Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lemongrass beef stew - Vietnamese

If you've ever been to Slanted Door in San Francisco you know what delicious means. I've only been once, but holy cow I was totally blown away by the flavors.

So when I came across this recipe from Charles Phan (the chef at Slanted Door) I knew it would be delicious. And it did NOT disappoint.

I know that pictures don't quite do this dish justice (hate the lack of light in the wintertime). But if you can imagine the aroma of lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and star anise permeating through this beefy broth, you'll understand how delicious this stew is.

The dish is also loaded with carrots, radish, and basilwhich really complement the rich flavors of the broth. Throw in some rice and you've got a complete meal!

Lemongrass Beef Stew, adapted from the book Vietnamese Home Cooking
(found on Serious Eats)

Serves 6, active time 45 minutes, total time 2 hours and 45 minutes
Original recipe is below; my substitutions are noted.


3 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (I used 2.5 pounds of English pot roast cut in 1” cubes)
4 TBSP canola oil, divided (1 TBSP + 3 TBSP)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups diced yellow onion (~1 medium/large onion)
2 tsp minced garlic (~2 cloves)
1/4 cup finely minced lemongrass (~3 stalks, fatty ones)
3 TBSP tomato paste
2 x 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
2 whole star anise pods
1 or 2 Thai chilies, stemmed, plus 1 teaspoon minced, for garnish
6 cups beef stock
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths (I used 5 smaller carrots)
8 ounces daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths
~2 TBSP fish sauce
1/4 cup finely sliced fresh Thai basil, for garnish

  1. Place the beef in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Let stand while you prepare all of the other ingredients.
  2. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil over high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches, add the beef and cook, turning as needed, for about 6-8 minutes, until browned on all side. As each batch is ready, transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet. (Note: It took me 3 batches to avoid overcrowding in my 5 qt Le Cruset)
  3. Decrease the heat to medium and add the onion to the now-empty pot. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion is a deep golden brown. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds more. Add tomato paste, cook for 2 minutes. Add lemongrass, ginger, star anise, and whole chile to taste and stir to combine. (Note: The original recipe said to transfer the mixture to a large clay pot at this point, but I kept the dish in my dutch oven.)
  4. Add the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot and pour in the stock. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, decrease the heat so the liquid is at a gentle simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours, until the meet is just tender.
  5. Add the carrots and daikon, re-cover, and cook for 30 minutes longer, until the vegetables are cooked through and the meat is very tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the fish sauce, 1 tablespoon at a time, to taste.
  6. Top each serving with some of the basil and minced chilles, optional. (I added some cooked rice directly to my bowl for a more filling meal.)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Coconut curry mussels

It's January, so let's eat all the healthy food!

I've been walking into my local grocery store weekly and buying either whatever fish is on sale (sockeye salmon, cod) or mussels. You can't go wrong with a quick, fresh, and light seafood dinner.

Today's recipe is a marriage between 2 previous posts: my homemade green curry and my white wine steamed mussels recipes. And it's a delicious union!

Golden coconut curry sauce was incredible.
Buen provecho,

I'm not posting a full recipe, but more of a "how-to" below.
  1. Prepare my green curry sauce (or your favorite coconut curry) with any veggies you think would go well with mussels--I used chopped onions and diced red bell pepper. Follow the recipe in full, except don't add any protein. 
  2. Once the sauce is done, use ~1/4 to 1/6 of the final sauce amount for every pound of mussels, depending on how much liquid you want to dip your bread into. Note: ~1 pound of mussels = 1 dinner serving. If you're making mussels for just 1-2 people, refrigerate the remaining sauce and you'll have a super fast dinner later in the week. Cook it with veggies, shrimp, chicken, tofu, etc!
  3. Cook the mussels as directed in this recipe. Briefly: add cleaned mussels to your pot, cover, and steam for 1 minute. Stir the mussels, replace lid, and steam for 2 minutes. Stir mussels, replace lid, and steam for another 1-3 minutes.
  4. Top with basil and cilantro, and serve with a lime wedge and a big hunk of crusty bread to soak up all that delicious coconut sauce.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Curried coconut butternut squash soup

What is it about December that always knocks me on my ass with a horrible cold?! I swear I've had some of the worst colds of my life these past 3-4 years; probably a combination of work finally slowing down after a non-stop year + the crazy Chicago cold + eating less-than-healthy food around the holidays.

Stopped coughing long enough to get a pic of my new Christmas sweater!
This season was a 3+ week bout of bronchitis (started just before Christmas and still lingering), which led to a muscle injury around my ribs from my violent coughs (making each breath/cough unbearably painful).


So it's no surprise I've been craving soup, soup, and more soup. When I finally started feeling a little bit better last week the first thing I cooked in weeks was this butternut squash soup. Lightly hinted with curry and the perfect amount of coconut milkit was exactly what I needed.

Butternut squash soup with some coconut milk an za'atar
Another great thing about this soup is that it's really good both hot and cold (straight from the fridge)! It's a bit thicker when cold, but I really loved both versions. This is actually the second butternut squash soup I've made in the past few months, but this recipe is definitely my keeper.

Of course, other than colds, tis also the season of less-than-stellar photographs, with the sun setting before 5 pm and all. So I hope that doesn't deter you from whipping up a batch of this soup. Just imagine the picture below, but a bit more silky smooth... :) 

Not the soup I made this time, but close enough...
Or I could just use the prisma app and create artsy versions of all my photographs to entice you to make them. :)

Buen provecho,

Curried coconut butternut squash soup, adapted from NY Times

1 large butternut squash (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 TBSP oil (I like coconut oil or olive oil)
1 large yellow or sweet white onion, chopped
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
2 to 4 tsp curry powder
~1/8 tsp ground nutmeg and/or allspice (I used a mixture of both, just under 1/8 tsp)
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (original recipe calls for veggie but I used chicken broth)
1 medium apple, any variety, peeled and diced
1 14-ounce can coconut milk, with a few TBSP reserved for serving (I used the full fat kind, though original recipe called for light version)
Salt and ground pepper to taste

  1. Bake squash. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, brush with oil, and place cut-side down on a foil- or parchment-lined baking dish or baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 50 minutes, until you can easily pierce the flesh with a knife. Scoop out flesh and set aside. (I used 1 1/2 pounds of cooked butternut.)
  2. Prepare soup. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low to medium heat until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, curry, and nutmeg/allspice to the pot and cook for ~1 minute, until fragrant and spices begin to form a dry, almost crusted layer the bottom of the pan.
  4. "Deglaze" the pan with some of your broth. (Adding a bit of the broth to the pot, use a wooden spoon to scrape all the dried bits from the bottom.) Once deglazed, add the rest of your broth, apple, and the squash to the pot. Bring mixture to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Puree the soup until smooth, using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor.
  6. Stir in the coconut milk and return the soup to a gentle simmer. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until well heated through. Season with salt and pepper. (If time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or two, then heat through as needed before serving.)
  7. To serve, ladle soup into each bowl, then top with a drizzle of the reserved coconut milk. (I garnished with a small sprinkling of za'atar; cilantro would be another great option had I had it on hand.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Spicy udon noodles

I rarely make dishes more than once. Not because I don't love them, but because there's sooo many recipes out there I want to try. So you know that when I make a dish 2+ times it must be a good one. And this spicy udon dish is one of those keepers.

Why has it made a repeat occurrence in my home? Well, partly because yes, it's delicious. But also because it's easy and let's me use up any rouge vegetables from my refrigerator.

I added some pre-cooked chicken to my noodles for a complete meal
It also comes together super quickly, and if you keep frozen udon noodles in your freezer at all times (like I do), it's basically a pantry recipe!

Buen Provecho,

Spicy udon noodles, adapted from Seasons and Suppers

Note: this recipe makes ~2 main dish servings, or 4 servings as a side dish, but is easy to double as needed. 

Other ideas for add ons include protein (chicken, pork, tofu) and any other veggies of your choice (mushrooms, bean sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, baby spinach, zucchini, eggplant)


Stir Fry (see notes above for other suggestions)
1 TBSP oil (olive, peanut, vegetable)
2 carrots, thinly sliced (matchsticked)
1 red, yellow, or orange pepper, thinly sliced (matchsticked)
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 cup green onion, sliced diagonally
14 oz udon noodles (vacuum packed or frozen; if using frozen make sure to cook them first)

1-2 heaping tsp Sambal Oelek (or Asian Chili Garlic Sauce/Sriracha)
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 TBSP brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP fresh ginger, minced

For garnish, optional
Sesame seeds
Additional sliced green onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

  1. Prepare your vegetables and set aside.
  2. Mix up the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. If using frozen udon noodles, cook according to package directions. Let sit in cold water and drain before you're ready to use (step 5).
  4. In a large frying pan or wok, heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add carrots and red pepper and cook, stirring for a minute or so. Add onions and cook, stirring, until onions are soft and carrots are tender. Add green onion and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so. (If using other veggies, add to the step when you feel they would need more/less time to cook. Wait until step 5 to add spinach and fast-cooking vegetables)
  5. Add udon noodles to the wok and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so. Add sauce and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring to combine well. (If using spinach, scatter it on top at this time, stirring until spinach is wilted.)
  6. Remove stir fry to a bowl or plate and garnish with sesame seeds, additional sliced green onion and parsley/cilantro.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Banana chocolate muffins

I've posted two awesome recipes for banana bread on this blog (classic version and a more cake-like version), but what if you're in the mood for....

....something a little bit different?
....something a little bit easier to share?
....something a little bit lighter in texture?
....something a little bit chocolate-y-ier?

If you answered YES to any of the above I have a great recipe for you today: double chocolate banana muffins!

They're actually a bit of a cross between a muffin and a cupcake, really light and fluffy in texture. The banana flavor isn't very strong either, and the combination with chocolate is perfect! I also loved how not-too-sweet they were, so I didn't feel so bad having one for breakfast.

In the original recipe the muffins were topped with a mascarpone frosting and salted caramel, but I kept mine naked with a few white chocolate chips on top for a cute effect.

So if you've got some brown bananas and aren't really in the mood for banana bread, make these chocolate muffins instead!

Double chocolate banana muffins, adapted from Call Me Cupcake

2 cups (300 g) all purpose flour
¾ cup + 1 ½ tbsp (80 g) cocoa powder
1 TBSP baking powder (preferably aluminum free)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tbsp (250 g) granulated sugar
100 g butter (1 scant stick), melted
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 TBSP lemon juice or vinegar which has been allowed to sit for 10 minutes)
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 very ripe bananas
150 g dark chocolate (70%), coarsely chopped (or chocolate chips)

  1. Heat oven to 392°F. Prepare 2 muffin pans with muffin liners.
  2. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl. Set aside. 
  3. Mix sugar, butter, buttermilk, eggs and mashed banana in a large bowl. 
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. 
  5. Stir in chocolate, but save 1/4 of it to put on top of muffins (I used ~115 g dark chocolate in the muffins and topped the muffins with white chocolate chips instead.) Divide batter between 20-22 medium sized liners, filling them almost to the very top. 
  6. Sprinkle muffins with remaining chocolate pieces. 
  7. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a cake tester comes out almost clean.

Flour Bakery banana bread

I have had only one banana bread recipe on this blog because I think it's pretty damn perfect.

For this banana bread recipe and tips, click here
But I *may* have just come across a recipe that is on par with my previous one! This new recipe is super soft and has a really tender and fine crumb. Like a cross between banana bread and a muffin!

One reason for the difference in texture with this recipe comes down to technique. The ingredients for both recipes are relatively similar (a bit more fat here, a bit less sugar there). But this recipe, by Joanne Chang of Flour Baker, uses an interesting technique in which the eggs and sugar are beaten together until light and fluffy.

The only bad thing is that this bread doesn't have the characteristic "banana bread hump" we're all used to, with the beautiful split top.

My bread also sunk a bit in the middle, like how some cakes do. I think it could be due, in part, to the fact that I used previously-frozen bananas (read about my trick here), which release much more liquid than a freshly-mashed banana. But it tasted great, and even though the batter was quite wet, it held up to the blueberries I sprinkled on top before baking.

Buen provecho,

Flour Bakery banana bread, adapted from I Am Food Blog
Feel free to play around with additions to this banana bread. Some ideas include:
  • mixing in some chocolate chips and/or nuts
  • mixing in or topping the bread before baking with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc
  • topping with freshly-sliced bananas (see picture at the top of this post)
  • putting some chocolate chips or chopped chocolate on top of the bread after it comes out of the oven, and spread it around after it melts

1 2/3 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice mix (see here for my recipe; or ground cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (230 grams) sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) canola or other flavorless oil (next time I might try melted butter in its place, or a mixture of butter and oil; the recipe above uses butter for the fat)
3 1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 1 1/2 cups or 340 grams mashed bananas)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. With the rack in the center of the oven, preheat to 325°F. Lightly butter and flour pan(s) of choice.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, splice blend, and salt. Set aside.
  3. With a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (I whipped at level 6 on my Kitchen Aid)
  4. Switch to low speed and slowly drizzle in the oil, taking your time. (I found I had to increase to level 4 on my Kitchen Aid for the oil to full incorporate)
  5. Add the bananas, sour cream, and vanilla, and continue to mix on low speed just until combined.
  6. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan(s) and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours for a 9×5-inch loaf, and about 50 minutes for three 6×3-inch loaves. The loaves should be golden brown on top and the cake will spring back when you press it.
  8. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, remove from the pan and let cool completely on the wire rack. Enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Rich French brownies

Turns out I only have 2 other brownie recipes on this blog. Pretty sure I've made more than just these super fudgey flourless brownies before and these Girl Scout Thin mint brownies in my 7+ years of having a blog. 

But alas, sometimes things just don't make their way here to my little dusty corner of the world wide web. But today I'm back with a vengeance.

Don't be scared to add vanilla ice cream to your warm brownie!

Not only do I have a recipe for an extremely dense and rich chocolate brownie, I've got some bonus photos for you.

So. Much. Chocolate.

After looking at the giant pile of chopped chocolate on my cutting board, and couldn't resist grabbing my macro lens for some fun.

Other than being loaded with an insane amount of chocolate, I love that these brownies cook up in a springform pan. So every piece has both a slightly well done corner edge and a slightly underdone fudgey center!

I know people fall into 2 very divided camps in their search for the perfect brownie: nuts vs no nuts. I'm in the nut camp. There's just something that I love with the crunch in juxtaposition with the fudge-like texture. But if nuts aren't your thing, no worries--the original version of this recipe didn't have nuts either. I just couldn't resist sprinkling the top with a handful of walnuts!

But please please please do not leave off the flake salt. It is a perfect partner to the rich and dense chocolate.

There's a secret ingredient in these brownies too that add yet another layer of flavor and texture. I'll let you read the recipe below to figure that one out.

Before I go, one more picture of chocolate:

Buen provecho,

French brownies, from David Lebovitz

You should check out David Lebovitz's post--his pictures are gorgeous!
Some options for substitutes:
  • Replace the water with coffee or espresso
  • Use almond flour in place of the coconut
  • Add a handful of chocolate chips (~1/3 of a cup)
  • Top with a handful of your favorite nut before baking
Storage: The brownies can be frozen for up to two months, well wrapped. Because they are quite moist, they’re somewhat fragile so pack them carefully if you freeze them.


7 ounces (200g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (60ml) water
4 ounces (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, cubed
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
2 tablespoons flour
4 medium or large eggs
2 tablespoons unsweetened dessicated coconut flakes (see Note)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC.)
  2. Butter a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan then dust the bottom with cocoa powder (or a bit of flour), then tap out the excess.
  3. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate, water, and butter together, stirring constantly, until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and flour, then the eggs, one by one.
  4. Mix in the coconut and chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the center feels just about set; err on the side of underbaked a little if you want a creamy center.
  5. Let cool, then slice into wedges.