Friday, September 25, 2009

Tropical Carrot Cake (or cupcakes)

Makes 48 mini-cupcakes, Serves 10-15 as sole dessert

adapted from
  • 2 1/3 cups sifted all purpose flour (sifted, then measured)
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup dry-roasted macadamia nuts (don't chop)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger (you'll be food processing, so don't waste your time chopping finely)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely grated peeled carrots
  • 2 8-ounce cans crushed pineapple in its own juice, well drained (or not, I've usually not drained it. This gives it a moist but very cakey texture. draining might make it denser. I'll try next time)

  • 2 8-ounce packages Philadelphia-brand cream cheese, chilled
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cups powdered sugar (add more later if you feel it is not sweet enough)
  • 3/4cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco L√≥pez)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) coconut extract


For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Or, use 2 buttered cupcake pans, with liners if not non-stick, without if non-stick and buttered.

Combine 1/3 cup flour and next 3 ingredients in processor. Process until nuts are finely chopped. Whisk remaining 2 cups flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour-spice mixture. Stir in coconut-macadamia mixture, then carrots and crushed pineapple.

Divide batter among pans. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 1 hour. Run knife around edge of pans to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely.

For frosting:
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar, then cream of coconut and both extracts. Chill until firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over top of cake. Top with second cake layer, flat side up. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with third cake layer, rounded side up, pressing slightly to adhere. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill cake and remaining frosting 30 minutes. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Arrange whole nuts and ginger around top edge of cake. Chill 1 hour. (Can be made ahead)

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry

This is very similar to the first dish we had when we arrived in Bangkok. My brother took us to a small garage/hardware store/general store/"restaurant" where we watched the owner of the "entity" make this for us. It was wonderful. The best food we had was street food. While this is not technically street food, is it very close, and so are the ingredients (Thai street food uses fresh vegetables extensively). This experience was memorable for more reasons than the food. I was sure I was going to get food poisoning, and since I used an excessive amount of the super-spicy vinegar-pepper-sugar condiment on the dish, when we left, my stomach was protesting as if I might actually throw up (several tablespoons of vinegar and fresh Thai peppers on an empty stomach will do that…) My brother shook his head and told me I'd be fine, while I reassured myself that food poisoning takes 12-36 hours to take effect. I was fine, and this recipe is as close as I have found to recreating the culinary aspect of this experience.

Source: Adapted from The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook

Serves 4-6

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 4 garlic cloves minced (the way I mince garlic incorporates salt, if you don't use this technique, add 1-2 tsp of kosher salt to the marinade)
  • 4 tsp very finely minced lemongrass.
    • Use only the inner leaves, and be very sure that this is an extremely fine mince, no more than 1/16th of an inch. Lemongrass is very tough, and if it is not chopped finely will ruin any dish it's in
  • 1.5" piece of ginger, or 4 tsp. Peel ginger, then grate the ginger into a bowl, using a smaller size grater.
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro, preferable more stems than leaves
  • 4 T Asian fish sauce (nam pla) (available at most grocery stores in the Asian section)
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken cut into ¼-inch strips

Stir-fry Ingredients

  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 4 T niced garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 T minced red onion
  • 4+ Serrano peppers, red and green if possible. Or 1.5 – 2 jalapenos. Cut in half, seeded, then sliced cross-wise as thinly as possible—no more than 1/16 of an inch
  • 2 smallish English cucumbers, cut into a ½ x ½ x ¾ inch dice. (no need to peel English cucumbers)
  • 2 cups grape or pear tomatoes, under-ripe, if possible
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped, lightly packed Thai basil, regular basil or mint
  • Steamed rice (2 cups uncooked rice will be plenty)

Marinate Chicken

Combine all marinade ingredients without chicken. Mix together till corn starch and sugar are dissolved. Incorporate chicken and continue tossing until coated. Marinate for 2-3 hours.


Heat a wok of non-stick pan until very hot. Add oil and heat it to very hot, near if not smoking. Add garlic, pepper flakes and onion and stir for a few seconds. Add marinated chicken mixture, scraping off all marinade into the pan. Stir-fry until chicken turns opaque. Add the chiles and stir-fry for a few seconds (15-30 or so), add the cucumbers and the tomatoes and stir-fry for a few more seconds, or until you manage to incorporate them. Remove from heat. Incorporate basil and serve immediately.


Serve immediately over rice.

Thai Spinach Wraps

Serves 4

  • ¾ pound shrimp, shells removed, poached for 2 minutes, and cut into quarters
  • 30-40 large spinach leaves, washed thoroughly and spun dry
    • Note, you will probably have to buy normal, unwashed spinach, as bagged spinach typically doesn't have large enough leaves. You'll then have to cherry pick the largest leaves.
  • 2" piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4 " cubes or slightly smaller
  • ½ cup unsweetened, dried coconut, toasted coconut
    • Toast on highest rack on broil at 550 degrees for 1-2 minutes. Check every 30 seconds to avoid burning
  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • ½ cup cilantro (leaves and stems) roughly chopped
  • ½ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • ½ cup purple onion, cut into a ¼ inch dice
  • ¾ cup Thai Sweet Chili sauce (get in Thai section of large grocery stores, typically not available at Whole Foods type stores
  • Optional: bean sprouts


Place shrimp in a bowl in the center, place all other ingredients except spinach in individual ramekins with small spoons to serve each. Place spinach leaves on the serving tray if you have room, or on a separate place.


For each wrap, place 1-2 pieces of shrimp, 2-3 peanuts, a small amount of everything else, roll up and eat as a taco or spring roll.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Serves 4-6 for main course, 8 for a starter

1.5-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (3 large breasts)
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 small onions, chopped into a 1/4 inch dice
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno minced
4 tomatoes cut into 1/4 dice
2 large (20 oz-ish, not 14 oz.) cans of tomato sauce (Hunt's)
1 T. cumin
1/2 T. chili powder
1 tsp. oregeno
2 T Worcestershire sauce

Minced cilantro, 1/4 bunch
1 avocado, 1/4 inch dice
2 limes, cut into 8 wedges
White corn tortilla chips

Poach & pick chicken
Fill a 4 quart pot half full of salted (1 T) water, bring to a boil. Boil for 13 minutes. Remove chicken from broth. Keep broth for soup. Pick, or shred chicken to fairly small strips.

In a 6-8 qt stock pot, saute onions and garlic, add peppers when onions are well sweated (3-5 minutes). Continue to saute 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes and saute until soft and beginning to dissolve. Add tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer 2-4 minutes until soup turns from bright red to a more brickish red. Add 2 quarts of broth, or more as needed to get a thin soupy texture. Add chicken, cumin, chili powder, oregano, worcestershire sauce. Keep at a vigorous simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until soup has reduced and thickened to a viscosity between a broth and a stew.

To Serve
Remove from heat. Ladel soup into wide-rimmed soup bowls. Place tortilla chips around rim. Add avocado and cilantro to the center of the soup. Garnish with limes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

arugula, strawberry, steak and basil salad

Serves 2 (dinner), 4-6 as a first course

1 package washed arugula
NY strip or other high quality steak
1 pint strawberries cut into 12ths or 16ths
1 bunch basil, stemmed, washed, dried, and with leaves coarsely chopped.
Wedge of high quality parmesan, and swiss cheese slicer
2 T very good balsamic vinegar
4-6 T very good extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Pre-heat oven as high as possible, set to broil.

Pat steak dry, then heavily salt and pepper. Alternately, marinate in your favorite marinade.

Slowly whisk oil into vinegar and mustard until emulsified. Continue adding oil until dressing pleases your palate. This dressing can be a little more vinegary than most balsamic vinaigrettes. Add salt to taste.

Broil meat on highest rack for 3" each side for medium rare. Cut steak immediately into strips after removing from oven.

Assemble the salad:
Toss arugula, basil, and strawberries with balsamic vinaigrette. Add sliced steak along the top (does not need to be warm), use swiss cheese knive to shave a liberal amount of parmesan over the salad. Add cracked pepper if desired.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Caesar Salad

Serves 2

1 package of hearts of romaine (3 hearts)

3T good quality extra virgin olive oil

½ T volume of garlic cloves, sliced in half length-wise (3-4 regular sized cloves)

4 anchovy filets

1.5 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp Dijon mustard

¾ of the juice of one small/medium lemon

½ tsp black pepper

1 egg, warmed (15 seconds on high in a powerful microwave)

1/3 to ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt to taste (very large pinch, typically



2 slices of good quality bread

2 T butter (salted would be best)

Set oven to broil at 500 degrees. Toast bread. Melt butter. Cut bread into 1" x1" pieces. Drizzle butter over and toss (do it in a couple of separate drizzles). Spread croutons over cookie sheet. Place on top oven rack and cook for 45 seconds. Take out of oven, turn over each crouton. Cook for another 30 – 35 seconds. Be very careful, these are prone to burning.



In a large bowl using a wooden spoon, smash garlic cloves against the sides of the bowl until they are disintegrated. This is pretty labor intensive, and fairly irritating at first—power through, it's worth it. Squeeze the garlic pulp against the sides of the bowl, and rub around the entire bowl. Discard the mashed garlic, the oil (which is what you've been extracting in this process) will remain and add a wonderful flavor (don't feel like you need to get rid of every fleck of garlic though). Don't try using a garlic press for this; it doesn't work; the oil gets left in the press and you're left with a flavorless dressing. Place the anchovies in the bowl, mash them against the sides as you did with the garlic, but don't discard. Continue until you have a paste. Add the egg, lemon juice, mustard, pepper, Worcestershire, and whisk well. Slowly beat in the oil. Taste and season with salt.

Putting it all together:

Wash the leaves of romaine and roughly shred. Be sure to use almost all of each leaf, as the thick part of the ribs add a much needed texture. Place in a salad spinner and spin until dry. Note: if you don't have a salad spinner, go out and buy one now; it will be the best kitchen purchase you make this year ($10-$20 at Bed, Bath and Beyond). Toss the shredded romaine with the dressing to coat. Mix in the parmesan cheese to taste. Toss with the croutons. Serve immediately.

Optional Toppings:

King crab: 1.3 pounds (shell on)

Blackened Salmon: Cover with blackening seasoning on each side. Heat a cast iron skillet to extremely hot. Cook each side of the filets on hot for 1 minute, or until smoking and "blackened." Reduce heat to medium-low, cook each side an additional 4 minutes until cooked through. Chill salmon in fridge until cool. Do not serve warm, it will wilt the lettuce and ruin the salad.