Monday, May 16, 2011

Foodboxing - A Pad Thai Recipe and Papaya au Gratin ... Together at last?

No, this isn't about two dishes strapping on their gloves and duking it out in a ring though that does sound like a good idea. When the spring time rolls around, we head over to our community center and order up The Good Food Box which is a box of collectively bought local produce that shows up every two weeks. We never know what will be in the box which challenges us to try cooking with produce we're don't normally buy and it's usually a lot of stuff for the price you pay, so another challenge to try and turn it all into something before anything goes bad. Our food box people include a newsletter to accompany the box that has recipes for the featured item, which is usually "the thing that most people probably don't buy that often, or ever."

This week's exotic item was a large papaya. When I saw it, I instantly thought it would be a perfect opportunity to make Gỏi đu đủ (papaya) if it hadn't ripened yet! Unfortunately, by the time I cut into it, it was  already that bright orange-pink ripe papaya colour and I have little interest in eating it in its fruit form. I glanced at the two recipes on the newsletter and was instantly mocked by a recipe for "Thai Style papaya salad" with the first ingredient being one cup of green papaya. The second recipe of "Papaya Au Gratin" looked incredibly unappetizing but what else was I going to do? Eat the papaya? I've never understood what flavour one is supposed to taste when eating papaya. My wife described it in a rather unpleasant way once, that would be too unappetizing to share. However, in a baked form and covered in cheese, it actually tasted pretty good. It meshed with onions quite well and didn't really taste much like 'fruit' at all, not that it ever did to begin with...

Papaya Au Gratin from the Good Food Box newsletter

Ingredients (4 servings)
- 4 papayas
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp flour
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1 egg
- 1 cup grated cheese, (I used mozzarella and some fresh Parmesan) 
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs

I had one papaya. I used one papaya. Everything else I kept more or less the same. 

- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Peel papayas under lukewarm water (I didn't do this because I cut it beforehand), rinse and boil for 20 minutes.
- Drain and crush with a fork
- In a skillet, heal oil on medium-high heat, then sweat out the onions for about 30 seconds. Add the garlic and let them cook out for another 30 seconds. Add papayas and flour. Mix together.
- Add the egg, combine and remove from heat.
- Spread the mixture in a gratin dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese.
- Bake in oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

I added a bit of what I did to the recipe since I find the recipes kind of lacking sometimes. For example, how long do I cook the papaya for on the skillet? Who knows? They were already boiled and plus they're going to get baked for 40 minutes. Once the egg was mixed in, I took it off the heat and put it in this beautiful little pot that we got as a wedding gift from the Busy (happy!) Vegan,  marking this as the second time we used it! I then put on the bread crumbs (less than 1/2 cup, since less area).
Probably the prettiest cooking related object I own.
So why Papaya Gratin and Pad Thai? This week, my wife is off to a conference in Spain, so I asked her what  non-Spanish dish she'd like to eat before leaving. She's a die-hard fan of any stir-fried noodle, so Pad Thai it was. My only problem with Pad Thai is that I never followed the recipe and it basically just ends up being some stir-fried pho noodles (which, by the way, is all it really is). This time I decided to try and follow a recipe from a cook book given to me by my mother in-law. 

Pad Thai from Cuisines of Southeast Asia by the California Culinary Academy

We got these bowls from my mother in law too. 
1/2 pound flat rice noodles (Pho noodles!)
3-4 tbsp oil
1/4 pound small raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 pound minced pork or chicken (I used tofu)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup bean sprouts

1 tsp vinegar
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp sambal ulek or ground dried chile (I added some garlic chili sauce instead)


Chopped green onions
Crushed roasted peanuts


- Soak the noodles in warm water until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside in colander.
- Combine sauce ingredients. Stir and set aside.
- In a wok or deep skillet, heat 3 tbsps oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sambal ulek. Stir-fry until fragrant. Add shrimp, pork and stir-fry until they lose their raw color. Add the sauce mixture, bring to a boil. Toss noodles in sauce until they have absorbed the sauce.
- Make a hole in the center of the pan. If it looks dry, add another tbsp of oil. Add eggs, let cook for 10-15 seconds then fold in the eggs to the noodles. Stir in bean sprouts. Garnish and serve. 

Go tofu, get sauced.

The mint tasted fine with it!
So I found that there wasn't really enough sauce for all the noodles. I just used a single package of pho and I didn't pay attention to how much it weighed so maybe it was too much. I also forgot the peanuts. 

you just gotta ignite...