September 17, 2019

Simple, Real Food: Eating Light, But Still Tasty

I have always been a fan of lighter food even at the height of my catering career in NYC when I would cook for hundreds, at the end of the day I love to eat clean, simple meals.  Simple doesn’t mean boring or dull mind you, but can be the best if you chose quality ingredients.

People often ask me where I shop since we are not exactly in the middle of it all here and I must admit I drive all over to find ingredients that I enjoy.  It is worth the effort and, if planned properly, you can make a twice a month trip either north or west and you have many options for food shopping.

I personally prefer to take 95 South and hit Orange and Milford due to the abundance of markets along the Post Road. From Trader Joes and Whole Foods to Lin Asian Market, the Post road from exits 39 to 41 has it all.  If you live closer to Haddam, taking a trip to Glastonbury or West Hartford will be perfect for everything from a fabulous Whole Foods to wonderful Asian markets.

I love ethnic markets and Groton has a couple of good ones:– New Asia Market and Raj Cash and Carry both are ideal for ingredients from the East.

Here are a couple of recipes utilizing more exotic ingredients- perfect for entertaining:

Crispy_Fried_Shrimp_croppedFried Shrimp with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Makes 25


1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, de-veined, butter-flied

Flour with salt and pepper

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or unsweetened coconut

Vegetable oil


3/4 cup lime juice

3 Tb. fish sauce or soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tb. sugar

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes or 1 small Thai chili, minced


  1. Dredge the shrimp in seasoned flour. Then dip in the egg and then the bread crumbs.
  2. Place the shrimp on a baking sheet.
  3. Heat up a saucepan and add enough oil to come up halfway. When the oil is hot fry the shrimp a few at a time until golden. Drain on paper towels.
  4. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer a few minutes.
  5. Serve the shrimp with the sauce.


Rice Noodles with Cilantro, Peanuts and Mint

Serves 6


¼ cup rice vinegar

1 Tb. sugar

1 Vidalia onion, cut into half moons

8 oz. rice noodles


¼ cup lime juice

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 scallions, sliced thinly

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1/3 cup mint, chopped

3 Tb. fish sauce*

1 Tb. soy or tamari sauce

Stir Fry:

1 Tb. vegetable oil

2 Tablespoons, chopped dry roasted peanuts

1 large cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, thinly sliced


  1. Combine the vinegar and sugar in a medium bowl and add the onion, cover and marinate for 30 minutes drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the liquid.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles for 2 minutes. Drain. Rinse well and transfer to a bowl and cut into three sections with scissors. Add the reserved vinegar and toss well.
  1. Combine the lime juice, oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, scallions, cilantro, fish sauce, mint and soy sauce in a medium bowl and whisk.
  2. Heat a large wok over high heat and heat the canola oil add the noodles and stir fry 4 minutes. Add the sauce and coat well. Serve on a platter with the onions, peanuts and cucumber on top

* for a vegan dish use all tamari in place of the fish sauce.

Amanda Cushman

Amanda Cushman

Editor’s Note: Amanda Cushman of Simple Real Food Inc., is a culinary educator who has cooked professionally for over 30 years.  She has taught corporate team building classes for over 15 years for a variety of Fortune 500 companies including Yahoo, Nike and Google.  She began her food career in the eighties and worked with Martha Stewart and Glorious Foods before becoming a recipe developer for Food and Wine magazine as well as Ladies Home Journal.  Having lived all over the United States including Boston, NYC, Miami and Los Angeles, she has recently returned to her home state of Connecticut where she continues to teach in private homes as well as write for local publications. 

Amanda teaches weekly classes at White Gate Farm and Homeworks and is also available for private classes.  Her cookbook; Simple Real Food can be ordered at Amazon as well as through her website 

For more information, click here to visit her website.


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