Friday, May 18, 2012

Swapper Profile: Jim Ratcliffe + Spring Roll Salad Recipe

Jim showing off some freshly foraged chanterelles
I am pleased as punch to bring you the latest swapper profile installment, featuring Jim Ratcliffe. Jim is one of our swap faithful, and along with his girlfriend Olga has attended every swap but one, plus hosted our second swap last summer in their gorgeous yard with a view. Not only does Jim bring awesome and unusual food items every time, his smile lights up the room, and of course he ups our dude quotient considerably too. Jim's previous swap items have included candy cap mushroom cookies (you can see from the pic he's an avid forager), roasted red peppers, Moroccan preserved lemons, and Nam, Thai fermented pork. His potluck dishes always bring oohs and aahs too, so we're extra lucky he's shared his smash hit Spring Roll Salad recipe below. If you were at the February swap, you've likely been waiting for this! Read on and prepare to be hungry by the end of this post.

Jim Ratcliffe

Home (+ hometown swap):
San Francisco


How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago?
My girlfriend Olga and I came to the first swap and were hooked!

What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice?
I made Kimchi and Spring rolls.

Jim's spring rolls at the February swap

What’s your favorite thing about swapping?
Meeting folks, swapping foods, and coming home to unpack a gorgeous box of yummy foods that I would probably never make for myself. 

Who or what most influences your cooking?
Travel, serendipity, and the challenge of using unconventional ingredients.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
Mac knives and a silicone ball whisk. 

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession?
I think I have been obsessed with Thai and Vietnamese cooking for a while now. It fascinates me because it challenges most of our western assumptions about flavors, ingredients, and cooking technique. 

Biggest food surprise?
Stinky tofu. I love fermented, rotten foods, but I will never forget my first bite of stinky tofu.  

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be?
Shishnu, a Nepali soup made from nettles with a little ground buffalo meat mixed in. It’s divine, and reminds me of my first trip to the Himalaya. Then I'd go for a northern Thai/Burmese dish called Kao Soi and finish up with some simple poached pears and ice cream.

When I'm not in the kitchen I'm _________.
In the dining room. 

Favorite local food experience:
The Alemany farmer's market, foraging for wild mushrooms on the coast, and charter fishing out of Half Moon Bay.

Recipe by Jim: 

This salad is incredible!
Spring Roll Salad

I love to improvise in the kitchen, and every once in a while, I come up with a dish where everything clicks. At last I found something fun to do with Asian pears! My inspiration was to take the sour, crunchy goodness of a Thai Green Papaya salad, and enhance it with the crisp textures and flavors you find in a fresh spring roll. This recipe is very adaptable... once you get the dressing down, you can really empty out the fridge with it.  It also works great for potlucks.

Dry Ingredients:
Rice Stick noodles, 7 oz (1/2 package) Go for Three Ladies Brand, the narrow, flat ones work best. 
Dried Shrimp (1/4 cup or more, chopped roughly.)

Rice stick noodles and dried shrimp

Put the noodles and dried shrimp in warm water and let them soak while you gather and prepare the other ingredients. 

Have all your ingredients ready
For the Dressing:
4-5 limes
Tamarind pulp (optional)
Fish sauce (Phu Quoc, Three Crabs, or Red Boat)
Sesame oil
Palm sugar
Dried red chillis
Thai chillis (or serranos)
Thai basil

Fresh Ingredients:
Fresh young spinach leaves or lettuce
Grape tomatoes
Asian Pear or apple (1/2)
Crushed peanuts (1/2 cup) 

The dressing is key
Make the dressing: Combine the following in a medium bowl: the juice of 4-5 limes, tamarind pulp, 2-3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1-2 chunks of palm sugar (the palm sugar can be crushed or chopped to help it dissolve) and 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Whisk for 30 seconds. Add: 5 thinly sliced shallots 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup mint, 1/4 cup Thai basil (roughly chopped), crushed dried chillis, and finely chopped fresh chillis. Cube the tofu and add to the dressing. Taste and adjust, the dressing should be very sour, a little salty and sweet. 

Set a medium-sized pot of water to boil and prepare the fresh ingredients. Cut each ingredient uniformly to highlight its color, form, and texture. 

Cutting fresh ingredients
Put the noodles in the boiling water. Don't overcook- it only takes about two minutes for them to be done. Noodles should be slightly firm, but cooked: 10 seconds makes a difference. Empty noodles in a colander and rinse them in cold water until they are room temperature. 

Add noodles to a large bowl. Dress them with a little sesame oil. Combine all ingredients, and toss with dressing. Taste and add more fish sauce/lime juice if needed. The salad should not need salt, as there is plenty in the fish sauce.

Refrigerate for an hour to let it figure itself out. Enjoy!

Jim's salad was a hit at the swap potluck!

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