Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thai Red Curry and Summit Salad made Vegan Friendly

Last night at 11pm, I stood in my kitchen and peered into the bottomless hole that is my sink and was in awe how this tower of dirty dishes could rival my sink's massive depth. I listened to the silence of a quiet kitchen when a mere couple of hours ago, the buzz of friends chattering, utensils clinking, small feet pitter-pattering followed by an occasional squealing of delight filled the air. Whether it was from the 2 and a half year old who attended this week's dinner or whether it was my wife, I couldn't tell. It's funny how slaving, (yes, slaving) in a burning, sweltering kitchen and then having a bunch of people eat it is so rewarding. I guess I am my mother's son. Really though, you have oodles of cleaning to do afterward and the constant feeling that you're not being a good enough host. Hm, I really am...

Our menu this week was Vegan inspired, partially because I like a good challenge and partially because one of our friends and her daughter are vegan. She is actually the author of a vegan blog, The Busy (Happy!) Vegan. So my strategy to meal planning is to use whatever fresh foods we have leftover to create something new and since the main theme of this blog is to make a ton of Vietnamese food, I tend to have a lot of that genre of ingredient. I'm also a big fan of Chef Michael Smith and his style of 'no recipe' cooking. I once saw him make a red thai curry with some interesting ideas involved, so I thought a curry would be an easily veganizable dish. We topped it off with a salad and about 2 hours before dinner, I surveyed our ingredients and decided we could also make a couple salad rolls per person too. 

Friday Night Dinner Menu - Everything Vegan!
- Black Bean Dip and pita bread (for nibbles)
- Summit Salad
- Red Thai Curry

Our friends also brought:
- A yummy side dish rice? salad type thing with vegan ham 
- An irresistible dessert Sundae Station? Who's lucky enough to get a whole sundae station brought to their house nowadays? Seriously.

Feta Tofu Cheese Preparation
If you're not looking to make this vegan, simply use regular feta cheese in the salad. This needs to be made the night before. We used this recipe.
I hadn't heard of herbed tofu before.

It tasted surprisingly similar.

Summit Salad - From Whitewater Cooks: Pure, Simple and Real Creations from the Fresh Tracks Cafe (Modified to be Vegan Friendly)
Serves 8
- 8 Cups mixed baby salad greens
- 2 cups beets, grated
- 2 cups carrots, grated
- 2 cups chickpeas, drained
- 2 cups tofu feta "cheese", crumbled (Feta cheese substitute)
- 2 cups sprouts
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced

-1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar (2 tbsp Honey substitute)
- 1/2 tsp garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Juice and zest of one small orange
- 3/4 cup safflower (we used olive) oil
- 1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste.

Excuse my slang but this is a salad that has gone seriously beast mode. I like to imagine it is called the Summit Salad because of it's similarities to mountains that have been conquered by few. This salad was first introduced to me by one of my aunts, who lived in Banff for a while, ate at this resort and bought the cookbook. It really has some amazing recipes in it which I'll share in the future. 

To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk together Dijon mustard, agave nectar, garlic, basil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, orange juice and zest. Add oil in a steady stream, Roast sunflower seeds in skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and add to dressing (we threw ours in the toaster oven and actually burnt the first round. They toast fast...). Season with salt and pepper to taste. To compose the salad (the recipe says to do individual salad plates) start with the salad greens, then beets, carrots, chickpeas, feta, sprouts and sun dried tomatoes. Spoon dressing over salads.

I also spilled water on the burnt sunflower seeds. By
accident. Don't ask how.
This is the biggest bowl we own and the salad isn't
even done yet!
If you get a chance to watch Michael Smith's  'Chef at Home' show then I would suggest you do. His carefree, "feel your way through the recipe" way of cooking is so peaceful and relaxing to watch, which is exactly how one should feel while cooking a meal. I actually had this discussion with my wife about how my mentality towards cooking isn't to stress out and get every part of the recipe exact (I mean, what is this? Baking? I scoff!). This came up when she pulled out our bag of carrots that only had about 1/4 of the carrots remaining and looked at me. It was a look that said 'Remember in the store when I said we should buy carrots and you said that we had enough? Yeah. Look at this bag.' It's no wonder we got married if she can communicate so much without exercising her vocal cords. I was told that there it didn't look like there was going to be 2 cups of grated carrot. I came up with such a clever response that even Aristotle himself was stopped dead in his tracks. I replied "So?"
As callous as it sounded, the goal of this work is to get people we like spending time with in the same place and forget our troubles of the week while enjoying a delicious meal. Half a cup of grated carrot won't stop that from happening. I cook to relax and lose myself in the smells and sounds of the kitchen which sometimes includes songs by Taylor Swift or Rage Against the Machine as my playlists don't have themes. I'm not saying to stop caring while cooking, but to not sweat the small stuff, you've already got a lot on your plate (and if you don't, you should spoon some more on).

Vegan Red Thai Curry inspired by Red Thai Curry by Michael Smith
(Modified and made vegan friendly)
Printable Version

- 2x 400 mL cans of coconut milk
- 2 tbsp of red curry paste (make sure it's vegan)
-1 bunch of cilantro, roots and leaves chopped separately
- A package of extra firm tofu, cubed
- 3 cups of vegetable stock
- 6 lime leaves
- 1 small ginger root, frozen
- 2 tbsp of soya sauce
- 2 stalks of lemon grass, tops cut off and the bottoms split open
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 4 green onions, minced
(I added the following two for more...stuff. Quite optional.)
- 1-2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
He puts rice noodles in, but we served ours over rice. Either way works.


I followed the instructions listed on his recipe but since my ingredients differed, I'll make a few edits

  1. Preheat a large saucepan over medium-high heat then scoop the thick coconut cream from the top of one of the cans into it. Add the red curry paste as the cream melts into coconut oil. The mixture will start to sizzle as the oil then heats up. Add the cilantro roots, mushrooms, green pepper and tofu and stir-fry until the tofu is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut juice from the first can as well as the entire contents of the second can of coconut milk, vegetable stock, lime leaves, soya sauce and lemon grass. Grate the frozen ginger into the broth - noting how much easier it is to work with when it's frozen! Use a microplane grater if you have one or the side of a box grater. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the broth has begun to thicken slightly. Add the bean sprouts and simmer another minute or 2. Remove from the heat.
  3. (If you're doing rice noodles) Place the rice noodles into the broth where they will quickly soften in about 5 minutes. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the cilantro leaves and stir gently. (I actually just threw in the green onions and cilantro all together. It mixes quite well, but garnishes never hurt).
  4. Ladle into large bowls and garnish with the green onions and the remaining cilantro.
Yes, it was a bit of a shock when I realized I wasn't allowed to use fish sauce *gasp* but it was definitely fun to puzzle out how to make it more flavourful so that non tofu eaters wouldn't be turned off by it. I grew up on tofu, so when I tasted a piece while it was simmering, I thought "Man, that is some good tofu." but then realized I probably should add a bit more seasoning. Taste often with curries and soups and adjust as you go.
That reminds me, look forward to when one of my cousins and I make tofu from scratch because she actually was taught first hand from our Ba Ngoai. That'll definitely be a Delicious Vietnam worthy entry.

So an overall dinner success, while introducing one my friends to all sorts of new flavours and foods (he had never had a salad roll before! I really should invite him over more often). Oh, wait? I forgot something? You want to hear about the sundae station? Would I really deprive you of this?

One of our friends said she would supply dessert, and when she came with a bag full of littler bags and containers, we were all peeking in that sort of "Oh my, what do you have there?" kind of way. When she told those of us in the kitchen that she was creating a Sundae Station, the pitter patter of feet ran off towards the living room and there was a squeal of delight to announce to everyone there what surprise awaited on the table. My wife is such a good hostess.

Sundae Station 
- Soy Ice Cream
- Crushed Peanuts
- Chocolates of varied sorts 
- Sliced Strawberries and Bananas
- Chocolate sauce
- Really, you can go nuts here. I think we had sprinkles we forgot to bring out! Aww.

I'll assume you don't need instructions on how to put together your own bowl of ice cream so that will be all for today. Remember to not sweat the small stuff and cooking won't seem like a chore and instead probably be a lot of fun. 

Next week for Friday Dinner, I might actually be back to cooking with the original hostess and co-cook so look forward to meeting her. Until then, more Vietnamese recipes will be on the way. 

everybody learns from disaster


  1. Hello, Anna directed me here... I'm Micah's sister, Sarah. :) I am keen to see what you cook up next. I love Vietnamese food and I might piggy back off some of your experiments! Welcome to the wonderful world of food blogging.

  2. @sarah

    Hello! I'm glad to know someone who is also into the world of cooking food and writing about it. I've already learned two new things from your simplycooked blog!