of the dredging process. The flour is a perfect first step because it helps coat whatever you are frying so you get a true batter around everything. The buttermilk helps create the next step of the barrier and gives the outside layer some moisture to adhere to. The cornmeal and bread crumb outer layer creates a crunchy bite. So when I saw these in this recipe, I had to try it!

This recipe is relatively easy but the dredging can be a little tricky. I found using a fork to flip, cover and move the tomato slices from bowl to bowl was the easiest way. You can use your fingers but be careful to use one hand for the dry ingredients and one hand for the wet ingredients so you don’t end up with a gloppy mess!

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Ingredients

3 green tomatoes

1 cup of flour

1 cup of plain bread crumbs

1 cup of yellow cornmeal

1 cup of buttermilk

salt and pepper

cayenne

vegetable oil

Directions

Rinse and pat dry the green tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch thickness. Season both sides with salt.

(pictured above)

In three separate bowls, add flour to the first one with some salt and pepper, buttermilk to the second, and combine the breadcrumbs and cornmeal in the third.

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Taking a slice of tomato, lightly coat it in the flour, coat both sides with the buttermilk and then dredge into the breadcrumb/cornmeal mixture. Repeat process for all the slices.

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Heat a large skillet on medium heat with vegetable oil about 1/4-inch high. Once the oil is hot, gently place 5-6 slices into the pan. Let one side turn golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side, before turning it over.

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Remove and place on a baking rake to drip the excess oil. I kept mine in the oven until all the slices were fried (at 170 degrees).

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WW Points: 5 points for 2 slices

Don’t forget to try them with the buttermilk ranch dressing from yesterday’s post!

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Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers- The Recipe

Lauren hosted a Cinco de Mayo party yesterday and I was in charge of bringing an appetizer. I wanted something delicious and different than guacamole, salsa or 7-layer dip. I also wanted to keep the cost down as much as possible because I just paid rent! When I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew I had to try it. The thing that caught my eye immediately was there are only 3 ingredients! I only changed a few things so here’s how I did it:

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

10 medium fresh jalapeno peppers

4 ounces light cream cheese, softened (original recipe calls for full-fat cream cheese)

10 bacon strips, halved

Directions

Cut peppers in half lengthwise

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Remove seeds, stems and center membrane

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Stuff each half with about 2 teaspoons of cream cheese

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Wrap with bacon and secure with toothpick

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Place on a broiler rack that has been coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until bacon is crisp (I put them under the broiler for an additional 2 minutes to get the bacon extra crispy). Remove toothpicks. Serve immediately. 

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Yields 20 appetizers

WW Points: 1 point per popper (whole recipe is 22 points)

Goi Cuon- Vietnamese Shrimp and Pork Summer Rolls

I mentioned last week that I ventured down to Chinatown to get some groceries to make Vietnamese food. Well here is the post (finally!). I apologize for not getting it up sooner- I need a little break from the computer but I have lots of fun stuff to post this week from my culinary adventures this weekend.

Lauren and Colleen are my two closest girlfriends in New York. I see Lauren regularly (it’s not unusual to see her more than I see my boyfriend in a week) but it had been a while since the three of us had had a girls night together. I invited them over to teach them how to make an easy Vietnamese appetizer and to enjoy some wine and dragon fruit. All I did was prep everything before they got there and had it all set up on the table for whenever they wanted to sit down and eat.

I made Goi Cuon from this cookbook once in college and it can be kind of labor intensive because you have to be patient with each and every roll. Honestly, after that first time I felt kind of defeated until I tasted them. The work is worth it! I also noticed what a difference the proper ingredients make. I know it can be hard to find garlic chives (very different flavor than a regular chive), Asian mint (it’s a lot spicier than regular mint) and perilla (also called shiso). You will definitely need to find an Asian market for the vermicelli and rice paper (unless your grocery store has an extensive international foods section) but the herbs can still be hard to find. If you are in a bind, just grab regular chives and mint and skip the shiso (I didn’t add any in when I made them). The flavors will be a little different but still delicious!

I’m happy I thought of having Lauren and Colleen make their own rolls for a few reasons:

1. I didn’t have to stress out about making 12 of these ahead of time

2. It was kind of like a cooking class and they both learned how to assemble them on their own

3. They both agreed that it was pretty easy and I think they enjoyed them a little more because they appreciated the work that goes into making them

I hope you will try to make these at home. They are beautiful to set out for a dinner party and will be sure to impress everyone! And, I promise, once you’ve made them twice, you will have the process memorized and it will feel like a breeze every time after that!

Secrets of the Red Lantern; stories and Vietnamese recipes from the heart

Pauline Nguyen with recipes by Mark Jensen and Luke Nguyen

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Goi Cuon– Vietnamese Summer Rols

2 3/4 ounces dried vermicelli

18 sheets of 8 1/2 inch rice paper

18 cooked small shrimp, peeled and sliced in half

4 1/4 ounces cooked pork neck, finely sliced*

1 cup firmly packed shredded iceberg lettuce

1 bunch perilla (shiso)

1 bunch mint

1 bunch garlic chives

Hoisin dipping sauce (recipe below)

Add noodles to boiling water and bring back to a boil. Cooke for 5 minutes. Turn off the hear and allow the noodles to stand in the water for an additional 5 minutes. Strain and rinse under cold water, then leave to dry. For this recipe, it is best to have cooked and strained the vermicelli at least 30 minutes prior to rolling. This allows the noodles to dry off a little and stick together.

To assemble the rolls, cut six sheets of rice paper in half. Fill a large bowl with warm water and dip one whole sheet of rice paper in the water until it softens, then lay it flat on a plate. Dip a half sheet of rice paper in the water and lay it vertically in the middle of the round sheet. This will help strengthen the roll and keep the filling from breaking through. In the middle of the rice paper, place three pieces of shrimp in a horizontal line approximately 1 1/2 inches from the top.

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Below the shrimp, add some pork, lettuce, perilla, mint, and vermicelli.

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To form the goi cuon, first fold the sides into the center over the filling, then the bottom of the paper up and over. Roll from bottom to top to form a tight roll, and just before you complete the roll add two pieces of garlic chive so that they stick out at one end.

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The final product

WW Points: 3 points per roll (no pork)

*I do not use the pork neck. I find that they are just as delicious (just not as authentic) without it and it saves some points!

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Hoisin Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup of hoisin sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon roasted peanuts

1 red bird eye chili

In a saucepan, combine the hoisin sauce and the rice vinegar, place over medium heat and stir in the milk. Continue to stir until just before boiling point is reached, then allow to cool. To serve, chop the roasted peanuts and finely slice the chili to garnish the sauce.

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The dipping sauce will last up to one week stored in the refridgator.

WW Points: 2 points/serving (makes 6 servings and this is using fat free milk)

Total WW Points for suggested serving: 11 points (3 rolls and one serving of dipping sauce)

And here are pictures of the dragon fruit stand in Chinatown and it all cut up for dessert. I ate dragon fruit almost every day for breakfast when we lived in Vietnam. Think kiwi meets pear meets watermelon. It’s mild, not too sweet and very hydrating and refreshing! The biggest difference between dragon fruit in NYC and Vietnam? Price. I got one fruit for $6 in Chinatown whereas the same fruit would have cost about 45 cents on the streets in Saigon!

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Recipe: Watermelon Gazpacho

I posted this picture yesterday and promised a recipe. This is more of a recommendation that you should take with a grain of salt. Feel free to experiment with the flavors and make it your own! My mom and I had this at Europa in Richmond, Virginia a few years ago when she was visiting me at college. This great tapas spot became a favorite of mine of the years and this gazpacho was a highlight. My mom asked the chef for the recipe. He said he didn’t have a recipe, per se, because he kind of winged it but he was able to give us a list of ingredients. From their, my mom has tweeked it as needed and here’s what she has come up with! I might try roasting the poblanos down the road but there is something to be said about the fresh, raw flavors these ingredients add the dish.

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Watermelon Gazpacho

1 Sugar Baby Watermelon

1/2 English Cucumber

1/2  Poblano Pepper

1/2 cup of Cilantro

1 lime (about 2 tbsp)

Salt to taste (about 1/2 tbsp)

Instructions

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Cut the watermelon in half and scoop the watermelon “meat” from one half and put it in your food processor. Pulse until you have a smooth puree/juice. Put aside in a bowl or pitcher.

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Cut up the rest of the watermelon and put it in the food processor. Add cilantro (no need to chop).

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Peel cucumber and cut lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scrap the seeds out of the center of the cucumber. Chop roughly and add to the food processor. Cut the top off of the poblano, scrap out the seeds and remove the membrane (this helps remove some heat). Chop the poblano roughly and add to the food processor.

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Add fresh lime juice and pulse until it looks like the picture above.

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In a large bowl, combine the reserved watermelon puree/juice and the mixture of watermelon, cilantro, cucumber, poblano pepper and lime juice. Season with salt to taste. Start with a small amount and taste of each addition of salt until you are happy with the flavor.

The gazpacho should be served chilled. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. Leaving it over night is best- it will be thoroughly chilled and it will give the flavors a chance to meld together. Serve as an appetizer or entree by adding some croutons!

WW Points: 0 points

Weight Watchers Asian-Inspired Vegetable Soup

Anyone who has done WW has probably tried their 1 point vegetable soup. I remember my mom making it when we decided to do WW together when I was in the 8th grade. It was the perfect afternoon snack to get me through until dinner- chalk full of veggies (fiber) and it didn’t break the (WW point) bank. That was about 12 years ago and WW has changed. The program is no longer using calories as part of the point calculation (anyone else remember those point sliders where you had to match the calories with the fiber and fat?) and now almost all fruits and veggies are ZERO POINTS!

Since joining WW in July, I have seen a lot of changes on their website including some revamping of old WW favorites. I stumbled upon this Asian-inspired veggie soup and knew I had to try it. I lived in Southeast Asia for 5 months in college and I fell in love with the way the Vietnamese used veggies for extra texture and flavor so I knew this soup would be delicious! I was hesitant to make it at first because some of the vegetables in the recipe can be hard to find and I didn’t want to travel all over NYC or all the way down to Chinatown to find everything. Also, the whole “fresh herbs” debacle- is it really worth buying the fresh herbs when you only use 1/2 cup?

So I used my Fresh Direct account and everything was delivered the next day. Using this method might not have been the cheapest way to find everything but it was so convenient that I didn’t care that I spent about $35 on everything. For a $6 delivery, it was SO worth it. The soup is not labor intensive and it cooks up so quickly so, once it was finished, I simply put two cup portions of the finished soup into tupperware and threw it all in the freezer. It has been feeding me since mid-February! The only change I made to the recipe was adding in about 2 extra cups of Napa cabbage (Fresh Direct sent me a 4-lb cabbage…) and 1-2 tbsp of Sriracha for some extra heat! This recipe is so worth it! It has saved me on those days where I know it will be hard to stay on track. I just grab a tupperware from the freezer, throw it in my bag and have it for lunch while I’m babysitting or at the restaurant before family meal (helps fill me up so I eat less of the food made by the kitchen at work- I swear they add at least a cup of butter to anything they make!!)

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Asian-Inspired Vegetable Soup

2 cup(s) uncooked bok choy, chopped

2 cup(s) uncooked Chinese cabbage, chopped

3 clove(s) (medium) garlic clove(s), minced

1/4 cup(s) ginger root, thinly sliced and julienned

4 small uncooked oyster mushroom(s), chopped

2 cup(s) uncooked scallion(s), chopped

1 cup(s) canned water chestnut(s), sliced (8 oz can)

1/2 cup(s) sweet red pepper(s), thinly sliced

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

6 cup(s) vegetable broth

2 cup(s) snow peas, stringed

2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup(s) cilantro, finely chopped

Instructions

Put bok choy, Chinese cabbage, garlic, ginger root, mushrooms, scallions, water chestnuts, red pepper, red pepper flakes and broth into a large soup pot; stir to combine. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, for about 10 minutes. Toss in snow peas during the last 3 to 4 minutes of simmering.

Stir in soy sauce and cilantro (and Sriracha, if you’re using it). Yields about 1 cup per serving.

WW Points: 1 point per cup