Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March 10th - Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Peanuts

The Other Side...
Like I was saying yesterday, one of the first kitchens I ever worked in was this small family owned Italian restaurant.  The owner wanted me to come in for a "test run"...meaning, I would have to come in and cook for him to see if my skills were up to par.  In researching this restaurant, I noticed that there were some stories on the internet of this site being haunted.  Interesting...  Apparently the restaurant used to be a brothel owned by Al Capone (at least that's how the stories go).  According to internet lore, there were a lot of unexplained events that took place over the years as the site changed hands from owner to owner.

 I decided not to think anymore of it then just some wierd stories that may or may not be true.  I wasn't a big believer in ghosts.  So, I went to the "interview", really nervous, and they wanted me to make none other than chicken vesuvio and some other pasta dish.  They gave me the kitchen, some ingredients, and told me to go at it.   There were only 3 people in the whole restaurant (it hadn't opened yet) beside myself there and they all decided to hang out in the dining room.  The kitchen was very small with only 1 entrance/exit which if you stepped into, you'd be right in the middle of the line (there would be no missing you). 

The whole time I was in the kitchen, I felt like I was being watched.  I thought maybe the owner had come and gone from the doorway.  I was too busy (and nervous) to pay attention, so I just kept focused on my cooking.  The chicken vesuvio was done and I plated it up (they had given me a big platter for it).  So I left the plated up chicken on the stove top and went to go grab a quart of cream to finish off the pasta dish.  The cooler is what we call in the industry a "reach in".  This one happened to be under the counter only a few steps away from the stove.  I grabbed the cream and turned back to the stove and found that the dish of chicken wasn't there.  At first, I thought, that's wierd, where did it go.  I turned around and it was sitting on counter behind me.  At that moment, I literally had shivers run down my back and my arms felt cold.  I know, that I did not put that dish there. Remembering that I had a time limit to get these dishes done, I didn't have time to think too much about it.  I was freaked out, but needed to continue. 

So, I finshed and brought out the food to the table in the dining room.  We got to eating, they critiqued the food, and we sat around talking.  I nonchalantly asked if they had been in the dining room the entire time, because it felt like someone kept coming in the kitchen watching me.  They all stopped what they were doing and stared at me.  They asked me to elaborate further. I just said, it felt like somebody was watching me.  They asked if anything else happened?  I thought they were pulling a prank now, so I told them about the chicken and they just shook their heads and said I was visited by the "ghosts".  They were serious about not having left the dining room.

So, I pretended stupid and asked about the ghosts.  They told me the whole story about the place belonging to Al Capone at one time and being a brothel.  Apparently there were three.. maybe four... ghosts that haunted the place.  A woman, a child, a man, and "a darkness" (their words) that lived in the attic and was "evil".   (I never really experienced the "darkness", but I did come to have encounters with the other three).  I can tell you I'm no longer a skeptic.  That feeling of coldness and the shivers was something I won't forget. 

Other encounters included the fryer turning itself on (after I turned it off..again, no one in the kitchen).  One time, as I was going into the basement store room, it felt like someone took my elbow and was guiding me (or pushing me) down the stairs.  Again, a very cold creepy feeling came over me.  Lots of things just being re-organized as soon as you turn your back.   I never did see anything or hear anything.  It always just felt like a presence. 

I ended up leaving there (unrelated to the ghosts) only after a few short months.  But, I remember that time and the eerie things that happened there.  It's neat to look back on it now, but at the time it was more of a nuisance then anything. 


Lime Juice: had
Fish Sauce: $1.79
Sugar: had
Jalapeno: $0.33
Garlic: had
Cucumbers $0.99
Red Onion: $0.79
Mint: had
Peanuts: had

Total: $3.90


Fast:  This recipe was really quick.  I think it took me 10 minutes total.

Easy:  The hardest part is the chopping.  It's a simple salad, really quite easy.

Fresh:  This is one of those recipes that really has a combination of good ingredients that make it taste uber-fresh.  The mint, cucumbers, lime juice, and jalepeno all work well together for a refreshing salad.

Overall:  I really like this recipe.  Some people may not like the fish sauce.  In that case, take it out and add a little bit of low-sodium soy sauce (less than a Tablespoon).  I actually like the fish sauce in it, it gives a really great Thai flavor.  I would make it a little more spicy by adding some crushed red pepper flakes. 

Tommorrow looks like a great pasta dish!!

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