Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Great Computer Crash of '09

Here's the tasty things that I had lined up that you will not be seeing:

Guatemalan black beans
White bean and tofu chili
Spicy white bean chicken soup
Halibut fish sticks

Thank you, Toshiba laptop, for dying a hard death only seven months after your purchase. I treated you well, kept you updated for viruses, never abused you with water or a fall. I really couldn't be more elated that you have chosen to die now that I have to pay the cost of a new Macbook to replace you. What did you do for me in those seven months? Nothing that is worth the $100 per month breakdown of your cost. You wooed me with your cheap price, $900 under the Macbook. Now I know your true cost because, somewhere in that Great Crashed Laptops home in the sky, you have all my photography and my iTunes library. Well-played, Toshiba, well-played.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

All Purpose Caramel Sauce

My kitchen seems to be constantly sticky as I make batch after batch of this stuff for gifts. I've drizzled it over sliced apples and topped those with warm, toasted almonds to create easy caramel apples for a work shin-dig. I've slathered a gift cheesecake with the stuff. On top of brownies, over a banana split...Caramel sauce makes everything better.

Caramel Sauce
makes three 6 ounce jars
3 cups white sugar
3/4 cup water
12 ounces heavy cream
3 tsp lemon juice
2 tbs pure vanilla extract
3 tbs butter

1. Place a two quart pot over medium heat. When warm, add the sugar and water. Stir until well combined.
2. Let the combination simmer but not boil, for 30 minutes or until the sugar looks like a dark, golden amber. Do not stir! Every five minutes, gently swirl the pot around.
3. When the sauce has turned color, turn the heat very low. Add the cream. It will bubble like crazy. Stir very well but do not try to stir in the stuff that has hardened around the sides. This stuff is basically rock candy and will only make your sauce chunky.
4. Add the lemon juice and vanilla. Keep stirring until well combined.
5. Remove from heat. Over a bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, strain the sauce using a fine-mesh sieve. Stir the butter into the bowl until melted.
If you are giving these away as gifts, you can put the sauce into the small glass canning jars and a) run them through a hot water bath to make the lid pop down for presentation purposes or b) just put the lid on because it has to go into the fridge either way.
For home use, I just stick it in a squeeze bottle and try to keep myself away from the apples.
This sauce will keep for about a month well-refrigerated.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hiatus Shmiatus

After our world was shook up in late July, the CrazyMonkeyHouse crew is back and ready to blog! I'm feeling 75% better and am eating again. The hiatus has ended.
Thank you to everyone that reached out to us to show support over the past few months. I'm very grateful to everyone that has CrazyMonkeyHouseEats on their reader list despite the lack of posts for a few months.
CrazyMonkeyHouseEats will resume its tasty posts by next week!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Smoked Almonds

This recipe isn't for everyone as it requires a smoker. There's none of that namby-pamby "smoke flavoring" here. If you do have one and are an almond lover, rejoice! Not only can you greatly reduce cost by smoking your own almonds, you'll probably enjoy the taste a lot more. Keep an eye out for sales on unroasted, unsalted almonds and buy them in bulk.

While it is a multi-day task, it's highly rewarding. I like to soak the nuts Friday night, dry them on Saturday, and smoke them on Sunday. The process isn't very labor-intensive until smoking day.
Make sure to keep your nuts away from the hottest part of the smoker. Otherwise, the back-breaking work of sorting the good nuts from the burned ones will make you thankful that you're not a professional almond sorter. It will also make you appreciate the next can of perfectly roasted nuts you purchase. Somewhere, in some third world country, some child sorted nuts for 12 hours a day to help fill that can.

Smoked Almonds

2 lbs unroasted, unsalted almonds
2 cups kosher salt
1 quart water
Hickory or Maple wood

1. In a large pot, combine the water and salt. Stir to dissolve.
2. Add the almonds. Set aside to soak for 24 hours.
3. Drain nuts. Set out to dry on paper towels.
4. Heat smoker, keeping heat between 180 and 200 F for the entire process.
5. Line smoker racks with cheesecloth and lay out nuts in one to two layers per rack.
6. Smoke for 3 - 4 hours, stirring every 20 minutes. Two hours in, alternate the rack positions.

After three hours, start checking your nuts for flavor. When the smoke taste permeates the entire nut, they are done.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shellfish in White Wine, Butter, and Garlic

I didn't mean to go so long without posting a recipe. Really. Hopefully, this recipe will make up for it. It's super quick, can be adjusted to feed many or few, and is impressive when served at dinner parties.

Shellfish in White Wine, Butter, and Garlic

24 mussels

24 clams

1 cup 80/110 scallops

8 tbs unsalted butter, cut into one tbs pieces

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 1/2 cups Viognier

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small white onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/4 cup chopped basil

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the wine, onion, garlic, and salt. Simmer until the onions are slightly translucent.
2. Add the clams and mussels. Cover, raise the heat to high, and cook until they are done (5 - 7 minutes).
3. Stir in the scallops.
4. Stir in the butter until melted.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the herbs.
Serve with a crusty bread for dipping!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Food Posting Will Resume Shortly

I apologize for the lack of updates on this site. Of course, anyone that knows what life has been like around here for the past month will understand. I'm not staying up long enough to make dinner most nights nor do I have energy to cook on the weekends. I've been surviving off of food that smiles, which has limited me to a diet of whole grain Goldfish crackers.

I did get a big craving for some drunken noodles today, so I think my cooking bone is ready to be flexed once again.

Soon...I promise.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mango Papaya Goodness

My mom stopped by recently and said, "You're looking slim!" Those words were enough to make me fall down and kiss her feet. Not really, but they did confirm what I already knew...Smoothies are waaaaaay better for you than ice cream.

Since I've been on my "smoothie a day" kick, I've noticed a marked improvement in my digestion and energy level. I've also determined that almost anything can be blended into something wonderful-tasting.
Tropical Fruit Smoothie

1/2 papaya, deseeded and scooped out
2 mangoes, skin and pit removed
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup orange juice

1. Put everything into the blender and blend until mostly combined.
2. Add ice to the top. Blend until smooth.
3. Enjoy the taste of the tropics. Try not think about how far the fruit travelled.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Caramel Corn

I had a terrible sweet tooth last night. Caramel corn seemed like the only answer which was quite surprising as I haven't made caramel corn in almost a decade. This recipe doesn't'll have bowl of concrete if you let it sit overnight. I suggest that you pop in a good movie, gather the family around the popcorn bowl, and eat every last bite.

Caramel Corn

3/4 cup corn kernels, popped (I like to filter out kernels that don't pop)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 stick butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla (I like Madagascar Bourbon vanilla)

1. Put the popped corn into a large, paper grocery bag. Set aside.
2. In a 2 quart microwave safe bowl, plop in the brown sugar, honey, and butter. Microwave on high for two minutes. Stir. Repeat twice. Sugar should be dissolved.
3. Remove from microwave and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.
4. Pour the topping over the popcorn. Wrap the top tight and shake well for a minute or two.
5. Microwave the entire bag on high for two more minutes. Remove and pour into a bowl.

I like to eat the corn after it has sat around for about 30 minutes and has had a chance to cool down.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ginger Chicken Soup

During and after college, I often made chicken packets. Chicken was cheap and it just took a few inexpensive ingredients to create a tasty meal. By the time my mid/late twenties hit, I chickened out. No more chicken! Interestingly enough, I found comfort in my arch nemesis, the turkey.

Recently, I've been craving chicken (no mom, I am not pregnant). I remembered how much I used to enjoy chicken packets and decided to create a more grown-up version.

My husband was so excited that chicken was allowed back into the house. He went on and on about he used to watch his mom chop the head off of chickens and pluck the feathers from their goose-fleshy body. Amazingly enough, I still wanted to eat chicken!

I apologize about the formating of the recipe. Blogger is having issues, apparently.

Ginger Chicken Soup

2 chicken breast halves, bone in and skin on

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

6 green onions, thinly sliced.

2 bird's eye chili, thinly sliced

1 cup snow peas, sliced

Juice of half a lemon

1 tbs soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

Cilantro, for garnish

Rice noodles, cooked according to instructions

1. Fill a large pot with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the water and let cool. Remove the skin from the meat and the breast from the bone. Add the skin and bones to the pot of water and simmer until reduced by half. Remove from heat. After 10 minutes, skim off the fat.

2. Set the chicken breast on a large piece of heavy-duty foil. Slice the breasts into four or five pieces.

3. In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, soy sauce, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Spread the ginger and half the green onion and chili slices between the chicken pieces. Pour the sauce on top.

4. Gather the sides together and fold over to form a tightly wrapped packet. BBQ over indirect heat (325 F) for 20 minutes, gently flipping every five minutes.

5. While the chicken cooks, prepare the rice noodles. When still a bit al dente, remove from water, drain, and run cold water over them to prevent sticking.

6. Heat the stock and add the nam pla, snow peas, and the remaining green onion and chili slices. Simmer for three minutes.

7. Divide the noodles into two bowls and add the broth. Unwrap the chicken and divide the meat and juices between the bowls and serve. Garnish with cilantro.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pho Gah! - Another Installment of "What Not to Cook"

When my husband and I first met six years ago, he was eating pho up to five times a week. Our third date was to his favorite pho restaurant. While I avoided the the tendon and tripe version, I didn't shy away from much else. I loved it!

Once we had been dating for awhile, he let me in on a secret. It hadn't been a date...It was a test. If I didn't appreciate his favorite food, I was wrong for him. A willingness to eat pho, he said, showed a sense of adventure and a general acceptance of things that are "different".

A willingness to make pho, on the other had, shows that you've got a case of the crazies.

Not adventurous enough to boil ox tail and beef marrow, I took a short cut and used a pho base. It's basically large tea bag thingies that contain all of the broth flavoring: animal parts, cardamom, clove, sugar, etc.

I figured that taking this shortcut still required a lot of other work, so I set forth charring onion and ginger to add to the simmering base. With no directions on the back other than a picture of the tea bag going into a pot of water, I decided to let it simmer for 40 minutes. When it was done, we tossed in some leftover shredded chicken. The smell was to die for. I felt like I was at my favorite pho joint, minus the Buddha shrine and the little old man serving the statue coffee, tea, and cigarettes.

I soaked some rice noodles in cold water before putting them in the bottom of two bowls. Broth was spooned over it. Soon, we were drooling as we loaded our bowls up with the usual: mung bean sprouts, Thai basil, that long thing related to cilantro, jalapenos, Siracha, Hoisen sauce, red chili sauce, and a smoky chili paste.

With success on my mind, I dug in. The first bite? Disgusting. The second? Worse. It had barely passed my lips before being spit into the garbage can. This pho seriously tested my "two taste minimum" policy.

I'm pretty sure that this would have come out better had I done it the long way, but still don't think I'd have a hit. Frankly, for $4.99 a bowl at the corner pho shop, trying to make it at home is not worth my time or money.

Support your local pho restaurant!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Berry Good Smoothie

The CMH has hereby declared ice cream out and smoothies in. This has everything nothing to do with my fear of turning Thailand into "Thighland". For the next month, I am forgoing my beloved Haagen Dazs. Goodbye Banana Split, Fleur de Sel Caramel, Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream. With the heaviest heart, I say goodbye to you, dear Wildberry fro yo.

And hellooooooooo berry smoothies!

Ice cream, I may just be able to quit you after all.

Blueberry Smoothie
makes two servings

2 cups fresh blueberries
3 baby bananas (or one large banana)
3 tbs raspberry juice concentrate
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water

1. Fill a blender 3/4 of the way with ice. Add the water. Pulse a few times to get the ice moving.
2. Add the fruits and blend.
3. Through the feed tube, slowly add the milk. Blend until smooth and serve.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Flaky Sun-Dried Tomato and Three Cheese Bites

These Mediterranean-inspired hor d'ourves were a hit at my friend's wedding after-party, amongst frou-frou and non-frou-frou alike.

Select Party Quotes:

"Sun-deride tomatoes? Noooh. I 'ate sun-deride tomatoes, but those are dee-lish-hos."
- Beautiful, hilarious Ukrainian woman

Between a guest and myself as guest's husband stands near-by:
"What are these red things made of?"
"Oh, well, sun-dried tomatoes, ricotta, feta, goat cheese..."
(husband interjects)
"HA! You say you HATE goat cheese but you ate, like, thirty of those things!"

A man and his little sister approach the food. He asks me to tell the little girl what each thing is.
"Artichoke dip, cheese and tomato cups, crab and leek tartlets," I respond.
"Do you want any of those?" he asks the girl.
"NO!" she declared, backing away from the table like it was going to bite.

pictured with Artichoke Cups

Flaky Sun-Dried Tomato and Three Cheese Bites
makes about 50

Cup Ingredients and Instructions:
1 package phyllo, thawed
1 stick butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease mini-muffin cups.
2. Wet a clean kitchen towel. Ring it out so it is just damp. Fold in half and place near your workspace. Remove phyllo from package. Place sheets between the towel halves.
3. Remove a sheet and place it on a cutting board.
4. With a brush, drip some of the butter across the phyllo sheet. Working gently, spread the butter out until most of the sheet, especially the edges, has been lightly coated.
5. Place a new phyllo sheet on top. Repeat steps until there are 7 sheets stacked. Do not butter the final sheet.
6. Smooth your hand over the sheets, lightly pressing them together.
7. With a pizza roller, cut the phyllo into squares (about four fingers wide).
8. Press the squares into the muffin cups and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the tins.

Filling Ingredients and Instructions:
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
4 tbs feta cheese
2 tbs goat cheese
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, minced
1/2 tbs fresh rosemary
1/2 tbs Italian parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients but the egg. Process until smooth.
2. Add the egg. Pulse until Incorporated.
3. Spoon or pipe filling into prepared phyllo cups.
4. Bake in a 350 F oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the filling has set up.
5. Remove and serve.

Sun Dried Tomatoes on Foodista

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Curried Cashews

To me, there is no nut more splendid than the cashew nut. Growing up, I don't recall a single Christmas where my father didn't get a few pounds of roasted, salted cashew nuts. My little hands would grab as many as I could, shove them in my mouth and munch away. Like father, like daughter. As I got older, and my hands got bigger, my father had to fight for his cashews.

I recently joined him on a fishing trip. He came prepared with plenty of cashews and we often munched away in silence, enjoying a simple snack while sharing a fishing bond. Back at work I find myself day dreaming about the river, the woods, watching my fly drift and my father's reminders to "mend". While I may not be able to fish, I can certainly snack.

Curried Cashew Nuts

1 lb raw cashews
3 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs curry powder
1 tsp salt

1. Heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.
2. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes, or until browned.
3. Remove nuts and drain on a paper towel.
4. Put salt and curry powder into a large bowl and mix together.
5. Add cashews. Place plastic wrap or a towel over the top of the bowl and shake well to coat. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

There shall be no cooking...

...only lots of fishing. Hiatus until next week!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Baklava Petals

This is another treat prepared for my friend's wedding. With Greece being a stop on their Mediterranean honeymoon, baklava was a natural addition. While it looks complicated, it is actually quite easy and can be completed in about 1.5 hours.

I needed a way to deliver single serving pieces that wouldn't require utensils and also wouldn't leave my guests with sticky hands and determined that mini-phyllo cups were the solution.

My father, a lifelong baklava hater, scarfed down 17 of them after being coerced into trying one. He described them as, "light, flaky, and missing the overwhelming sweetness of most baklava". If Mikey liked them, so will you.

Baklava Petals
makes about 120

Cup Ingredients and Instructions:

1 package phyllo, thawed
1 stick butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease mini-muffin cups.
2. Wet a clean kitchen towel. Ring it out so it is just damp. Fold in half and place near your workspace. Remove phyllo from package. Place sheets between the towel halves.
3. Remove a sheet and place it on a cutting board.
4. With a brush, drip some of the butter across the phyllo sheet. Working gently, spread the butter out until most of the sheet, especially the edges, has been lightly coated.
5. Place a new phyllo sheet on top. Repeat steps until there are 7 sheets stacked. Do not butter the final sheet.
6. Smooth your hand over the sheets, lightly pressing them together.
7. With a pizza roller, cut the phyllo into squares (about four fingers wide).
8. Press the squares into the muffin cups and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the tins. Keep oven on.

Syrup Ingredients and Instructions:

2.5 cups of sugar
1/2 cup warm water
Juice of one lemon
A few strips of zest from the lemon
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tbs rosewater

1. Combine syrup ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
2. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
3. Reduce heat and simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
4. Remove from heat and strain out solids. Set syrup aside to cool.

Filling Ingredients and Instructions:

1 lb walnuts, finely chopped
6 tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of cardamom

1. In a large bowl, stir together filling ingredients.
2. Spoon filling into phyllo cups to their natural fill line.
3. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and pour a bit of the syrup over the tops.
5. Remove finished baklava from mini-muffin tins about 3 minutes after the syrup has been poured on top. Any more than that, the syrup will cool too much and you'll have to break your cups out of the tins.
6. Put into individual muffin cups or just serve as is.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Sweet Promise

When I recover from the flu, I have some very tasty baklava for you. Hang in there.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Artichoke Cups

The CMH has been working hard for the past month on nibblers. Our friends are getting married...After their daytime wedding and reception, they'll be having a nighttime "come one, come all". As such, they asked us to help out with some things for people to munch on.

I've been trying to create hors d'oeuvres that are easy, portable, and incorporate flavors from the couples honeymoon destination (the Med). This idea turns one of the couple's favorite nighttime snacks, artichoke dip, into a party-friendly-no double-dipping-wedding-appropriate eat.

Artichoke Cups

makes about 25

Cup Ingredients and Instructions:

1 package phyllo, thawed
1 stick butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease mini-muffin cups.
2. Wet a clean kitchen towel. Ring it out so it is just damp. Fold in half and place near your workspace. Remove phyllo from package. Place sheets between the towel halves.
3. Remove a sheet and place it on a cutting board.
4. With a brush, drip some of the butter across the phyllo sheet. Working gently, spread the butter out until most of the sheet, especially the edges, has been lightly coated.
5. Place a new phyllo sheet on top. Repeat steps until there are 7 sheets stacked. Do not butter the final sheet.
6. Smooth your hand over the sheets, lightly pressing them together.
7. With a pizza roller, cut the phyllo into squares (about four fingers wide).
8. Press the squares into the muffin cups and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the tins.

Filling Ingredients and Instructions:

15 oz can of artichoke hearts
2 cloves garlic
2 tbs Italian parsley
1 tbs fresh oregano
1 tbs chives
6 scallions, tender white and light green parts only
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients except for the cheese. Blend until smooth.
2. Add cheese. Pulse until just incorporated.
3. Spoon or pipe filling into prepared phyllo cups.
4. Bake in a 350 F oven for 10-15 minutes, allowing the filling to get lightly browned at the edges.
5. Remove and serve.

Warning: These were so good that the two of us (mainly the blonde one) finished all 25 cups in less than 7 minutes.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What Not To Cook - Salty Smoked Ribs

Not everything we make is delicious. Sometimes we spend hours cooking and photographing a dish only to take two bites and dump it into the garbage.

Let it be known that my father makes the best smoked pork ribs this side of the Mississippi. They are so good he won't even tell me, his beloved and only child, his secret recipe. You know, the child that fly fishes with him, trades jokes with him...the one that everyone who knows us calls "his mini-me". Let's not forget that his genes die with me!

In an attempt to be all "fine, we don't need your stinkin' ribs anyway" we got our own Bradley smoker (thanks, Ny!) so that we could attempt our own rib recipes. No matter how hard we try though, we always fail.

This time, I was certain that we had nailed it. My husband even did a few small jigs over how we were going to be all "in your face!" to my dad's ribs. After driving our stomachs crazy with the smell of hickory all afternoon, we dug in.

All I can say is, thank god I had made cornbread muffins.

What We Did Wrong:
1 rack pork ribs
1/2 cup red peppercorns, cracked
1/2 cup black peppercorns, cracked
1/4 salt
Rub ribs with salt and pepper. Wrap in foil. Smoke with hickory at 225 F for 4.5 hours.
Analysis: 1/4 salt? What were we thinking? We're the people that don't use table salt and regularly come in under the sodium allowance for the day. Salt was the major killer in this dish.
Red peppercorns added a special flavor, but way too much of that somethin' somethin'. The foil, although it kept the ribs moist, prevented the smoke from penetrating the inner layers of the meat.
If We Could Do It Again:
1 rack pork ribs
1/4 cup black peppercorns, cracked
1/8 cup red peppercorns, cracked
1 tbs salt
Rub ribs with salt and pepper. Wrap in foil for first 2 hours and smoke with hickory at 225 F. After two hours, remove foil and continue to smoke for 2.5 hours.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Banana Flower Soup with Fresh Crab

Dun dun dun dun! "Soup"er Craaab!

My favorite blogger, Loving Rice, offered to dish up a recipe of anything I wanted. Fantasizing about the Andaman sea, I asked her to do something with crab. Her recipe, Banana Flower Soup with Fresh Crab, went above and beyond.

At the Asian store, I'm the foreigner. My cart is always scrutinized and discussed in various languages. The regulars have seemed to notice it isn't filled with the regular rice and soy sauce load of the other "foreigner" carts.

While going through check-out with my weekly supplies (bird's eye, kaffir lime, tamarind, lemongrass and so forth), a giant dungeness crab and a banana flower, the usual discussion began. The woman behind me started pointing to things and talking to the man behind her. She then started speaking to the cashier who turned to me and said, "She wants to know if you cook Thai food".

My husband and I smiled. "Yes! Almost every night!". The little old woman started chatting up a storm..."Banana flower! Only Thai use banana flower. So much lemongrass, lime, and chili. I'm Thai. You like Thai?" We said yes, we love Thailand and professed our excitement to explore more of Southeast Asia this year.

Soon, everyone was telling us where they were from: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, China. They asked what we liked to cook, what we were going to do with the banana flower. I showed the big crab to them and received "oohs" and "ahhs" in return. No longer am I the market foreigner.

When I told my mother about the crab, she asked how I could kill such a thing. I responded, "Easy. I'm going to turn it on its back, lift up it's flap, and drive a knife through it."
"You're so not my daughter!" she exclaimed before walking away.

Loving Rice couldn't have answered my request any better. I loved her idea of caramelizing the onion in the coconut milk. Oh, and how cool is the inside of a banana flower?

The recipe made enough for the two of us to eat it for both lunch and dinner. It's very much like a Thai version of chowder with the banana flower taking on a potato-like texture. I understand why it's considered by some to be a Thai comfort food.

If you have success at finding a banana flower, be sure to make this delicious recipe.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Paradise Caesar Salad

While by no means a traditional Caesar, this is a salad worthy of sonnets. The name is in honor of it's birthing place, a place so beautiful we simply call it Paradise.

When visiting in 2004, I ate this salad so much that the chef handed me a present before leaving...a list of ingredients for the dressing. At the time, I was more of an "eater" instead of a "preparer" and was terribly intimidated by the list of ingredients in formats like "0.009 quantity of anchovis" (purposeful misspelling to accurately reflect the Sweenglish that it was in). I never dared to try to make the dressing on my own.

So I dreamed. Fantasized. Imagined shrimp with a hint of lemongrass playfully bounding across leaves sunning themselves in Caesar dressing. For three whole years.

The second I arrived back at the island last year, I immediately ordered up two salads. Upon delivery, I undressed the prawns with my eyes. When I took my first bite, a tear actually escaped. Unfortunately, these were not tears of happiness. This was in no way the salad that either of us had remembered, that we had dreamed about so often.

The original chef was long gone, taking the recipe with him. The salad placed before me reminded me of the fourth Michael Keaton in Duplicity ...a sad copy of a copy of a copy of the original.

Last weekend, using the Sweenglish dressing ingredient list as a guide, I went for it. The end result? Original Paradise. I can actually feel my toes curling around the sand with every bite I take.

Dressing Ingredients and Directions:

2 tsp anchovy paste
1.5 tbs capers
1.5 tbs garlic
1 tbs dijon mustard with grains
1/2 tsp pepper, ground
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
7 ounces olive oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp worchester
1 tsp red chilies
2 tbs grated parmesan
3.5 tbs water
4 tbs mayonnaise

In the bowl of a food processor, blend everything until well combined. Taste improves overnight.

Salad Ingredients and Assembly:

1 or 2 sliced of applewood bacon, cooked to your liking
Parmesan cheese, shaved
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 head of romaine or green leaf lettuce (serves two), chopped
Black or Kalamata olives, halved
4 16/20 prawns per person, peeled and deveined
1 tbs butter, melted
1. Cook bacon. Drain.
2. Toss lettuce with 1/3 cup of dressing. Divide lettuce among plates.
3. Assemble tomatoes, olives, bacon and cheese on top of the lettuce.
4. Skewer prawns. Brush with butter and grill for 2 minutes each side. Brush with butter before flipping and again at the end.
5. Assemble prawns on top of salad. Serve.
Extra Credit: To get the mild lemongrass flavor, use a lemongrass brush to butter the prawns. To make the brush, remove the bottom from one pieces of lemongrass. Pound out the tender part until it fans out like a brush. Use accordingly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Lesson in Kitchen Safety

Do not open goat cheese with a 8-inch Henckel's chef knife. Four stitches and one tetanus shot later, I've learned my lesson.
What kitchen safety lessons have you learned?

Shameless Foodie Fights! Promotion

Battle Raspberry/Cauliflower is open to voting. Please check out all entries and vote for your favorite dish. My favorite blogger ever, Loving Rice, is one of the participants!

[start Jedi Mind Trick]

You will vote for Dok Kha Lam with raspberry/ginger dipping sauce.

[end Jedi Mind Trick]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tom Yum Pla - Hot and Sour Fish Soup

Recently, my husband came home from work looking like death warmed over. He collapsed onto the chaise, cough drops and box of tissues in hand.

"What would you like for dinner?" I asked. "Nothing", he responded between coughing fits. After thinking a moment he added, "Unless you're making something tasty."

Tom yum pla fit the bill (more like tom yum yum!)...with good protein, leafy greens, and a nice spice, I hoped to feed his cold and kick the nasty virus out of his body.

This recipe is fast and easy. You can even shorten the broth simmering time to 10 minutes if you need to.

Broth Ingredients and Directions:
2 cups fish stock
2 cups water
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn (use zest of one lime if no lime leaves are available)
4 bird's eye chilies, stem removed and cut in half lengthwise
3 pieces of dried galangal
3 stalks of lemongrass, halved lengthwise
2 shallots, chopped

1. Put all ingredients into a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Strain the broth through a sieve into a saucepan.

Soup Ingredients and Directions:
12 ounces of fish (white fish like halibut, sole, etc), skinned and filleted
1 lb green leafy vegetable, chopped (ex. water spinach, baby spinach, baby bok choy)
1 package beech mushrooms
1 package straw mushrooms
2 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs lime juice
Cilantro, a handful, chopped

1. Bring the broth to a boil.
2. Add the fish and the mushrooms to a pot. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 4 minutes.
3. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for one or two minutes, just long enough for the greens to wilt or soften.
4. Divide into bowls and serve.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chicken Sushi

Flashback, 2003: I'm sitting on a bench in Queenstown, New Zealand. It's a beautiful day and I have a lunch from the nearby sushi hut. There was no menu...whatever they had available was rolled tightly and packaged up to go. I'm 1/2 of my way through my raw lunch when the coloring of one fish has me questioning what it is. Flipping over the box to inspect the handwritten label, I suppress a gag. That light pink fish? More like raw chicken. After a few moments of shock, horror and questioning if every tummy gurgle was the beginning of salmonella poisoning, I realized that it didn't taste bad and finished lunch.

Everyone avoids food of some sort or another. I've spent the majority of my life avoiding eggs. I've managed to work scrambled eggs into my diet, although they end up being more of a "Tabasco delivery device" than anything. While I work hard to avoid ova, I will willingly eat escargot, abalone that goes straight from sea to mouth, and quite enjoy both jellyfish and sea cucumber.

Chicken sushi was something that I had heard of years earlier. I had decided that Japan had gone mad. Chicken sushi?! "Only a country that eats live octopus could think of something so insane," I thought. I wouldn't have willingly tried it, but I would willingly eat it again.

Would you willingly eat chicken sushi? How about deep fried moose balls, stir-fried scorpions or an ant burrito?

Some people will eat just about anything. Then there is the guy I had once read about who didn't dare to try an apple or any other fruit, for that matter. What are your limits, or lack thereof?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Quacky Red Curry

Having planned to fail miserably at my first coriander duck attempt, I had bought two extra duck breasts. We love cooking with duck. People who haven't had it before usually say it tastes like lamb or very tender beef. It was easy to figure out what to do with the curry!

Note: This recipe requires marinating time.

2 duck breasts, skinned and sliced thinly on a diagonal
6 tablespoons/cubes of red curry paste (or store-bought but watch the sodium!)
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups hot water
2 cups pineapple slices (fresh or canned), cut into smaller pieces
1 cup Thai basil leaves
Jasmine rice, cooked according to instructions

1. In a medium bowl, coat the duck slices with 2 tablespoons/cubes of red curry paste. Marinate for three hours (or up to 24).
2. When duck is done marinating, cook the remaining four cubes of curry paste over medium-high heat until fragrant (about 2 minutes).
3. Add the duck and cook, stirring constantly, for two or three minutes.
4. Add the coconut milk and two cups of water.
5. Bring mixture to a gentle boil and cook for three minutes.
6. Reduce heat to low. Cover pan. Simmer duck for an additional 10 minutes.
7. Stir in the pineapple and basil leaves and cook for an additional two minutes.
8. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Breakfast Around the World

We here at the Crazy Monkey House are passionate about food, travel, and photography. When we're not cooking at home, we are stuffing our faces in foreign countries. The National Geographic Society's Intelligent Traveller blog has a new entry about breakfast around the world. Why is this news worthy, other than it combines food and travel? They used one of our photos! That's right, the NGS approached us about using one of our photos of a street vendor breakfast in Bangkok. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vote for Foodie Fights!

Remember to check out the Foodie Fights! competition and vote for the dish you'd most like to eat. My smoked coriander duck breasts with a rhubarb port wine reduction can be viewed here.
The other entries can be viewed from the Foodie Fights! main page. There's stiff competition...all dishes were unique and creative!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Foodie Fights! Entry - Smoked Coriander Duck Breast with a Rhubarb Port Wine Reduction

Rhubarb? What? After spending my entire life avoiding it, my desire to be a Foodie Fights! competitor led to a requirement to cook with it. I had no idea what it looked like, what it smelled like, what it tasted like. I spent the first 24 hours in paralyzed fear, the second accepting it for what it was and starting my mental ingredient merry-go-round, and spent the final 24 hours asking my mom, husband, and a friend a series of "would you rather eat..." questions.

For a good portion of Saturday, it seemed like I was meant for failure. You see, spring's coming late to these parts and rhubarb isn't exactly easy to come by. After searching three stores together, I went home to start preparing the duck leaving my husband to embark on The Great Rhubarb Hunt '09. Thirteen stores later, husband returned victorious. He also proved himself a thinker, buying red chard to "substitute" for rhubarb if push came to shove.

I'm not afraid of many foods, but as I stood there in the kitchen, trying my third knife to get through the rough stalk, I actually found myself sneering at it. By the time it was whirling around the food processor, my nose was scruntched up between my eyebrows. The fibers, the smell. I knew I had avoided it for a reason. In the end, I overcame my fear of rhubarb, using the duck to sop up every last bit of the reduction.

Foodie Fights! was exactly what it was meant to be, a challenge. It challenged my recipe creation skills by throwing in an unfamiliar ingredient as well as my personal preferences.
Please swing by Foodie Fights on Tuesday, May 5th to check out the competition and place your vote for your favorite recipe.

Alder Wood Smoked Coriander Duck Breasts with a Rhubarb Port Wine Reduction

Note: This recipe can be recreated on the BBQ using wooden grilling planks. If you use this method, be sure to submerge the planks in water for 3 hours prior to cooking.

Duck Preparation - Four Easy Steps

Step One - Marinate Breasts:

2 duck breast halves
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbs peanut oil
2 tbs honey
1 tbs ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir well.
2. Add the duck breasts, coating both sides. Refrigerate for two hours.

Step Two - Seal In Moisture:

Apple wood smoked bacon, one slice per breast half

1. In a large pan over high heat, cook the bacon to your preference.
2. Eat bacon, reserve bacon fat.
3. When breasts are done marinating, remove from marinade and coat each breast with bacon grease.

Step Three - Prepare Coriander Rub:

2 tbs coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns

1. In a food processor or mortor, grind coriander and peppercorns until they have broken into a fine grit.
2. Rub coriander mixture into the greased duck breasts, coating each side.

Step Four - Smoke/BBQ Duck Breasts:

Duck cooked to medium rare (140 F) will result in meat that seemingly melts in your mouth but you can prepare it just like chicken to 170 F if you'd prefer well done.

If you are using a smoker, prep with alder wood. Heat to 225 F. Place breasts on an ungreased rack in the middle of the smoker. Smoke for 60 to 90 minutes or until the breasts reach your desired doneness. View video of the duck being removed from the smoker.

If you are using a barbecue, submerge a wood plank in water for three hours (alder and fruit woods work the best, but any flavor will do). Using indirect heat, preheat grill to 300 F. Place plank in center of grill and place duck breasts skin side down on the planks. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until duck has reached desired doneness.

Reduction and Sides Preparation - 3 Easy Steps

Step One - Make the Reduction:

1 lb rhubarb stalks, roughly chopped
3 bird's eye chilies, stems removed
6 tbs honey
1 stalk lemongrass, light purple and pale while parts chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 c chicken stock
3 tbs port wine
1 1/2 tsp arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1 tbs butter

1. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the rhubarb, chilies, ginger, lemongrass, and honey. Puree until smooth.
2. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan. Add chicken stock. Cook over medium low heat (a slow simmer) for 20 minutes.
3. Mash the puree through a sieve. Reserve the liquid that comes out. Discard the remainder.
4. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add the port wine to the rhubarb liquid.
5. Whisk in the arrowroot until dissolved and reduce mixture by half.
6. Just before serving, whisk in the butter.

Step Two - Heat the Marinade:

While the rhubarb is cooking down, bring the reserved marinade to a boil and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat down to low and let cook until duck is ready.

Step Three - Cook the Carrots and Spinach:

1 large bunch of spinach, washed
2 carrots, cut into sticks
1 tbs olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon

1. In a large saute pan over high, heat the olive oil and lemon juice.
2. Add the carrots and saute for four minutes. Remove carrots.
3. Add the spinach. Saute until spinach just starts to wilt.
4. Arrange carrots and spinach on individual plates.

Bringing It All Together:

1. Remove duck breasts and slice width-wise at an angle into thin strips.
2. Arrange duck slices over spinach.
3. Spoon or pipe rhubarb port reduction over duck breast and plate.
4. Spoon marinade into small serving bowls and serve duck.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Foodie Fights! - Sneak Peek

Emerging from the smoker:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Foodie Fights! Update

Ouch, my brain hurts. I'm pretty sure it's from running endless rhubarb coriander combinations through my head only to keep mentally scratching them out. I was feeling pretty good about my final choice until I checked out the other contestants . My competition is serious (and have given me serious hankerings for Afghan dumplings, among other things).

You should go check them out because they are going to kick my novice rump all over the kitchen.

Aga Kitchen - you've gotta love any food blogger that cooks with quinoa.
The Arugula Files - must...make...dumplings.
Brake for Bread - has left my husband desperately wanting to improve his food photography skills.
Downsized! - eating to live, not living to eat...and encouraging others to do the same!
Elaine, the Gourmet Girl - two words, tequila caviar.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Banana Curry

Last night, I found myself staring at the available food in the house. After a brief realization that we rely so much on fresh food we'd starve if oh, say, a pandemic shut down commerce, I focused on the more immediate threat of starving that night if I didn't figure out something for dinner, pronto. I hadn't been to the store in a few days, so pickings were slim. Remembering that David had tried a banana curry and wanted me to make one, I pulled eight baby bananas out of the microwave. The microwave? Yes! If you aren't storing your fruits in the microwave, you should be!

David didn't exactly give me any good details to go on, just "it was curry made with bananas". Fantastic. So I set off, hoping for some sort of Caribbean-inspired dish that wouldn't be a gooey mess. The final product was delicious once we got past the initial shock that we were eating a curry that was both sweet and spicy at the same time. While we consider this more of a sweet curry, it might blow some socks off. Exercise caution with any of our recipes that call for chili peppers...Some like it hot, some sweat when the heat is on. We're the former.

Aunt G. - Does this even come close to a Caribbean-style dish or am I smoking banana peels?

Banana Curry

8 baby bananas, cut into four pieces (or two grown up bananas)
2 tbs curry powder
2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp brown mustard seed
1.5 tsp turmeric
4 shallots, roughly chopped
3 green bird's eye chilies, roughly chopped (use scotch bonnet if they are available)
2 tbs coconut oil (I'm sure that peanut would also be delicious and veggie would work just fine)
3 tbs coconut water (or regular water)
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
40 medium, shelled shrimp
Jasmine rice, made per instructions

1. In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the coriander and mustard seeds. Shake the pan constantly until the seeds turn brown and begin to pop. Do not let the seeds burn. Put toasted seeds into mortar and grind into a fine powder.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the spice powders, shallots, chilies, coconut oil, and bananas. Process until smooth.
3. Heat a dry wok over medium. Add the curry paste and the coconut water. Cook for ten minutes stirring constantly.
4. Reduce heat to low and add the coconut milk and cup of water.
5. Fast Method: bring the heat up to high until the curry starts to boil. Reduce heat to medium high and stir constantly for five minutes until the curry has thickened back up.
Slow Method: keep the curry on low and cook, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes stirring occasionally. Add small amounts of water as needed. This method melds the flavors together better than the fast method.
6. Add shrimp. Cook until pink and curled.
7. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Foodie Fights!

I recently learned about Foodie Fights! via an excellent cooking blog, The Food In My Beard. The husband and wife team reminds me of myself and David, chopping away while listening to the Arctic Monkeys. I've poured through TFIMB's recipes so much that I've begun to feel like a cyber-stalker.

Co-founded by TFIMB, Foodie Fights! (hello readers!) is a blog forum for all those crazy food bloggers out there to battle it out. Think Iron Chef. People submit their interest in participating, along with one ingredient (no proteins). Six bloggers (and two of their six submitted ingredients) are named to battle it out, each creating a single dish that incorporates both of the chosen ingredients.

When I found out that they were hosting their second fight, I signed up. Six bloggers were chosen, two ingredients were named. My ingredient (coriander) got picked. The other chosen ingredient is rhubarb, something that I have never eaten let alone cooked.

Rhubarb and coriander, you say? Mother smurfer, I'm in trouble.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Ticked Off Crabs in Chili Coriander Sauce

The old adage, don't play with your food, went out the window yesterday when we brought home six very angry blue crabs. After putting them in some fresh water in the kitchen sink, we delighted in swinging our hands just out of reach of their mighty claws.

By cooking time, they were docile and went willingly, resigned to their important role as our tasty dinner. The chili coriander sauce brings David back to eating crab cooked by our friend Man's mother-in-law on the island of Koh Yao Noi, quite possibly the best compliment he has ever given my cooking.

Blue Crabs in Chili Coriander Sauce

Sauce Ingredients and Instructions:
3 tbs nam pla (fish sauce)
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp white sugar
2 tbs cilantro, chopped
2 Thai red chilies, diced
3 spring onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced on a diagonal
2 stalks lemongrass, rough outer layers removed, white and pale yellow soft parts finely chopped

1. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Refrigerate until serving time.

Crab Ingredients and Instructions:

3 blue crabs per person, alive and kicking
4 stalks of lemongrass, sliced in half
4 cloves garlic, diced
Jasmine rice, cooked according to instructions

1. In a large stockpot filled with water, bring the garlic and lemongrass to a boil.
2. When roaring, add the crabs. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes.
3. Remove crabs and place in a large bowl covered with a lid.
4. Serve crabs.
5. After cracking the crabs, place the meat on top of the cooked rice, dishing the chili coriander sauce over the top.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Curried Potato Dumplings

These green curry potato dumplings sustained us for at least five straight days. I had made a bit more than the recipe called for so we spent the days after wrapping, cooking, dunking, and eating dumpling after dumpling. They were so good, we'd happily do it all over again.

The main recipe is courtesy of Loving Rice and can be found halfway down the page here. The dumplings require green curry paste, recipe here.

Green Curry Paste Instructions:

3 tbs coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2-4 Thai unripened red peppers (cut down on the amount of peppers depending on how spicy you like your curry)
6 large shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 green bell peppers, de-stemmed, de-seeded and chopped.
1 tsp shrimp paste
1/2 stalk lemongrass, cut in half then roughly chopped (remove the rough outer leaves, chop the small root bottom off, and discard the upper green portions)
5 tbs chopped cilantro leaves
2 tsp chopped coriander stems 1/2 inch piece of galangal, finely chopped (if using dry galangal, be sure to soak in hot water for several hours prior to chopping)
4 tbs tamarind water (either dilute tamarind paste in water or prepare the water yourself by soaking the fruit in water and then squeezing the pulp about)
2 tbs peanut oil
1 tsp kosher salt

1. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant and light brown. Do not let them burn. Remove from heat and cool.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, grind the seeds until broken up. Add the rest of the ingredients, along with 5 tbs water, and process until smooth. If you can see the seeds, you need to process longer!
3. Heat a saucepan over a medium flame. When warmed, add the paste. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add 1 cup water, reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer for 45-50 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping the paste off of the bottom as you stir.
5. The paste is complete. Freeze any that you are not using immediately in ice cube trays.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Thai-Style Whole Fish

The Crazy Monkey House motto is: If it has gills, eat it. Our favorite method for eating fish is to cook one whole. If you've never ate the "cheek meat" of a fish, boy are you in for a treat! Cooking a fish this way inevitably leads to chopstick wars as we fight for every last remaining flake. The fish pictured in this picture is a Mandarin fish but any meaty fish will work well. This method involves cooking it in banana leaves, an inexpensive ingredient found at almost any Asian grocer.

Thai-Style Whole Fish


1 large, meaty whole fish (have the fish monger clean and descale the fish)
1 lime, sliced
8 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
10 Thai basil leaves
5 Thai peppers, whole
banana leaves


1. Line the bottom of a fish pan (or any deep baking dish) with banana leaves.
2. Place fish on leaves.
3. Spread the lime slices, lime leaves, basil leaves, and Thai peppers out inside the fish cavity.
4. Cover with banana leaves, tucking the top ones under the bottom ones.
5. Bake in a 350(f) oven for 30 minutes or until fish is cooked through and flaky.
6. Serve with rice, using optional garnishes like nam prik, sriracha, or a bit of soy sauce.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Prawns in Red Curry

This is a very quick, simple meal if you have frozen curry paste on hand. Cooking a batch of curry paste takes time but is very rewarding. Just freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays...One cube of curry is equal to two tablespoons. Be sure to wear gloves when working with the chilis. Failure to do so can lead to skin burns. You can either shell and devein the prawns yourself (as we did) or you can buy a bag of prepped or fully cooked prawns at the grocer. If you prep the prawns yourself, be sure to save the shells and heads to make a stock for tom yum kung!

Red Curry Paste Ingredients and Directions:
3 tbs coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
12 Thai red peppers (cut down on the amount of peppers depending on how spicy you like your curry)
5 large shallots, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, cut in half then roughly chopped (remove the rough outer leaves, chop the small root bottom off, and discard the upper green portions)
1/2 inch piece of galangal, finely chopped (if using dry galangal, be sure to soak in hot water for several hours prior to chopping)
6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
2 tsp paprika
2 tbs tamarind water (either dilute tamarind paste in water or prepare the water yourself by soaking the fruit in water and then squeezing the pulp about)
3 tbs canola oil
1 tsp kosher salt

1. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant and light brown. Do not let them burn. Remove from heat and cool.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, grind the seeds until broken up. Add the rest of the ingredients, along with 5 tbs water, and process until smooth. If you can see the seeds, you need to process longer!
3. Heat a saucepan over a medium flame. When warmed, add the paste. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add 1 cup water, reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer for 45-50 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping the paste off of the bottom as you stir.
5. The paste is complete. Freeze any that you are not using immediately in ice cube trays.

Prawn Curry Ingredients and Directions:
1 lb prawns, shelled and deveined
3 cubes red curry
1 cup coconut milk
Jasmine rice, prepared according to rice cooker instructions

1. Heat a wok or large skillet over a medium high flame. Add the cubes of curry paste. Stir until the paste is melted.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the coconut milk and simmer for five minutes, stirring frequently. More coconut milk can be added if you find the curry too spicy.
3. Add the prawns and cook until pink and curled.
4. Serve over a bed of rice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dessert Snapshot - Lime Coconut Cake

With loads of leftover fresh coconut leftover from making coconut milk, I set out for something to do with all that coconut meat. Fortunately, my favorite blogger had recently posted an excellent option, lime coconut cake. As it is a very dense, rich cake, I suggest serving small slices much unlike the one pictured here.
The recipe can be found halfway down this page on Loving Rice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Tofu and Bok Choy

This is one of our absolute favorite vegetarian meals. The main stir-fry only takes about 10 minutes. It's pictured below with my favorite kitchen accessory ever...Lily Bird.

1/2 pound firm tofu, drained
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 head of bok choy (about 3/4 pound), leaves and stalks sliced crosswise 1 inch thick
9 ounces bean sprouts
1 teaspoon crushed or grated vegetable bouillon cube
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Wrap the tofu in paper towels and drain in a strainer set over a bowl for 30 minutes. Slice.
2. In a skillet, toast the sesame seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, 1 minute. Let cool, then grind to a coarse powder.
3. In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil. Add the tofu and stir-fry over moderately high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a plate.
4. In the same skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the bok choy and stir-fry over moderately high heat until tender, 5 minutes.
5. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry until heated through.
6. Stir in the tofu and season with the bouillon cube, salt and pepper.
7. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the sesame seeds.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dessert Snapshot - Flip-Over Apple Cake

This is another wonderful recipe from Dishing Up Vermont. Recently, I have been reading a lot about the history of the apple. With apples on my mind, and a desire to make something warm, I embarked on an apple cake. I modified the recipe by using some brown sugar in place of white sugar. I wish that I would have substituted more but am recording the recipe as I made it. This cake is so terribly simple that, while it baked, I whipped up some ginger spiced pecans and molasses whipped cream to finish the cake with. David thought it was so good, he was unapologetic about seconds.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the baking pan
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tbs ground cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
1 tbs brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease the bottom and sides of a cake pan.
2. Melt the butter over a medium flame. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Toss the apples with the cinnamon and brown sugar.
4. Place the apples in overlapping, concentric circles on the bottom of the cake pan. Make a second layer as necessary.
4. Sift the white sugar and the flour into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg and melted butter just until combined. Fold in the walnuts and continue to mix until smooth.
5. Pour batter evenly over apples.
6. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
7. Let cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for 15 minutes.
8. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate.
7. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or other toppings as you desire.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Lasagna

We’ve spent the past year or so watching the Sopranos from beginning to end. We’ve made it all the way to season six without succumbing to our Italian food fantasies. Come Sunday, all I was able to think about was an episode from an earlier season in which Tony is looking around for lasagna with that “sweet sausage I love so much”. With that, I searched for a lasagna recipe and then headed out to buy all the ingredients.

This was no ordinary lasagna, made apparent by the constant trail of drool Monkey left on my foot. He watched every move I made, had interest in everything being chopped and layered, sautéed and spread. Mind you, Monkey is not an ordinary dog interested in ordinary things like Human Food. He once spent 13 hours sucking on a single French fry during a car trip. At the end of the trip, we found that he eventually discarded the fry and never even touched the slices of salami and the pecan sandie that my father had tried to tempt Monkey with unbeknownst to us. My dad thinks that Monkey doesn’t show interest in Human Food because of how we raised him. That has something to do with it, but what kind of dog won’t even eat a slice of salami?

So, anyway, here was my dog that has Human Food anorexia leaving a long, pleading trail of drool in hopes that I would give in and just feed the entire pan to him. I should have known from his reaction that we were in for a good meal. Just how good? Do you remember Garfield’s obsession with lasagna and how he would hoover the entire plate? Yeah, that was me.


1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
¾ lb extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, pressed
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
12 ounces tomato paste
16 ounces tomato sauce
½ cup water
2 tbs sugar
¼ cup dried basil leaves
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbs kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
4 tbs Italian (flat-leaf) pasley, chopped
1 box lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
¾ lb mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. In a 5 quart pot, cook sausage, beef, onion, and garlic over a medium flame until browned.
2. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water.
3. Add sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and ½ of the parsley. Simmer, covered, for 1.5 hours stirring occasionally.
4. Cook lasagna noodles according to directions. Drain and cool with a cold water rinse.
5. Combine ricotta cheese, egg, remaining parsley, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl. Set aside.
6. Preheat oven to 375 F.
7. Spread 2 cups sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Place a layer of noodles over the top. Spread with one half of the ricotta mixture. Top with 1/3 of the mozzarella slices. Spread 1 ½ cups of sauce over the mozzarella and sprinkle with ¼ of the parmesan cheese. Repeat until you are out of noodles, ending with a topping of meat sauce and parmesan.
8. Cover with greased aluminum foil and cook for 25 minutes. Remove foil and cook for an additional 25 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.