You guys!! I am so excited to be bringing Cookbook Club back to the blog and it's better than ever.
I'm also THRILLED / OVER THE MOON / DELIGHTED to introduce you to our very first editor here at What's Gaby Cooking besides me!! Please put your hands together for Kristina Gill!!
Kristina and I have known each other for years. We're basically best friends by association via Matt and it's a real shame we all don't live in the same city because we would have a BALL together! Kristina is a native Nashvillian and a co-author and photographer of the award-winning cookbook Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City (you'll remember that from cookbook club #1). She is also the former food and drinks editor at DesignSponge.com - and all of that is just her epic side hustle. She is basically doing her part to save the world as a humanitarian adviser focused on food assistance in Rome, Italy. Are we all jealous that we're not there with her right now? Yes. She also has a love of all things Hello Kitty serveware and honestly.... I AM HERE FOR IT!
Anyways... please give her a warm welcome! She's taking over the Cookbook Club column here on WGC and making it better than ever! We'll be bringing you new and incredible cookbooks once a month, interviews with the authors and a recipe from that said cookbook! So without further ado... take it away Kristina (and go follow her on IG!)!
It is really great to be back in a role in which I am able to share great cookbooks with engaged readers who love to cook! When Gaby proposed resuming and updating Cookbook Club and handing me the reins, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! Even though we could live on Gaby’s food alone, it sometimes is really nice to try other recipes to see not just how they taste, but how easy they are to make, whether you’ll make them as they are again, whether there are some elements you’d like to keep and incorporate into other dishes you like to make.
Our first book, Andrea Nguyen’s Vietnamese Food Any Day, has to be one of the best books to come through our hands in the past couple of years and we think it is a perfect match for everyone here on WGC (unless you hate cilantro... in which case try the recipes but omit!) Vietnamese Food Any Day is full of fresh flavors, a range of meat, tofu and fish dishes, vegetable and rice-based dishes (rice, noodles, wrappers, rice flour!). There are summery salads full of herbs and cold dishes as well as warming wintery soups. But the heat index is 104 degrees outside where I am so I don’t want to think about hot soup. I do want to think about Andrea’s Honey-Glazed Pork Riblets, Shaking Beef, Streetside Corn and Chile, Ginger-Garlic fish parcels, Rice Noodle Salad Bowl, and No-Churn Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream.
As with many cookbooks, you may need to buy a few things you don’t already have in your pantry, but I promise they will not be expensive, nor will they go to waste. This book is really one of those books that will go on heavy rotation, using a high percentage of the recipes, because of the flavors and how quickly you can put a main dish on the table in under a half hour from so many of the recipes-- perfect for people with small children, limited time for cooking, or who just wants to have great food without spending an eternity preparing it!
None of the techniques are complicated, and I bet if there were something a bit difficult we could get Gaby’s to do an IG live to show us! If you make any of the recipes from the book, please tag them #WGCcookbookclub on insta so we can see!
Here’s a link to the book at The Lit. Bar. Remember to buy your books from one of your favorite independent booksellers, as often as possible, to keep them in business! Small businesses are the backbone of our communities and we need them! We will link to a different independent bookseller each month so we can spread the love.
Time for a little Q+A with Andrea:
What's your favorite recipe in the book and why? Man, that's always hard to say. I'm proud of many of them and there are stories around many of them. Among the recipes I adore is the vibrant turmeric coconut rice on page 188. I'd been chasing that recipe for years. A good version alluded me because most coconut rice is made with coconut milk, which makes the rice heavy and potentially gummy. One day, I realized that my problem was the coconut milk. The milk in Vietnam is freshly made and light whereas what we get from cans and cartons here in America is thick and very rich. I've made coconut milk from scratch but I'd never make that required for any of my recipes. How many people would go through all that trouble? However, the popularity of coconut water and virgin coconut oil as mainstream ingredients gave me an opening: Those ingredients allowed me to impart tropical lilt and richness to the rice without weighing down the grains. Furthermore, while you can make the rice with ground turmeric, grating fresh turmeric into the rice makes it sing. Those three ingredients weren't readily available when my family got to America in 1975. But forty-five years later, their accessibility makes them game changers in making excellent Vietnamese food. I made that rice for my parents and they lit up.
For someone who's never cooked from your book before, what recipe would you tell them to cook first and why? Make the shaking beef or shaking tofu. They're easy and versatile. Plus, with all the veggies at a seasonal peak these days, you can brilliantly shake things up.
Which is the best recipe for when you have thirty minutes or less to prepare a meal? The ginger-garlic fish parcels is a fast way to put a meal on the table. Just add rice. You get to do some origami folding too!
Pizza, Pasta, or....? Noodle soup!
Beer, Wine, Cocktail, or....? Aperitivo! (If I have beer, it's a lager on ice -- Viet style.)
What is your favorite part of the cookbook writing process? Dreaming up the recipe collection so it tells a story and helps me fulfill my mission to get more people making Vietnamese food and understanding Asian cultures.
For the Marinated Beef
- 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 ½ pounds beefsteak, such as bottom sirloin (tri-tip) or New York strip, trimmed and cut into ¾-to 1-inch cubes
- 1-2 tablespoons canola oil
For the Salad
- ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion or shallot
- 1 ½ teaspoon sugar or honey
- 2 pinches fine sea salt
- 4 grinds black pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 4 cups lightly packed watercress, baby arugula, or other salad greens
- ¼ cup fresh mint, basil, or other herb leaves, torn (optional)
- 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
For the Salad
- Rinse the onion in a strainer under cold running water for about 10 seconds, then set aside. In a large bowl (suitable for tossing the salad), whisk together the sugar, salt, pepper, vinegar, and water. Add the onion, top with the watercress, and, if you wish, add the mint and tomatoes, but don’t toss.
For the Marinated Beef
- In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, pepper, garlic, 1½ tablespoons of the oyster sauce, the soy sauce, and fish sauce. Taste and, if a saltier finish is needed, add up to 1½ teaspoons oyster sauce. Add the beef, toss to coat well, and let marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature. Keep the canola oil nearby.
- Set a large skillet that can get very hot (such as carbon steel or cast iron) over high heat and add enough of the canola oil to film the bottom. When the oil is shimmering, carefully add the beef, spreading it out in one layer, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, shaking the pan every 30 to 60 seconds to sear the beef on all sides; it should be medium-rare. (If you want to minimize mess, cover the pan with a splatter guard, and flip the meat with a spatula.) Remove from the heat.
- Quickly toss the salad and transfer everything, including the dressing, to a platter or serving dish. Pile the cooked beef and its juices on top, and serve immediately. At the table, ceremoniously combine all the ingredients and invite diners to dive in.
“Reprinted with permission from Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.” Photography credit: Aubrie Pick © 2019