Saturday, September 28, 2013

Thai at On's Kitchen

Meing-Kum from On's Kitchen
(photo by Tom Wallace, StarTribune)
I'm lucky to have a sister here in the Twin Cities who shares my passion for Thai cuisine. She knew right where to take me for a fantastic Thai dining experience: On's Kitchen in St. Paul. She recommended practically everything on the menu, but we narrowed it down to the Meing-Kum, Haw-Mok, Tom Yum, and Panang Curry.

Meing-Kum is definitely a new favorite for me. It's a plateful of Thai flavors: diced ginger, lime, red onion, chili peppers, peanuts, dried shrimp, toasted coconut, a sweet-salty sauce, and lettuce leaves. Our server showed us how to make a small cone with a lettuce leaf, which we then filled with a little bit of everything from the plate. The idea is to pop the whole thing into your mouth (I did it in two bites, which was probably a lot messier than the single-bite method) for a burst of flavors – sweet, salty, spicy, and sour – exactly what Thai food is all about!

The Haw-Mok was the only thing I didn't really care for. It's steamed fish with curry flavors and a kind of custardy texture. It was fine, but I wouldn't order it again. My sister, however, really enjoyed it, so it's worth a try if it sounds like something you might go for, plus the presentation – in a banana leaf – is quite nice.

The Tom Yum was excellent. I loved the flavorful mushrooms and fried tofu in the soup (you can get it with your choice of meat or tofu) and the hot & sour broth was wonderful, although I'd request it a little spicier next time. They have a scale of 1 to 10 and we got a 3-4, so there's plenty of room for more heat.

Panang curry is one of my stand-by favorites and On's did not disappoint. Again, I'd like more heat, but it was rich and delicious with perfectly cooked chicken and vegetables, mostly bell peppers. I ate the left-overs for dinner that night... Thai twice in one day makes this girl very happy!

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of our food. I copied the Meing-Kum photo, above, from a review in the StarTribune, which can be found here: On's Kitchen Restaurant Review. The review is from April, 2011 and mentions the road construction in the area, which over two years later is still there and still a hassle, but On's Kitchen is worth it. I can hardly wait to go back and taste more!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ghost Peppers

These are Trinidad Ghost peppers (Minnesota-grown) and they are HOT – about four times hotter than a Habañero pepper! I don't know how the heck I'm ever going to use them all... I made a batch of salsa fresca the other day and used just half a pepper. Seeds and membranes (the hottest parts) were carefully removed, so actually, it was a little less than half a pepper. Honestly, I can take it pretty hot and I could go for a little more ghost pepper next time, still, not a whole one.

Other than the use of Ghost peppers, it was my standard salsa recipe: tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. It tasted pretty good. The tomatoes were home-grown (a local goat farmer gave us the tomatoes and a variety of peppers, including the Ghost peppers) providing dense tomato flavor, unlike a lot of store-bought tomatoes. Unfortunately, I think the unique flavor of the ghost pepper was masked a bit the rich tomato and by the pepper's own heat. As I got to the bottom of the salsa bowl, however, I found a little more heat, and also a subtle flavor similar to a Habañero.

My husband was in charge of grilling chicken, tortillas, onion, and bell peppers (including some purple ones – you don't see those too often), while I made some guacamole. The grilled elements turned out to be the best – they really made the meal. I sprinkled a little cheese on a corn tortilla, topped that with chicken, bell peppers, and onions, and of course, some salsa. It was delicious!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quick Dill Pickles

Experiment #1

The next pickle experiment probably won’t happen until August or September of next year, when there’s a surplus of cucumbers again. This time, my bunch of Kirbys had already been in the fridge for about a week, so I needed to come up with a use for them before it was too late. Hence, the first pickle experiment – not canned and preserved like my grandma used to make, but something simple and quick. I skimmed a few recipes I found online, but nothing was quite what I had in mind. So, I winged it.

I cut up the cucumbers, as you can see, and put them in a large glass bowl. I poured in some cider vinegar (because I didn't have any standard white vinegar at the time), added some roughly chopped garlic, several sprigs of fresh dill, kosher salt, a few chili peppers (I just slit them open as I didn’t want to add any major heat), and water to cover the cucumbers. Then I covered the bowl and put it in the fridge.

The next day, I tasted and decided they were a little bland and slightly sweet (which was not what I was going for). So, I added some salt – I couldn't think what else to do – and put them back in the fridge.

Today, they have a pretty good flavor: The salt is about right, as is the dill and the garlic. The heat is very mild (maybe a little too mild, for me). The only problem is, there’s still a subtle sweetness to the pickles. I can only attribute that to the cider vinegar. Distilled white vinegar would have been a better choice, I think.

I hope they’re still crisp and tasty when my husband gets home tomorrow, so he can try them too. I’d like to know what he thinks of them, and they’ll only keep about a week. In the mean time, we’ll be having them with ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner tonight – an easy, picnic-style dinner for, what may be, our last hot day before the cool fall weather begins to creep in.

Any suggestions for experiment #2? Please send them my way… anytime over the next year. Thanks!