Vietnamese Rice Noodles with Lemongrass Shrimp (or other protein)

FOR THE PICKLED VEGETABLES:
1 cup finely julienned carrot
1 cup finely julienned daikon
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE:
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, like Red Boat
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
1 medium-hot red chile pepper, such as Fresno, finely chopped
1 red or green bird chile pepper, thinly sliced, or substitute half a thinly sliced serrano pepper

FOR THE SHRIMP AND NOODLES:
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, preferably wild, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, pale tender center part only
1 pound rice noodles, preferably rice vermicelli
1 or 2 small lettuce heads, with the leaves separated, rinsed and patted dry
3 cups mixed herb sprigs, such as cilantro, mint, basil, watercress and tender celery leaves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 scallions, slivered
4 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts
Handful of bean sprouts (optional)

Make the pickled vegetables: Put carrot and daikon in a small bowl and sprinkle with sugar and salt. Add rice vinegar, toss well and set aside.

Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, ginger and chiles. Stir in 1/2 cup cold water and let mixture sit for 15 minutes. (Leftover sauce will keep up to 3 days, refrigerated.)

Marinate the shrimp: Put shrimp in a shallow dish. Add fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic and lemongrass. Mix well to coat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn off heat and add rice noodles. Soak noodles, stirring occasionally, until softened, usually about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Leave in colander at room temperature.

Prepare a platter of lettuce leaves and herb sprigs for the table. Keep cool, covered with a damp towel.

Put oil in a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add shrimp without crowding (work in batches if necessary). Cook for about 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned.

To serve, divide noodles among 4 large soup bowls, then top each with hot shrimp, pickled vegetables and a tablespoon or so of dipping sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and peanuts (and beans sprouts if using). Pass herb platter and remaining dipping sauce at the table, and encourage guests to customize bowls as desired.

Grilled or wok-seared pork, beef, or chicken are fine too.

Spinach Salad with Beets and Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the Salad
Optional: pecan halves (or walnuts, toasted)
2 to 3 slices bacon (diced, or about 3 ounces of diced pancetta)
1 pound beets (trimmed, cooked, peeled, and diced)
4 cups spinach
1/4 cup red onion (thinly sliced)
Optional: shredded cheese (or crumbled goat cheese or feta)
For the Dressing
1 clove garlic (crushed and minced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or a similar gourmet mustard)
4 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil

Arrange the pecans or walnuts in a dry skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly until the nuts are lightly browned and aromatic.

In a skillet over medium heat, fry the diced bacon until crisp or fry the pancetta until browned.

Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Dice the bacon and set aside.

Arrange spinach leaves on 4 salad plates. Top with diced beets, diced bacon or pancetta, red onion, and pecans or walnuts. If desired, top with cheese.

In a skillet over medium heat, fry the diced bacon until crisp or fry the pancetta until browned.

Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Dice the bacon and set aside.

Arrange spinach leaves on 4 salad plates. Top with diced beets, diced bacon or pancetta, red onion, and pecans or walnuts. If desired, top with cheese.

In a bowl or blender, combine the garlic, salt, pepper, mustard, honey, and balsamic vinegar. Whisk or blend in the olive oil in a steady stream.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad or serve on the side.

Tips
Boiled Beets: To boil beets, first start by washing and trimming the beets, leaving about 2 inches of the stem and root ends. Place the beets in a large saucepan and cover with salted water (about 1 teaspoon of salt per quart). Add a few teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice to the water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for about 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the beets.

Roasted Beets: To roast beets, first wash the beets and trim, leaving an inch or two on the stem and root ends. Rub the beets with a little vegetable oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; wrap in foil and bake at 375 F for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. The time varies depending on the size of the beets. You can also roast the beets in the slow cooker.

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Blueberries

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
6 cups fresh spinach leaves (torn)
2 cups fresh strawberries (rinsed, dried, hulled)
1 cup fresh blueberries

For the Red Wine Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

In a large bowl, toss spinach with sesame seeds. Prepare strawberries, cutting large ones in half. Add strawberries to the spinach mixture. Cover and refrigerate.

Combine dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar or shaker; shake well then refrigerate to chill.

To serve, pour chilled dressing over strawberry and spinach salad mixture in a bowl and toss gently to distribute well.

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing and Figs (or Pineapple or Mango)

For the Dressing:
3 to 4 slices bacon (diced)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar with pomegranate)
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Dash of salt

For the Salad:
3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves (washed)
12 to 18 fresh figs (washed)
1/4 cup red onion (thinly sliced)
3 to 4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons pecans (or walnuts, toasted*)

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the diced bacon until crisp; remove to paper towels to drain.

In a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, red wine vinegar, water, cornstarch, and salt. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the bacon and heat through. Remove the dressing from the heat and let cool slightly.

Arrange the spinach leaves on four salad plates.

Slice figs in half and arrange them on the spinach. Sprinkle thinly sliced red onion over the spinach and then sprinkle the salads with the cheese and toasted pecans or walnuts.

Spoon some of the warm dressing over the salads. Make sure there are some bacon pieces on each salad.

*To toast the pecans or walnuts, spread them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir and turn frequently. Remove them and transfer them to a bowl when they are lightly browned and aromatic.

Tips and Variations

Simple Red Wine Vinaigrette: Combine 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon each of onion powder and garlic powder. Shake or whisk until thoroughly blended.

Replace the blue cheese with goat cheese.

Substitute fresh pineapple or mango chunks for the figs.

Use fresh sliced strawberries instead of sliced figs.

Spinach Salad with Apple Vinaigrette

1 bag/10-12 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons grated sweet onion (or purple onion)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup apple (finely chopped)
Optional Garnish: crumbled cooked bacon and walnut or pecan halves

Gather the ingredients.

Wash spinach and let dry.

In a bowl whisk together the sugar, vinegar, grated onion, mustard, salt, and vegetable oil. Add the apple.

Refrigerate spinach and dressing separately until serving time.

Pour dressing over spinach just before serving and toss. If desired, sprinkle with crumbled bacon and nuts.

Spinach Salad with Rhubarb

2 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons grated onion
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

SALAD:
6 cups torn fresh spinach
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 to 2 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped

In a saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar and vinegar; cook over medium heat until the rhubarb is tender, about 6 minutes. Drain, reserving about 6 tablespoons juice; discard pulp.
Pour juice into a jar with tight-fitting lid; add oil, onion, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Shake well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Just before serving, combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat.

Note

If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.

Spinach and Fennel Salad with Grapefruit

3 tablespoons red grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 large fennel bulb
2 large red grapefruit, sectioned
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup shaved Romano cheese
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

In a small bowl, whisk the first five ingredients. Remove fronds from fennel; set aside for garnish. Cut bulb into thin slices and coarsely chop the slices. In a large bowl, combine the chopped fennel, grapefruit and spinach. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss to coat.

Divide salad among four plates; sprinkle cheese and pomegranate seeds over salads. Garnish with fennel fronds.

Spinach and Fennel Salad with Apple

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
8 cups fresh arugula or baby spinach
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 large tart apple, julienned
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1 cup glazed walnuts

In a small bowl, bring vinegar to a boil; cook 4-5 minutes or until thickened to a glaze consistency. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine arugula, fennel and apple. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, oil, pepper and salt until blended. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Add cheese and walnuts.
Drizzle eight plates with balsamic glaze. Top with salad.

Spinach, Apple, and Pecan Salad

2 packages (6 ounces each) fresh baby spinach
1 medium apple, chopped
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1 cup glazed pecans
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup dried cranberries
5 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled, optional

DRESSING:
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients; stir in bacon if desired.

For dressing, in a small bowl, whisk vinegar, sugar, mustard and pepper until blended. Gradually whisk in oil. Pour over salad; toss to coat.

Spinach (or Arugula) Salad with Nectarines

4 cups fresh arugula or baby spinach
4 cups torn Bibb or Boston lettuce
3 medium nectarines, sliced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

DRESSING:
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in oil until blended. Drizzle over salad; toss to coat.

To toast nuts, bake in a shallow pan in a 350° oven for 5-10 minutes or cook in a skillet over low heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Spinach Salad with Kiwi and Strawberries

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
12 cups torn fresh spinach (about 9 ounces)
2 pints fresh strawberries, halved
4 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

Place the first five ingredients in a blender; cover and process 30 seconds or until blended. Transfer to a bowl; stir in green onions, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, strawberries and kiwi. Drizzle with dressing; toss to coat.

Melon and Spinach Salad

1/4 cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 teaspoons minced fresh gingerroot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper

SALAD:
4 cups fresh baby spinach or arugula
3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
2 cups cubed cantaloupe
2 cups cubed English cucumber
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, chopped

In a small bowl, whisk the first nine ingredients. In a large bowl, combine salad ingredients. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat; serve immediately.

Spinach Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes

2 cups cut-up heirloom tomatoes
1 cup multicolored cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup sliced red onion

DRESSING:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage

Place tomatoes, spinach and onion in a large bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients; toss with salad. Refrigerate, covered, 2 hours. Serve with a slotted spoon.

Spinach Salad with Raspberries and Walnuts

1 large egg white
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar

DRESSING:
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard

SALAD:
8 ounces fresh baby spinach (about 10 cups)
1-1/2 cups fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 300°. In a small bowl, whisk egg white and vanilla until frothy. Stir in walnuts. Sprinkle with sugar; toss to coat evenly. Spread in a single layer in a greased 15x10x1-in. baking pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring every 10 minutes. Spread on waxed paper to cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients until blended. Place spinach in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss to coat. Sprinkle with raspberries and 1 cup candied walnuts (save remaining walnuts for another use).

Hot Spinach Salad with Apple

6 bacon strips, diced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar

9 cups fresh baby spinach
2 unpeeled large red apples, thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings.

In same skillet, combine vinegar, brown sugar and reserved drippings. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a serving bowl, combine spinach, apples, onion and bacon. Drizzle with warm dressing; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Spinach Salad with Eggs and Bacon

3 eggs
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and chopped
1/4 cup candied pecans
4-6 cups Baby Spinach
For the dressing:
2 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or 3 sprigs fresh thyme)
Dash of salt and pepper

Bring a small pot of water to boil, submerge eggs and let boil for 6 minutes, then remove from heat and shock the eggs by running them under cold water. Set them aside to cool, when cool enough to touch peel them carefully and cut into 4s.

Cook bacon and crumble.

Whisk together salad dressing ingredients and set aside.
To assemble the salad put the spinach in a large bowl, then sprinkle bacon on, then the candied pecans, then place the eggs around the salad and pour dressing over it and enjoy!

Spinach Salad with Apples, Pears, and Nuts

8-10 cups baby spinach (or other greens)
1 apple cored and finely chopped
1 pear cored and finely chopped (instead of 1 apple and 1 pear you could 2 apples or 2 pears)
1/2 cup candied pecans (or walnuts, or other nuts)
1/4 lb crumbled feta (or goat cheese, or blue cheese)

Salad dressing:
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a salad bowl, combine greens, fruit, nuts, and cheese.
In a separate bowl (or blender) combine all the salad dressing ingredients (olive oil, vinegar, honey, dry mustard, garlic and salt) and whisk to combine.

Pour dressing over salad and serve.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

1 lb. fresh spinach
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup almonds
2 ounces feta cheese

Strawberry Dressing:

7 large strawberries, cut in half
Fresh lemon juice, from 1 lemon
Drizzle of agave nectar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the spinach in a medium bowl. Top with sliced strawberries, almonds, and feta cheese.

For the dressing, put the cut up strawberries in a blender. Squeeze lemon juice into the blender. Drizzle the strawberries with agave nectar. If your strawberries are ripe and sweet, you will only need a little agave nectar. Make according to your taste. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour dressing over spinach and strawberry salad.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Chicken

For the chicken & marinade:
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the nuoc cham sauce:
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white vinegar
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 red chili, de-seeded and sliced (or substitute 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce or Sriracha)
1/2 cup cold water

To assemble the bowls:
200g dried rice vermicelli noodles
Vegetable oil
2 cups bean sprouts
1 large carrot, julienned
1 seedless cucumber, julienned
6 leaves romaine lettuce, finely julienned
Mint
Cilantro

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken thighs with your marinade ingredients, and set aside for 30 mins to an hour while you prepare the other salad ingredients.

Combine all the nuoc cham ingredients and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved into the sauce. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients if desired.

Boil the rice vermicelli noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Set aside in a colander.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet or frying pan over medium high heat. You could also heat a grill pan or grill for this. Sear the chicken for about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Set aside on a plate.

To assemble the salad, combine the rice noodles with bean sprouts, julienned carrots and cucumber, romaine lettuce, mint, and cilantro. Slice the chicken thighs and add to the salad. Serve with your nuoc cham sauce.