Easy Green Finish for Flavor Explosion!

The airborne passengers surrounding us we’re hacking and sneezing–it was like being trapped in an explosion of missiles.

Returned from Viet Nam (re: previous blog) totally fried. Yet, thanks to constant hand washing and a vigilant use of masks while flying, we managed to skirt that horrid flu that is bowling down folks across the globe.

So it seems wrong to complain about jet lag. But I’m still struggling.

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Horseradish-Watercress Dressing

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Horseradish-Watercress Dressing

And here it is, St. Patty’s Day in the wings and I want to be festive. My usual go-to is Corned Beef with Horseradish-Watercress Sauce but this year I’m looking for simplicity for our Blarney Blow-out.

Pic taken in central Viet Nam–Hoi An. A typical street vender ubiquitous in towns and villages across the country.

Viet Nam (their food fresh on my mind) hosts a vegetable-heady cuisine, the abundance of herbs added to dishes being no exception. Sometimes a large branch of fresh herb leaves would accompany rice paper wraps for seasoning whatever other goodies were brought to the table.

On a couple of occasions, I inquired as to the unfamiliar herb I was enjoying but the response was that there was no English name or equivalent. Our loss.

So back to St. Patty. Why not inject a flavor explosion onto a protein with a simple herbaciously green dressing reminiscent of a classic Chimichurri?

Whole Foods has beautiful wild-caught Coho salmon on sale. I found a simple little recipe in the New York Times for salmon on which I improvised, and voila!

Any fresh herb-vinegar-garlic combo would work when paired with fowl, fish or grilled meats, although I’d make sure you enjoy that herb (or herbs) in abundance. Fresh basil comes to mind. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Recipe:Roast Salmon with Cilantro-Chive Chimichuri


  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 generous cup (washed) chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2-2 pound salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 lemon or lime, cut into wedges
  • Assorted greens, such as spinach and chard, briefly sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes, if desired.


  1. To make the “chimichurri”, whisk together vinegar, half of the oil and garlic. Stir in cilantro and chives. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside.
  2. Adjust oven rack to upper third level. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (see notes).*
  3. Place fillets on an aluminum-covered baking sheet lightly coated with cooking oil spray. Whisk cumin, paprika and remaining oil together. Brush over salmon fillets. Season fillets with kosher and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Roast fillets until desired level of doneness.* (I prefer my salmon slightly underdone in the center.) At this oven temperature, for the thinner fillets this could be 6-8 minutes. For the thicker fillets, 10-12 minutes. When the salmon flakes under the pressure of your thumb, it is done and could be overdone, depending on your palate. Remember that the fish will continue cooking when removed from oven. (See additional notes below.
  5. Remove fillets from oven and spoon cilantro chimichurri over top. Serve with lemon and sautéed greens, if desired.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Roasting Time: Depends on thickness of salmon fillet and temperature of oven (see * below notes)

*NOTES: Much debate is given to the cooking time of fish. Some prefer baking at lower temperatures for a longer time (300 degrees for 15-18 minutes for this recipe); some recommend cooking right out of refrigeration while others recommend cooking from room temperature. And, of course, all of this is compounded by the thickness of the fillets. Experiment to see which method works best for you. Absolutely remove your thin fillets from the oven a couple of minutes before the thicker ones.

Number of servings (yield):  4 servings

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Chúc mừng năm mới from Hanoi!

Happy Lunar New Year!

This marks Richard’s and my fourth week of traveling through SE Asia and every 12 hours of experience is the equivalent of 12 months of my North American day-to day. Which works up quite an appetite. Motto for this adventure: “One should go into the unknown on an empty stomach.” (Abraham Garcia)

After eating our way through Bangkok, we had a brief jaunt through Cambodia and then wormed our way up through Vietnam. Now we’re at the finish where I’m currently holed up in a hotel room in Hanoi trying to unravel thoughts about this trip. It’s tough–esp. without my kitchen, my haven where I unwind and reflect. All I’ve got is a tea kettle to smoke out the muse, who insists it’s best to begin where we’re ending.


Equating the mindset of the Vietnamese to that of Northern Americans is tricky business.

One analogy could be in comparing traffic patterns. In the United States vehicles flow in tidy linear patterns. In Vietnam—at least to this Western mind—it’s quotidian madness. The streets are thick with every imaginable vehicle, with every imaginable object (inc. infant and fowl) strapped onto said vehicle, going in every imaginable direction possible––including the sidewalks.

If ever a trip had an understatement this would be it: Navigating Vietnam is a dodgy business.

To survive, one must develop a third eye, which comes by walking head-on into the traffic; by noting you’d just paid three times as much for a fried duck then the woman at your side who haggled the vendor down for a bird twice the size; by understanding that the word no is simply an invitation for negotiations. In Vietnam there’s always an in, a way to wiggle through the cracks.

Upon arriving in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, we entered a riotous asylum of screeching scooters and bicyclists hawking their wares from perilously balanced stands on their seats.

Crumbling sidewalks are packed elbow to elbow with vendors selling produce, butchered meats, fish and folks slurping soups—savory Phos—recently ladled from bubbling cauldrons. Merely crossing the street was akin to my panic prior to bungee jumping off a cliff in New Zealand.

Two options: Either plant my flag in a mound of sticky rice, curl up into a fetal position and die, or cowgirl up, grab my camera and plunge into the madness.
Choosing the later, I began deciphering the order in the chaos and discovered the first secret is to walk very slowly, continuously glancing from right to left. They’ll stop—or just bump you a bit. The streets are so jammed that it’s impossible to pick up much speed to do much damage.

Next goal, begin sampling the street foods.  And the street food. Oh, the street food. One evening we took a Seafood Street Food Tour (see above photo; more to follow on that adventure,) and that’s when I fell madly in love with Hanoi, her people and her food. Since we’re entering their Lunar New Year this week, the foods are at their most spectacular and savory right now.

Imagine the traditional foods of Thanksgiving, the spirituality of Chanukah and Christmas and the partying of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day rolled into one big box and you have Tet—the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.
Before the fifteenth of December in the Lunar Calendar, Vietnamese spruce up worship areas in their homes to prepare for the procession of the Kitchen God’s return to heaven by biding farewell to the old year to greet the new.

The Kitchen God, as in neighboring China, is the most important of the domestic gods protecting the hearth and family.

Peach, apricot blossom and kumquat trees are strapped onto scooters and zipped off to decorate homes and alters, paying homage to ancestral Gods. And everyone’s gussied up for the occasion.
Buddhism plays a major role to the Vietnamese so temples and pagodas are more crowded than ever. This week has been a great time for cultural immersion, even though I stand out like a lumbering white beast!
And this lumbering beast is travel weary, looking forward to recreating some of these marvelous foods at home.And when I cook, forever planted in my mind will be the faces of the beautiful people we’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned from this fascinating place, a culture that has much to teach.

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Roasted Cherry Tomato & Goat Cheese Crostini + 2 Favorite Thai-inspired Soups


For a blast of bright August flavor on a frigid January day, try roasting tomatoes. Baking or roasting transforms the winter tomato, minimizing the mealy texture and maximizing their sweet flavor.

Last weekend I concocted the recipe below, and brought the appetizer (pictured above) to a party. I saved time by having the baker slice the baguette and purchasing pre-made Olive Tapenade from Trader Joe’s. (If you live near one of their stores, get the tapenade that’s found in their refrigerated section, not their shelf-stable product.)

Roasting other vegetables, such as cauliflower or Brussels Sprouts or broccoli, and incorporating them into recipes conjures the same magic.


Tomorrow I wave goodbye to the tundra heading off with my man for a month in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

After a couple of days in trains, airports and planes (we’re saving a ridiculous amount of money flying out of Chicago instead of Detroit), the ninety degree temps will be a wake-up call to my weary wintry soul.

My favorite part about traveling is experiencing the food–the ideal gateway to the people and their culture. Food is so easy. Who can be offended when you approach to inquire, “Do you have any suggestions where I can eat?” It’s the starting  point for many interesting conversations. Can’t speak the language? So what. Food is multilingual. Restaurant owners will love, perhaps even invite you into their backstage world,  if you appreciate their food with smiles and thumbs up gestures.

Most of the time will be spent traveling up Viet Nam, the last spot, Hanoi, where we’re spending a week. The city’s a culinary paradise fusing flavors from France, China and Viet Nam. You can believe I’ve been scrutinized the street food and restaurant scene online. I’m wary of Trip Advisor as some of the higher starred places tend to be Asian cooking adapted to the American palate, but this Food Republic site’s been worthy. Scrutinizing their site and the links, I feel as if I’m studying for the Bar (-:

Thai Green Curry Shrimp and Broccoli Soup

Thai Green Curry Shrimp and Broccoli Soup

As scorching as it can be in Southeast Asia, it’s remarkable how insanely popular their hot soups are–the locals eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Something about the heat of the broth and spice that cools you down as you slurp. Whatever. All I know is that for my money, these folks have cornered the market on soup.

I last travelled in Thailand several years back and made a couple of soups–a curried shrimp and a chicken upon my return to the States.

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Unless you live in the vicinity of a Pho House or other Asian eatery, they share little resemblance  to the USA versions of winter soups–those that you would find lining grocer’s shelves or steaming on a hot bar.

If inclined, give the recipes a try. The fresh lemongrass, coconut milk, fish sauces and chili’s may very well cure what ails you.

Be well, my friends, and remember to wash your hands often! The flu bug is vicious this year.

Recipe: Crostini with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese


  • 1 pint red cherry tomatoes, washed
  • 1 pint orange or yellow cherry tomatoes, washed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced into a chiffonade


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Toss tomatoes and garlic cloves in 1-2 tablespoon olive oil. Slightly season with kosher salt. Place on foil-lined baking sheet (covering garlic entirely in foil) and roast on middle rack of oven 13-15 minutes or until tomatoes are just beginning to collapse.

3. Meanwhile, spread goat cheese over 18-22 baguette slices.

3. Whisk balsamic vinegar into a tablespoon of olive oil. Chop garlic and stir into vinaigrette. When tomato are cool enough to handle, toss into vinaigrette.

4. Place one red and one yellow or orange tomato on each baguette. (You will have extra tomatoes and juice, which can be reserved for a quick pasta sauce.) Center a small dollop of tapenade in between the two tomatoes on each crostini; arrange basil chiffonade over crostini and serve.

Roast time: 13-15 minutes

Assembly time: 15 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 18-22 pieces

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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