Saturday, July 13, 2013

Macarons from Afar

My family left last week for a trip to Paris. I resisted the urge to climb into their luggage and instead recommended they head straight to the pastry shops of Paris upon arrival. "Forget the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre - those can wait! You must have Macarons," I urged them. I've never been to Paris, but when I go, I intend to map out all of the famous pastry shops and visit each and every one of them. It appears that my family heeded my advice. I present to you authentic Pierre Hermé Macarons in all of their glory. They are almost too beautiful to eat, so I had to snap a few photos before sampling:
Macarons from Paris
Pierre Herme Macarons
My family must have predicted the tremendous wave of sadness that would overcome me as I finished the last of these beauties, so they brought me another keepsake from their Parisian tour:
Galignani Packaging
They visited the Galignani book store, which was founded in 1810, and is the oldest English bookstore in Europe. I unwrapped the package to find this delightful cookbook:
Macarons Book Cover
The photography in this book is beautiful and I can't wait to whip up some of these petite treats. This is the gift that keeps on giving - I will have to bring some of these to our next family gathering.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Perfect Summertime Meal: Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls from Art of Sweet Tea blog
I'm enjoying what's left of this nice 4-day Fourth of July holiday weekend. It's been a nice and relaxing holiday spent with family and friends with the requisite cook-outs, sweet iced tea and mosquito repellent. Perhaps if I didn't consume all of the sweet tea, I would not need the bug repellent. I'm a mosquito magnet, it seems. I was only outside about 5 minutes attempting to photograph a couple of items for this blog post, when I looked down and had at least 3 mosquitoes on my legs. I quickly swatted at them and managed to get a few decently sharp shots of the tasty spring rolls featured here today. These rolls make the perfect summertime meal and are a great alternative to a salad. This weekend, my sister-in-law also introduced me to a new spring roll water bowl gadget which makes the process of moistening the spring roll wrapper so much easier, so I decided to share it here today.

To make these spring rolls, you first need the rice paper wrappers:
Spring Roll Wrapper
We get ours at the local Asian market, but I've seen them in the International Food aisle of our local Kroger. These wrappers are sometimes tricky to work with and it takes a bit of practice to roll these. This little gadget makes the process of moistening the wrapper a breeze:
Rice Paper Water Bowl
Spring Roll Wrapper Water Bowl
The wrappers are stored on the side and the bowl is filled with warm water. Just grab a wrapper and dip it in the bowl of water and swirl it around until all edges are moist. Put it flat on a plate and begin adding ingredients in the middle of the wrapper. Begin rolling as if rolling a burrito or taco.
The White on Rice Couple blog has an excellent tutorial on making spring rolls. Also, Amazon carries this water bowl if you're not able to find them locally. Here's the link.

Once you have the wrapper, you're halfway there. The only other things you need are veggies and other goodies to fill it with. For our rolls, we used rice noodles, bean sprouts, shrimp, pineapple, lettuce, cucumber, shredded carrots and assorted mint leaves. The beauty of these rolls is that you can fill them with anything you want. The latest issue of Southern Living even featured these with peaches. Sounds delicious!

To complete this dish, you need the Nuoc Mam or Fish Sauce for dipping:
Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce Recipe
My sister-in-law gave me the recipe she uses, which has just the right amount of sweetness. We use the Three Crabs brand of Fish Sauce, although if you can't find it, just use whatever you're able to find.
Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce Three Crabs Brand

Nuoc Mam or Vietnamese Fish Sauce

1 Clove minced garlic
4 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1/3 Cup warm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 diced Thai chili pepper (optional)
Shredded carrots for garnish (optional)

Mix well until sugar dissolves. Divide into small bowls for dipping.