Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow)


Thai beef with Siam queen basil and scallion cooked in a cast-iron wok over hot coals on a charcoal grill. Intense heat is needed to achieve a great sear on the beef, while keeping the vegetables crisp.

This is a legendary Thai dish which quickly became one of my favorites after having it served at two local Asian restaurants in Green Bay, Wisconsin; May’s Egg Rolls and Plia’s Kitchen. At May’s they use a super-secret killer spice which I never could figure out… it’s Vietnamese, brutally hot and the owner will not share the recipe with me. 🙂

I grow fresh Thai queen basil and peppers every summer in my garden and am always bummed at the end of harvest season when they aren’t available.  The steak is marinated with Laoganma black bean chili paste, which is a staple in my kitchen. It adds such a great, subtle flavor to my stir fry recipes.

Control the heat with the ground Thai chili powder – you can also add hot Thai green chilies if preferred. A note on the garlic – you’ll see that I add it directly to the beef marinade instead of frying it separately in the wok. I’ve learned it doesn’t scorch this way, and it adds a complex depth of flavor to the beef. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

4 tbs. canola or peanut oil, divided
12 oz. flank steak, thin-sliced at a bias against the grain
2 tbs. cornstarch
1 small white or red onion, thinly sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh Thai queen or holy basil leaves, stems removed
3 scallion, roots trimmed and sliced at a bias in 1″ pieces (use both white and green parts)
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

For the Beef Marinade~
6 cloves peeled garlic, minced
1 tbs. Mongolian chili oil
2 tbs. Laoganma black bean chili paste

Combine For the Sauce~
1 tbs. Thai fish sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
2 tsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground hot red Thai chili powder, to taste

1/4 cup reserved beef stock (use up to 1/4 cup based on preference)

Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions  (1.5 cups rice and 3 cups water with 2 tbs. salted butter.)
Bring water and butter to boil and simmer rice over very low heat, tightly covered for 15 minutes. Fluff and serve.

Cooking Tools: heavy cast-iron or steel wok, heat-resistant silicone oven mitts, Asian wok shovel and spider strainer, serving bowl for transferring the beef.

 

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the steak marinade:  Slice the flank steak thinly at a bias against the grain. Place in a ziplock storage bag with the minced garlic, Laoganma black bean chili paste and the Mongolian chili oil. Squeeze the bag to evenly distribute the spices. Chill in your fridge for at least one hour.

Prep all of your other ingredients so you have them ready and close at hand. Thai cooking is very fast, with just a few minutes of actual time in the wok over a hot outdoor grill.

When ready, prepare an outdoor grill with enough charcoal in a mound for a medium hot fire. Light and let it come up to temperature for 15-20 minutes. While the grill is heating up, remove the steak from the fridge and place in a mixing bowl. Dust with the cornstarch and turn with a spatula so the pieces are evenly coated. Set aside and allow to warm up to room temperature.

Place the wok directly over the center of the hot coals on a grilling grate. Allow it to come up to temperature and smoke, about three minutes. The wok will be ready when a drop of cold water sizzles on contact. Add 2 tbs. canola oil and swirl to coat. Add the beef, spread and distribute evenly in the wok. Allow to sear for 2 minutes before turning. Continue to sear for 3-5 minutes. Transfer the beef to a serving bowl and set aside.

Next, add the remaining 2 tbs. of canola oil, the bell pepper and onion. Stir-fry until just crisp-tender. Add the beef back to the wok and then add the sauce ingredients except for the beef stock. Stir constantly until reduced by half. Quickly add the basil leaves and scallion. Stir until just wilted, about a minute, and add a bit of the beef stock until the desired consistency is achieved for the sauce. Quickly stir to incorporate.

Carefully remove the wok from the grill, using silicone mitts, and set on a heavy, heat-resistant trivet. Serve immediately with jasmine rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

A note on the flank steak: I’ve used this special cut of steak for all of my stir-fry recipes with great results. If you cut it at a bias against the grain of the meat, it will never dry out and always be fall-apart tender. I buy a full cut that is vacuum-packed and divide it in half the long way. I’ll then vacuum-seal the remaining half and freeze it for later use. If you prep the steak when partially frozen, it cuts much more evenly. Just ensure you let it warm to room temperature before wok-searing.

Serves 2-4

Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes

Classic Italian Pesto


Italian Garden Pesto | Culinary Compost RecipesThis stunning recipe is classic Italian. Using only seven simple ingredients, its vibrant color and aroma elevates any meal. Toss with pasta or spread on thinly-sliced grilled Italian or French bread. It’s also amazing on grilled fish and pan-fried eggs.

Pine nuts are expensive and can be hard to find; a 2.5-oz. package runs almost seven bucks. Most major supermarkets should carry them, but you can substitute walnuts or pistachios in a pinch. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups packed garden basil leaves
1/2 cup XV olive oil
4 cloves crushed garlic, minced fine
1/2 cup grated hard Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts (2.25 oz.)
Kosher salt and fresh-ground coarse black pepper, to taste.

DIRECTIONS:

Trim and rinse the basil leaves under cold water. Blot dry. Place in a food processor with the minced garlic and pine nuts. Pulse until smooth, about thirty seconds, while slowly adding the olive oil. Fold in the Parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper. Mix gently until incorporated. Serve immediately – best used within one day.

Makes a little over 2 cups.

Italian Garden Basil | Culinary Compost Recipes

Italian garden basil grown in a patio pot. Make the most out of your hard-won harvest by making authentic pesto.

Pane Bianco Torsione (Italian White Twist Bread with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil)


Pane Bianco Torsione (White Twist Bread with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil) | Culinary Compost RecipesI stumbled upon this recipe in an effort on further honing my bread-making skills. It is shown here, verbatim on King Arthur Flour’s website.  Quite simply stated, it blew me away and was a huge hit with my family. The preparation is tedious, but not overly complicated. The visual presentation is stunning and if you follow the directions step-by-step, it’s virtually impossible to screw up. Trust me, if I can make this, anyone can. In my version, I added a bit more salt and also added sugar to the dough, based on other bread recipes from my family.

 

INGREDIENTS:

~For the Dough:

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
2 tsp. instant quick-rise yeast (one package)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbs. white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 tbs. XV olive oil

~For the Filling:

3/4 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (1/2 of a 7-oz. jar)
3 to 6 cloves garlic, roasted, peeled and minced
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

 

PREPARATION:

Prepare the dough by combining all of the ingredients shown in a large mixing bowl. Using a silicone spatula, fold by hand until the dough starts to pull away from the bowl.
Remove and set on a floured work surface. Fold and knead by hand for six to ten minutes, until the dough has firmed up. Add a bit more water or flour if needed. The consistency of the dough should be tacky and soft. Gently form it into a ball and transfer to a greased bowl about double in size of the dough ball.

Place the bowl in your oven and turn on the oven light. Cover with a towel dampened with warm water. Let rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until doubled in size. Your time may vary.

While you are waiting, drain the tomatoes on a paper towel. Squeeze out the excess olive oil. Mince and set aside.
Finely chop the basil and set aside.
Measure the shredded Italian cheese and set aside.
Roast, peel and finely chop the garlic. Add to the tomatoes and mix to incorporate.

After the dough has risen, gently deflate and then roll into a 22″ x 8″ rectangle. Spread the cheese, basil, tomato and garlic evenly over the entire surface.

Carefully roll the dough into a 22″ log by turning it the long way. You will need to turn it over itself at least once. Crimp the edges together and pinch the ends shut.
Turn it so the seam side is down. Carefully place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Using a kitchen shears, cut a slit down the length of the loaf, at the top, stopping about 1″ from each end.
Twist the log into an “S” shape and tuck the ends under the center of the loaf, forming a figure-8, while keeping the slit to the top.

Cover with plastic wrap and let the loaf rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes.
While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Uncover the bread, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning.
Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature, drizzled with quality XV olive oil. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.

Serves 6
Makes one loaf

Pane Bianco Torsione (White Twist Bread with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil) | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pane Bianco Torsione (White Twist Bread with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil) | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pane Bianco Torsione (White Twist Bread with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil) | Culinary Compost Recipes

End-of-Summer Acorn Squash Soup with Fresh Basil


End-of-Summer Acorn Squash Soup with Fresh Basil | Culinary Compost Recipes

 

This is a savory, velvety-smooth soup that’s perfect for cold fall afternoons. You can substitute thinly-sliced scallion greens for the basil. Sour cream adds a richer base of flavor, but you can also use one cup of heavy cream instead. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

3 garden acorn squash, halved and seeded
4 tbs. XV olive oil
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tbs. salted butter (room temperature)
1 dry bay leaf
1 tsp. Spanish smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. dry tarragon
4 large cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup fresh-grated quality hard Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Thinly-sliced fresh garden basil as a garnish

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°-F. Using a very sharp 12” chef knife, carefully halve the acorn squash and core out the seeds and pulp with a spoon. Lop off the ends on each piece so they will sit level on a cookie sheet.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, place the squash halves on the sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Remove and set aside for ten minutes to cool.

While the squash is baking, heat a small, heavy cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the garlic cloves. Leave the husks on. Turn occasionally and roast for about ten minutes until slightly charred. Remove, let cool and then peel.

Spoon out the squash and transfer to a blender. Add the chicken stock, roasted garlic, sour cream, salted butter, smoked paprika, tarragon, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth.

Transfer to a heavy soup pot. Add the grated Parmesan cheese. Stir well and add the bay leaf. Cook over medium-low heat for about one hour, stirring often, so the flavors have time to incorporate. Serve with chopped fresh basil as a garnish.

Serves 6.

 

 

Thai Cucumber Salad


Thai Cucumber Salad with Fresh Garden Basil | Culinary Compost Recipes
This salad was one of my favorites at a local Thai restaurant. After some coaxing and a five-dollar tip, I persuaded an unexperienced doe-eyed waitress to part with the recipe. So are the perils of hacker-cuisine in Eastern Wisconsin. The perfect side dish on a hot day — try it with grilled corn and pork chops.

 

Ingredients:

1/4 cup red or rice wine vinegar
Juice from one fresh lemon or lime
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, to taste
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and julienned
1 large jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup washed cilantro leaves
2 large, fresh garden Thai basil leaves, cut in thin strips (optional)

 

Preparation:

Mix the dressing, salt, sugar and pepper in a dish using a wire whisk.  Add to the veggies and toss to coat. Cover and chill in your fridge for at least 2 hours.

You can substitute a fresh serrano or jalapeno pepper for the pepper flakes.

Serves 4