Tostadas de Chorizo

After having watched a couple episodes of Rick Bayless’ Mexico: One Plate at a Time on Friday night, because we are the coolest people around, Ryan got inspired to make a fantastic weekend lunch. These crispy back yard snacks with their savory spicy chorizo, salty creamy cheese, and perky salsa provided much-needed fortification for an afternoon of mucking out the shed.

Side note – instead of serranos, we actually used these mystery peppers Ryan’s growing in the yard.  They’re spicy and fruity and red, maybe 2 inches long.  There’s a taqueria down the way and one day we noticed a hand-painted sign from the yard next door that said “AQUI VENDE CHILES” which means “we sell chiles here” (not quite but close enough).  We peeked through the fence and lo and behold the little yard was crammed full of big leafy chile plants, all different kinds, all really healthy.  So while I waited for our burritos, Ryan went over to investigate.

After a few minutes of finding the right family member – grandpa, it seems – and some Spanglish negotiations, he came away with these random peppers and one that the seller called “manzanilla” which means little apple.  They are slightly spicy – I’d call them perky – and very crisply fruity, much like an apple.  $7 each.  One of the many reasons why Oakland is wonderful.

tostadas de chorizo

Tostadas de Chorizo
sort of as seen on Mexico: One Plate at a Time

  • 6 oz chorizo, browned and drained
  • 6 oz Oaxacan cheese, Monterey jack, or queso fresco*, grated or crumbled
  • Avocado Salsa (see below)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • a few tbsp of olive oil, vegetable oil, or bacon fat (mmmm)

* less melty than the other two – your choice

First, make your avocado salsa:

  • 3 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 white onion, peels on, quartered
  • 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1-2 serrano peppers, stemmed and rough chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 fat avocado
  • 1 lime

Fire up your grill, or a big heavy dry saute or griddle pan if you’re doing this indoors. Char the tomatillos, onion, garlic, and poblano until they are good and black on a couple of sides – except the onion, stick to the skin side of that one. Put them all in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 20 minutes. (You can also do this under the broiler)

Peel the skins off the onion, garlic, and poblano, and take off the pepper’s stem. Cut the tomatillos in quarters. Put all roasty veggies, the serranos, cilantro, and the sweet sweet avocado flesh into the blender and whirl until sort of smooth. Add salt and lime juice to taste and set aside.

Brush the tortillas with the oil or bacon fat, and grill or toast in a saute or griddle pan for a minute or two until crispy. Sprinkle each with a little chorizo and a little cheese, and drizzle on a little salsa. Return to the grill/pan for a minute or two to melt the cheese. Nosh.

Vermicelli Bowls

One of my all time favorite work-day lunches is the Vietnamese vermicelli bowl.  It’s filling but light enough not to put you in an afternoon coma, and it exemplifies all the lovely contrasts that make Vietnamese food so delicious and intriguing – funky fish sauce and cool cucumber, soft vermicelli and crunchy pickled carrots, savory five spice grilled chicken (in this version) and fresh green herbs.

There are a lot of components but it’s a totally manageable weeknight dinner, especially if you can get someone else to do the grilling.  It’s great when it’s too hot out to turn on the stove – which was the case here until a couple of weeks ago.

I made this with grilled chicken but my favorite is grilled pork and imperial rolls.  Grilled shrimp is also classic.  I would imagine you could put just about anything on this and it would be delicious.

I’ve made a few things now from this book, Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan, and they’re all delicious.  I recommend!

vermicelli bowl

Grilled Five Spice Chicken Vermicelli Bowls (Bun)
recipe from Vietnamese Home Cooking

  • Vermicelli rice noodles – fresh or dried (cooked, rinsed in cold water, and drained)
  • Grilled five-spice chicken
  • Pickled carrots
  • Julienned cucumber
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Spearmint sprigs
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • Chopped peanuts

First, marinate your chicken

  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • ½ cup light soy sauce
  • ¼ cup minced garlic
  • ¾ cup minced shallots
  • 2-3 Thai chiles, stemmed and minced
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 2 lbs boneless chicken parts of your choice

Mix all marinade ingredients well. Add chicken, mix to coat evenly. Marinate at room temp for up to 2 hours or up to overnight in the fridge. If you fridge it, let it come up to room temp before you grill.

Next, pickle your carrots:

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Julienne your carrots into matchsticks – as thin as you can/want to bother with. In a small bowl, combine vinegars, sugar, and salt and stir until sugar and salt have dissolved. Add carrots and let stand at least 20 minutes. Will keep up to a week, covered in the fridge. Drain well before using.

Now, dress up your fish sauce:

  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup white vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Thai chiles, stemmed and minced

In a small bowl, stir the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar or lemon juice, and ½ cup water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the garlic and chiles and stir to combine. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 1 week if made with vinegar and 2 days if made with lemon juice.

Next, grill your chicken, or better yet dispatch someone else to do so. When done, cut into strips.

Assemble! Put a handful of shredded lettuce in the bottom of your bowl, then a handful of vermicelli, and then all the other stuff – however much you want. Top with a generous dose of your fish sauce and dig in.

Grilled Things are Delicious

When the temps top a hundred in the central valley, the last thing I want to do is turn the stove on so we have been grilling a lot these last few months. Grilling is great because you can throw salt, pepper and olive oil on pretty much anything, grill it, squeeze some lemon on it and it’s absolutely delicious. Yuan came out a couple weeks ago and we had some squidly kabobs.

Assorted Summer Squash and Green Onion

Summer BBQ in Berkeley

Call it laziness, call it preoccupation…we prefer to call it summer vacation. Yes loyal readers, all four of you (hi mom), we are back! Or at least we’re going to try to be…It’s August here in the greater bay area, which means Yuan and Little Miss are shrouded in fog and probably developing vitamin D deficiencies, while the Princess is roasting to a crisp in the scorching Central Valley. Thankfully we have great friends in Berkeley who let us take over their house and yard in exchange for grillables and a little manual labor in the garden!

Heirloom tomato caprese salad

Assorted grillables

Wild sockeye salmon