Sunday, February 24, 2013

Shrimp Enchiladas

This was also the night we discovered how fat we really should be. It also happened to be Valentine's Day.

We've made enchiladas before and both agreed enchiladas with shrimp in them would be quite delicious. I made the suggestion to make something with shrimp for Valentine's Day, since we never splurge on good shrimp (eco-friendly shrimp is nearly impossible to find). So it was natural that shrimp enchiladas was going to be our VDay menu. (That, and Rich had been asking for enchiladas for almost two weeks...)

Oh, you're in the kitchen? There must be food I can snub.

We've also recently discovered Whole Foods. Not in the sense that we didn't know it existed, but in the sense that until the last month or so Whole Foods was the wildly expensive yuppie grocery store you went to if you wanted to talk to staff members with dreads and those beanie hats that are only half on your head (how do those things stay on?). But I'd gone in there a couple times to find some body products for my ridiculously sensitive skin and discovered the prices weren't as ridiculous as I'd thought, especially for the quality. 

One day we went in there together. The Hillcrest location forces you to enter through the produce section, where everything is organic and there's space for locally grown produce. Towards the back is the meat counter. I'll admit that the meat counter at Whole Foods is enticing. For a bunch of dead animal sitting on lettuce behind a glass it's a very sexy part of the store. And this is coming from an almost-vegetarian. Rich? He almost looked aroused at the meat counter. 

And then we got to the beer aisle. So. Much. Beer. And it's all good and lots of it is local! Rich found heaven.

All the beer!

Anyway, so Whole Foods has a seafood counter within the meat counter, and every species is labeled with a form of certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (which may or may not be a great thing... best to do your own research on your seafood ahead of time). We bought shrimp. However, we were not the only people to want shrimp for our Valentine's Day dinner and were only able to get about a half pound of the uncooked shrimps. Should be plenty, right? It's enchiladas... how much shrimp do we need?

Get a full pound. Maybe we're just fat kids, but the thought of making an 8x8 inch dish of enchiladas seemed unfilling. A 9x13 dish was more appropriate (and leftovers!). But we did not buy enough shrimp for a full dish... so we had to get creative chopping them. A half pound would have been perfect for a 2 person serving, but we stretched it into a 4 person serving. Oh well.

Pepper jack cheese
Enchilada sauce
Onions (optional, but awesome)

Cook your shrimps, if they don't come pre cooked. Stick them in some boiling water for 3-5 minutes (uncooked shrimps are slightly gray when purchased and turn pink the second they hit the water... it's really cool to watch!). Also, de-vein and de-tail your shrimps.

Cut them into little pieces, if necessary, if you didn't buy enough. We sliced them in half both vertically and horizontally.

Soften your tortillas. We use a tortilla warmer that goes in the microwave. Layer each tortilla with a small bit of cheese, as many shrimp bits as you want (but don't go overboard...), and onions if you want. Roll 'em up.

Once your pan is stacked with rolled enchiladas, pour enchilada sauce so that the rolled tortillas are covered. Cover that with shredded cheese.

Cook for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the cheese at the edges of the pan starts to bubble and brown.

Top your serving with sour cream, avocado, hot sauce and any other toppings you want. But in the interest of keeping the shrimp flavor, it's a good idea to not get too crazy with the toppings or other ingredients. We'd forgotten toppings so all we had was sriracha, but it was delicious anyway.

Total Cost: $10, plus market price of shrimp (serves 2-4, depending on how many shrimp you buy)
Total Time: ~35 minutes

We weren't about to share the shrimp with her, but she can have cheese!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Vegetarian Pho with Fried Tofu

 Hot, spicy pho

We discovered a love for tofu at this strange little bar right by my place that served pizza, tots, Vietnamese sandwiches, and pho. And beer. What an unusual combination, right? And they had things like breakfast pizza which sounded gross (egg on pizza?) but smelled so good. I ordered the pho with tofu one of the first times I went there on a whim and because I'd never had it before and I was hooked. I never ordered anything else at that place.

Eventually, they started running out of pho. I would be impossibly disappointed after getting my heart set on a nice big bowl of hot pho and learn they didn't have any. The bar went through a lot of changes in a few months, and we finally learned it was closing to allow the owner to move on to bigger and better things (you can read about that here). But I never stopped loving the pho.

So I figured... why not make it?

Turns out, however, the ingredient list for authentic pho is way long. To get the broth right you have to simmer a beef bone for hours and add all these spices I don't have. So I gave up and resolved to find another pho spot that wasn't 15 miles away. Then Rich got sick. It started with just a tickle in the throat one night, a very chilly night. Pho was sounding really good, and I'd just discovered pre-packaged pho base at Sprouts. So I figured why not, let's give it a whirl. And it turned out pretty darn good, especially for a first try. My only recommendation is to either get a meat base, add your own spices to a vegetarian broth, or load up on the sriracha. The vegetarian base by itself is a little... lacking.

The steps are actually ridiculously easy, as long as you have a good soup base.

Pho starter base (veggie, beef, or chicken)
Tofu (and olive oil or butter for frying, plus any seasonings)
Rice noodles
Green onions
Bean sprouts
Plum sauce (optional)

So. Yummy.

Chop your veggies. Slice jalapeno and lime, chop some green onions, and pick fresh basil leaves and grab a big handful of sprouts. 

Fry the tofu. I always use olive oil, but I know butter tastes better. Use whatever you like. Or just boil it and don't fry it at all, or do a dry fry with no oil or butter (just keep an eye on it). I like to put a bunch of seasonings on my tofu: chili peppers, black pepper, some garlic salt, and a good amount of sesame seeds.

Cook the rice noodles! Follow whatever the package says, but it's just like cooking any other noodle. Also, simmer the broth in a big pot until nice and hot. You might also want to add the tofu into the broth so it can soak up the flavor (and stay warm), and add in a few more spices if you go the veggie route.

Scoop some rice noodles into a big ol' soup bowl. I did not have the kind of bowls you get at pho restaurants, and I plan on remedying this soon. Add the green onions and cilantro.

Pour the broth and the tofu over the noodles. Let it steep in. Top with the rest of the ingredients!

Shrimp pho is also really good. And I'm sure the beef and other cow parts are delicious as well. But I really dig the tofu.

Total Cost: ~$15 (less if you already have some of the toppings)
Total Time: ~30 minutes (assuming you don't spend 12 hours simmering a beef bone)

Note: In this particular post the photos are partially courtesy of my phone, which, while awesome and pretty decent at playing camera, is no match for Rich's actual camera. So if some of the pics look like cell phone pics, it's 'cause they are.