Classics, Dinner, Fish & Seafood, Savory

Sea Bass in a lemon-butter-caper sauce

Last Friday, my husband went fishing, and I mean serious fishing.  He and a few of his colleagues, chartered a boat and went fishing into the Atlantic Ocean.  It was quite a successful trip!  He came home with some Sea Bass fillets, porgy fillets and bluefish.  His first request was Sea Bass cooked lemons and capers—as suggested by one of his friends. This is how I cooked the fish and I have to say, fish tastes so much better when it is caught fresh!

Ingredients:

4 sea bass fillets

sea salt, to taste

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

2 tablespoons butter, softened

Method:

Generously salt the fish fillets. And coat them with flour.  Shake off excess and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until rippling. Gently add the fillets, Cook for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Turn the fillets over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. After the fish is cooked through, using a spatula, carefully remove fillets to the plate. Turn the pan down to medium-low.

Add capers and lemon juice to the same pan with oil. Cook on medium-low heat for about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, off heat, to the caper sauce, stirring, until butter melts and forms a creamy mixture.

Add fish back to the pan, spoon sauce over the fish and serve.

Classics, Dessert, Sweet

Strawberry Ice Cream

Back in 2018, my husband and I took a trip to England, and I learned that the Brits take their strawberries very seriously! Outside most of the tourist spots there were vendors selling fresh strawberries and cream.  To my surprise, the cream was not a carton of whipped cream, it was liquid cream, like the kind you put in your coffee!  You dip the fresh strawberry in the cream, and you have the most delicious and refreshing treat ever!  In addition to strawberries and cream, there were several opportunities to have local ice cream.  I had to try their strawberry ice cream and guess what? the flavor was so perfect and fresh that it tasted like the strawberries and cream snack!  Later I learned that this is such a quintessential English tradition that strawberries and cream are the traditional dessert of Wimbledon!  I guess when you are doing something since 1877, there must b something magical about it!  So, in honor of the start of Wimbledon (yes!!! after an entire year of COVID) here is a recipe for strawberry ice cream.  Make a pint and settle in for some good tennis, or any other summer activity of your choice—who am I to judge!

Ingredients:

32 ounces fresh strawberries (get the best possible strawberries you can find)

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 tablespoons of vodka

2 cups half and half

1/2 cup corn syrup

Method:

Hull and quarter 1 cup of strawberries, then slice quarters crosswise into very thin pieces. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberries with 1/2 cup sugar and alcohol and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Hull remaining strawberries and purée at high speed in a blender until very smooth, about 30 seconds. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to filter out all seeds and fibers, then measure and reserve 1 1/2 cups purée. Extra purée, if there is any, can be put to another use.  This can be done 1-2 days in advance.

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups strawberry purée with half and half, corn syrup, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until fully combined.

Chill in refrigerator, I like to chill the base overnight—it the guess out of “how cold is your base?”  Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. In the last minute of churning, retrieve strawberry mix-ins from the refrigerator, strain off syrup, and add mix-ins to the churn; reserve strawberry syrup for another use (think your favorite summer cocktail!).

Transfer ice cream to airtight container and chill in freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.

Breakfast, Brunch, Cupcakes, Sweet

Bibingka (Coconut-Rice Cake)

It has been a while since I have written, I blame the holidays and the post-holiday slump. In the new year, I have been trying to clear out my pantry. I had some rice flour and a can of coconut milk, and was wondering how to use them up. That is when I came across this recipe for Bibingka; it is a traditional Filipino breakfast cake. I had never heard of it before, but the ingredient list reminded me of Indian crepes or patishapta (if you are wondering what an Indian Crepe is, check out my friend’s recipe here). Anyway, the cakes came out looking beautiful, with a nice golden top. The rice flour gives it a nice nutty smell and an interesting texture; also gluten free! The coconut milk and sugar makes the cakes taste more like desert than breakfast, but who ever said you can’t have cake for breakfast? I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did.

Ingredients:

2 cups rice flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

1 pinch salt

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp of ground cardamom

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 375F. Lightly grease line muffin tins (approximately 18).

In a medium bowl sift together the rice flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl beat the eggs, then add the sugar, coconut milk, butter and vanilla and combine well.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until well combined and smooth. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared tins.

Bake, for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Leave in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Fish & Seafood, French, Savory

Scallops with Le Puy Lentils

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Ever since I had this dish at the Blue Heron Restaurant, I have been looking for a recipe to recreate it.  A few months ago a friend of mine, send me a link to the restaurant’s recipe and then I realized that the recipe was published in Bon Appetit magazine!  You can find the original recipe here, but this is how I adapted the recipe for home cooking.  I omitted the mascarpone cream and reduced the amount of butter in the recipe and it still turned out delicious!

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Ingredients:

For the Cider reduction
2 cups apple cider
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped shallots

For the Lentils
6 whole cloves
1 medium onion, peeled
6 cups of water
1 1/2 cups French green lentils (lentilles du Puy; about 12 ounces)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of salt
6 slices thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

For the Scallops
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
10 sea scallops, patted dry

Method:  For the Cider Reduction

Place cider, vinegar, and shallots in a saucepan.

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Boil until reduced to 2/3 cup, about 15-25 minutes.

Strain; discard solids in strainer.

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Cider reduction can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate if you are not using immediately

Method:  For the Lentils

Press the thin end of cloves into peeled onion. Place onion in a large pot. Add 6 cups of water, lentils, and bay leaves.

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Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally about 30 minutes.

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Drain lentils, discarding onion (with the cloves) and bay leaves.  I did this in the morning and left the lentils in the strainer, till I was ready to sautee them

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Cook bacon in large pot or skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels.

 

Pour all but 1 tablespoon of fat from skillet. Add shallots to skillet and sauté over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes.

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Add reserved bacon, lentils, and thyme to shallots.  Continue to sautee and then add the cider reduction to the lentil.  Adjust for salt and pepper.  in the original recipe, the cider reduction is mixed with a lot of butter to make a finishing sauce.

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Note: I wanted to use all of the reduction and reduce the amount of butter used in the recipe.  The cider reduction is very tart and a little sweet, so instead of adding the entire reduction to lentils, add it a little at a time to see if you enjoy the flavor.  

Continue to cook until most of the cider reduction is absorbed by the lentils.

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Lentils can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring often.  There will be plenty of leftover lentils, but I wanted leftovers so followed the original recipe.

Method for the Scallops:

Pat the scallops dry and season with salt and pepper.

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Melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil in a heavy-bottomed large skillet/cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat.

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Add scallops and cook until brown, about 2 minutes per side.

 

Spoon lentils onto a plate and arrange scallops on top. Serve hot and enjoy a restaurant-style meal, right at home!

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Appetizers, Indian, Poultry, Savory

Murgh Kofta (Chicken Meatballs)

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This is a “house” recipe.  Traditional kofta has more ingredients and the recipe changes from country to country (India, Pakistan, Turkey etc.).  This version is packed with flavor, has only a few ingredients and can be whipped up in 30 minutes.  It is also a different way to use ground chicken which often goes on sale.  I like to make mini balls and have them with hummus, pita, and a garden salad.  You can certainly make larger patties and make it into a burger!  Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground chicken

1 medium onion, grated directly on to the chicken (you want the juices from the onion)

1 tsp of minced garlic, minced ginger, chili powder, salt, and garam masala.

1 Tbsp of chopped parsley (this time, I did not have any, but I would highly recommend it)

1Tbsp of olive oil

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Don’t over mix–you will get hard koftas!

2. Heat oil in a pan.

3. Use a 0.5-inch ice-cream scoop to form mini chicken balls.  If you wet your palms before rolling, you will get smooth, round koftas!

4. Fry on medium-high heat till deep golden brown and cooked through.

5. Serve piping hot!!

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Classics, Comfort food, Dessert, Pastry, Sweet

Impromptu Apple Crostata

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I used store bought pie dough from the frozen aisle in the grocery and after covering 4 pies, I had enough scraps leftover to roll out a 7-8 inch round crust.  I made this recipe because I had extra pie crust dough leftover from making Chicken Pot Pie. I used store bought pie dough from the frozen aisle in the grocery and after covering 4 pies, I had enough scraps leftover to roll out a 7-8 inch round crust.   So here goes:

Ingerdients:

1, 7-8 inch pie crust

2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced ( I used honeycrisp)

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar, plus a 1tsp for sprinkling

1 Tbsp cold butter, diced.

Method:

Roll out the crust and place it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Keep it cold in the fridge while you prep the apples.

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Peel, core and slice two apples.  Toss them in sugar and cinnamon.

Arrange the apple slices on the cold pie crust, leaving a 1-inch border

Fold over the pie dough to create a rustic crust.

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Dot with butter and sprinkle sugar over the crust.

Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes till the apples are bubbly and the crust is pale golden and flaky.

Enjoy!!!

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Classics, Comfort food, Meat, Savory

“Winter is Coming” Meat Pie

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I recently jumped on to the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon. Yes, I know I am about 8 years late, but I am here now, completely obsessed and can’t wait to see how the story wraps up.  This past week has been everything “thrones” especially with the HBO marathon going on.  In Season 4, there is an extensive description of a particular “Steak and Kidney Pie” made by the character “Hot Pie” at the “Inn at the Crossroads”.  As Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne hungrily tucked away large bites of the pie, I couldn’t stop thinking about how delicious it must be.  Decision made.  I am was to make a classic English Meat Pie (you can read the “mini” versions of these pies here–slightly different recipe though) to celebrate the premiere of Season 8.  Yes, the weather is warming up, but I hope you choose to make this recipe soon, we only have Game of Thrones on till the middle of May !!!

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds stew meat, cut into small bite-sized pieces

Chopped button mushrooms, carrots and onions – cut them small enough so that they are the same size as the meat.  You can change up the ratio, but I went meat heavy since that is the way my husband likes it.  I would reckon about 1/4-1/3 cup for each veggie would be sufficient.  

1/4tsp of dried rosemary, thyme, and sage

3tbsp of flour

2tbsp of good red wine, you know what to do with the rest of the bottle

1tsp of Worcestershire sauce

1tsp of paprika

1 can of chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for frying

Store bought pie crust

Method:

In a heavy bottom pan (I like my dutch oven), heat olive oil and brown beef in batches, seasoning it salt and pepper.  Once browned, set aside.

 

 

In the same pan, add a little bit more oil and add all the veggies and saute till pale brown.  Once browned, added dried herbs, salt and pepper and saute for 5 more minutes.

 

Add the beef back in with all the veggies.

Add flour, and saute till all the meat and veggies are coated with the flour and browned (5-7mins)

 

Add 1 can of chicken stock, paprika, wine and Worcestershire sauce.  Cover and simmer on medium low heat till the gravy thickens, the carrots are soft and the meat is fork tender.  This is a pie filling, so it has to be nice and thick.

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Divide the filling into individual “pot pie” dishes (OR one big pie pan) and cool the filling completely.  In the past, I have made a meat and potato version of this in muffin tins, with a double crust.  You can find that recipe here

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Cover the filling with thawed pie crust.  Crimp the edges to seal in the filling, add a slit on the top for steam to escape.

 

 

Brush the top with egg wash–this will ensure a deep golden crust.

 

 

Bake in a 375F oven for 40-45 mins till the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling underneath.

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Serve Hot !!!

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Fish & Seafood, Lent, Savory

Roasted Salmon

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You either love it or hate it.  I happen to love salmon and my husband is not a big fan.  So on nights when I am cooking for myself, this is a go to favorite.  It is quick and simple, but the most important step is to purchase fresh, sustainably sourced salmon.  Frozen fillets never taste good, especially when the preparation is so simple.  I love to have a fresh garden salad with this roasted salmon.

Ingredients:

2 fillets of salmon (6-8oz)

1/4 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp of coarsely crushed black pepper

Zest of one lemon

Olive oil for drizzling.

Method:

Pat the fillets dry and arrange on a tin foil lined baking tray.

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Season fish with salt, pepper and lemon zest.

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Drizzle with olive oil

Bake at 350F for 25-30 mins.

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Now FEAST!

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Cake, Sweet

Spice Cake with Vanilla Orange filling and Whipped Marscapone frosting

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My dear friend from grad school defended her PhD last week.  Such a landmark occasion requires cake, not that one needs an excuse for cake.  I took some shortcuts, and made some things from scratch.  I even spent some time thinking about the decoration; I found that if you have it drawn out it makes cake decorating easier.  I hope you put this cake together for the next special occasion in your life.

Ingredients:

Boxed Cake mix: prepare per direction on the box–I believe in high quality store bought short cuts, and boxed cake mix is a go to.

Filling: I used my Orange, Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean pudding. I used the entire recipe, to fill the cake.  You can find the recipe here.

Frosting: I used my whipped marscapone frosting recipe.  The recipe will make a lot of frosting.  I only used a 1/3 of it to frost the cake.  I froze down the rest.  If you were to fill and frost the cake, you might use the whole batch.  Check out the recipe here.

Method:

Bake the cake according to package directions.  I baked it in two 9″inch cake pans that I oiled and floured.  Once baked, cool the cake completely and level off the domed top.  I use my handy Wilton Cake Leveler.

Now begins the decorating.  For this cake, I used cake rounds for the first time and it certainly made cleaning and frosting the cake easy.  Not to mention, moving the cake around (from the turntable to the fridge).  But before we frost, we must fill.  I used all of the pudding mixture to fill the cake.

Now, the hardest part-covering the cake with frosting.  This requires patience, a good turntable, an offset spatula and a steady hand.  I like clean neat edges, so I get very particular about this stage.  Of course, that is my preference.  Using a butter knife to spread the frosting is perfectly fine–it will taste the same.

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I usually do a “crumb coat”.  This is a thin layer of frosting that covers all the bumps and glues together the crumbs.  I allow this chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes and then I go in with the rest of the frosting and attempt to make smooth and as clean and neat as possible.

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I drew out the design for the cake and you can check it out here.  I also used candied oranges for this cake and I have the recipe for those here.  I will have to say, laying out the design before hand made a world of difference.  It was faster, cleaner and the end product looked more deliberate.  Moving forward, this might become my way of decorating–I like to call it the “paper to plate” method.

So here it is !

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Cake, Sweet

Chocolate Orange Charlotte

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This is a special farewell and birthday cake all rolled into one.  The post-doc in our lab is leaving after 6 years and another labmate was celebrating the big 3-0 birthday, so the cake had to be special.  Chocolate and Orange pair wonderfully; infact, it is my mother’s favorite and incorporated it into her birthday cake last year.  The recipe requires several ingredients,  but I used store-bought short-cuts to help me.   I hope this cake stuns your table as much it did mine !

Ingredients:

Store chocolate cake mix (and eggs and oil, all the things that you will need to make the batter)

Orange marmalade

Chocolate mousse mix and milk to make the mousse

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2 dozen soft lady fingers ( you will not need all of them, but having extras is good)

Cannoli Filling (refer to either Chocolate Cannoli Cupcakes or Cannoli Cup recipes I have)

Method:

Bake the cake according to the package directions.  I used some of the batter to make 6 cupcakes  and saved the rest of the batter to make 2, 9″ rounds.  Allow to cool completely.  The cake layers can be made upto three days in advance.  Make sure to wrap and store the layers in a cool dry and dark place.

Heat an entire jar of orange marmalade in a saucepan.  Once the jam thins, strain through a sieve to separate the rinds from the jelly.  Save the jelly.  I put the rinds in my morning oatmeal.

Make the chocolate mouse according to package directions.

Level off both cake layers and place one layer of the cake on the bottom of a springform pan.

Line the edges of the pan with lady fingers

Brush the surface of the cake with the orange jelly and also the surface of the lady fingers which are exposed (i.e facing the inside of the cake)

Fill with mousse and top with the second cake layer.

Pour the remaining orange jelly on the top layer and let it seep into the cake.

Add the cannoli filling on the top.

Decorate the top with mini chocolate chips and pistachios.

Chill the cake for 30 mins and then remove the springform ring.

Wrap the cake with a piece of ribbon and secure with a toothpick.

Serve chilled !

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