Cooking

Perfect Shrimp Pad Thai

Seventy-five years ago, when Phibun decided to give Thailand’s culture a makeover by decree, pad Thai was a recipe that had yet to be introduced into the country’s cuisine. Rice with chili paste, leaves, and salt were the staple, subsistence food at the time, and Thai people bought meals from Chinese food vendors.

The exact origins of pad Thai remain disputed to this day. According to some, Plaek Phibunsongkhram announced a competition to create a new, national dish. Phibun’s son, however, went on record to say that his family prepared the dish well before Phibun ever actually made it government policy, but could not recall who specifically was responsible for its initial creation.

The dish’s roots are Chinese, and its full name is kway teow phat Thai. Translated from a Chinese dialect called Hokkein, kway teow means rice noodles. The entire name means stir-fried rice noodles Thai-style. Noodles and stir-frying are predominantly Chinese, and it was likely immigration that introduced the practice to Siam. Flavors like tamarind, palm sugar, and chilies were the Thai’s subsequent influence on the dish over time.

By publicizing the pad Thai recipe, Phibun turned one potential take on stir-fried noodles into a national dish. It was his belief that by doing so, pad Thai would improve the diet of a people who primarily lived off of rice, and that cooking pad Thai in clean pans would improve national hygiene.

More than anything, it was Phibun’s hope to unify the country by promoting a uniquely Thai dish. Despite its Chinese origins, pad Thai stood out greatly from the variety of wet or dry noodle dishes sold by Chinese vendors. It was part of Phibun’s nation-building strategy to develop “Thai-ness” and impose a “Thai Great Tradition.”

Within several years, vendors selling pad Thai filled Thailand’s streets. Phibun’s son called it “Thailand’s first fast food.”

In summary, the popularization of pad Thai was the work of a military dictator who survived multiple coups, World War II, and who believed that his political future, as well as the future of his country, were both at stake.

And now, without further ado, I give you this American’s take on a Chinese influenced Thai tradition. I put a lot of thought into this recipe, and took special care to ensure that I kept its ingredients as authentic as possible (no peanut butter or ketchup). I hope that you enjoy the final product as much as I did!


Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 23 minutes, approximately

Total Time: 1 hour, approximately

Serves: 4


Ingredients

  • 14 ounces stir-fry rice noodles (I used the Thai Kitchen brand located in the “International Foods” section of the grocery store)

  • 2 beaten eggs

  • ¼ cup fish sauce

  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

  • ¼ cup coconut milk

  • 5 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil

  • 12 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 1 cup diced firm tofu

  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

  • 1 cup bean sprouts

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

  • ¼ cup diced shallots

  • 4 fresh jalapenos, seeded and diced

  • ¼ cup unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped (I actually used walnuts)

  • ½ cup diagonally sliced green onions

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Directions

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Place noodles in a large pot or bowl and cover with the boiling water. Allow noodles to soak for 8 to 10 minutes or until noodles are soft but firm. Drain and rinse under cold, running water for 30 seconds. Drain well and set aside.

rice noodles

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, sriracha, and coconut milk, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

pad thai sauce

In a wok, heat ½ tablespoon of sesame oil over medium-high heat. Just before the oil is smoking, add the egg, stirring constantly until set. Set aside in small bowl.

Next, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Just before the oil is smoking, add the garlic, shallots, and jalapeno and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the shallots and jalapeno are tender, stirring frequently.

shallot mixture

In the wok, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of sesame oil over medium-high heat. Just before the oil is smoking, add the shrimp and cook until pink, stirring constantly. Add the cooked shallot mixture, tofu, mushrooms, and bean sprouts and cook for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms and sprouts are tender.

shrimp

Add the reserved noodles and egg and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour the sauce mixture into the wok and toss until well distributed. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to steam and simmer. Add the peanuts and green onions and cook an additional minute.

Remove the wok from the heat and season with the lime juice and cilantro. Serve hot.

Enjoy!

Shrimp Pad Thai

Perfect Shrimp Pad Thai

Hot and Fiery Lamb Masala

Masala is a word of Indian origin, meaning mixture of spices. For instance, the term “garam masala” literally means a “hot mixture of spices”, and is a combination of ground roasted cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, and other spices.


Prep: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 40 Minutes

Yield: 4 Servings


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of ghee* or 1 tablespoon of sunflower oilSunflower Oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped

Onion

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

Coriander

  • 2 bay leaves

Bay Leaves

  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed

Whole Black Peppercorns

  • 3 teaspoons mild paprika

Paprika

  • 1-2 teaspoons hot chili powder

Chili Powder

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Minced Garlic Cloves

  • 2 inch (5cm) piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped

Ginger

  • 1 x 26-28oz (750g) jar or can of crushed tomatoes or tomato purée

Crushed Tomato

  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Heavy Cream

  • 1/2 cup cashews, ground

Ground Cashews

  • 10oz (300g) leftover roast lamb, coarsely shredded or sliced

Roasted Lamb

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sea Salt and Pepper


1. Heat the ghee in a large, deep frying pan over low heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Now add the cumin, coriander, bay leaves, peppercorns, paprika, and chili powder while stirring. Cook for a couple of minutes longer until fragrant.

2. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few more seconds while stirring. Pour in the crushed or puréed tomatoes, cream and nuts. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly, and add the lamb. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Masala

3. Serve hot over basmati rice with a crisp green salad on the side.

Masala Over Basmati

Variation: Stir in some fresh spinach or 1 cup of frozen peas, thawed, for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.


*Ghee is clarified butter that is used in Indian cooking. You will find it in specialty Asian markets and it will give your masala an authentic touch.

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary


Prep: 15 Minutes

Total Time: 2 Hours 40 Minutes

Yield: 8 Servings


Ingredients

  • 1 (7-pound) semi-boneless leg of lamb
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Additional Items

  • Roasting Pan
  • Meat Thermometer
    unnamed


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Pat the lamb dry and score fat by making shallow cuts all over with the tip of a sharp, small knife.
  3. Pound garlic cloves into a paste with the sea salt using a mortar and pestle or meat tenderizer. Stir together with rosemary and pepper.
  4. Put the lamb in a lightly oiled roasting pan and rub your paste all over it (top and bottom). Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.IMG_0954
  5. Roast the lamb in the middle of your oven for 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours until a meat thermometer inserted two (2) inches into the thickest part of the meat (be mindful not to touch the bone) registers 130°F. unnamed
  6. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand for 15 – 25 minutes before carving. For medium-rare, the internal temperature will rise to about 140°F.

* Enjoy!*

Want to know what to do with those leftovers? Take a look at my new recipe for Hot and Fiery Lamb Masala!

For the Love of Chocolate: Milk, Dark and White Chocolate Verrines

They say you never forget your first love. I suppose that’s why my ratio of chocolate to” everything else” recipes is so off balance! In addition to being heart-healthy, eating chocolate also comes with a variety of other sweet benefits! Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have concluded that, in addition to being significantly more filling and satisfying than its lighter-colored varieties, dark chocolate also decreases a person’s cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods, making it a surprisingly helpful addition to your diet if you are trying to shed a few pounds. 

Studies have also indicated that mothers who consume chocolate during their pregnancy were better able to deal with stress. What’s more, a separate study from Finland also found that children carried by mothers that ate chocolate throughout their pregnancy were also more happy (duh, it’s chocolate!). That’s right. Their babies were happier and smiled more.

This next benefit seems more like an oxymoron, but apparently a small Italian study has found that its participants, all of whom agreed to consume one dark chocolate candy bar a day for a total of 15 days, saw their potential insulin resistance drop by nearly half. Lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D. says that this happens because the flavanols increase nitric oxide production, which, in turn, help keep insulin sensitivity under control.

This next one probably won’t comes as much of a surprise to most of you, but your little stress-induced chocolate binges are actually good for you (tell that to my fat pants!). Scientists in Switzerland observed significantly reduced stress-related hormone levels, in addition to moderately diminished relative metabolic effects, in anxious people that ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks. Oh, Switzerland!

The flavanols found in chocolate have also been known to help protect our skin from the sun. Researchers in London say that after three months of consuming chocolate rich in flavanols, their study subjects’ skin took twice as long to develop the early warning signs of an imminent burn. Sadly, this benefit can’t be garners by eating all-to-typical low-flavanol chocolates. You can usually differentiate between the two by keeping your eyes peeled for brands that state their product has high levels of healthy compounds in them.

And just when you thought chocolate couldn’t  get any better, a new study suggests that a natural compound found in cocoa can reverse age-related memory loss. The findings suggest that the flavanols increase connectivity and, as a result, blood flow in a particular region of the brain that is critical to its memory function. Complimenting these findings, a University of Nottingham researcher also found that drinking cocoa rich in flavanols boosts blood flow to some of the most crucial parts of our brains for up to 2-3 hours, which subsequently could improve performance and alertness on a short term basis.

Surprisingly, a professor of respiratory medicine and pharmacology at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London found that chocolate actually quieted coughs almost as well as codeine. The chemical  theobromine, which is responsible for chocolate’s “feel-good” effect, may also suppress activity in a part of the brain called the vagus nerve. All the benefits of codeine and none of the nasty side effects (not to mention that horrid taste!), I’ll take it!

I’ve never been much for discussing the finer points of the bathroom, especially while I am discussing food items lol, but both South American and European cultures have actually used cocoa medicinally to treat diarrhea. Scientists at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute found that the flavanols in cocoa bind with a protein in our bodies that regulates fluid secretion in the small intestines, possibly lessening the severity of the patient’s symptoms.

Sex and chocolate have always seemed like an ideal pairing, right? Well, science tells us there is actually a reason for that! The consumption of chocolate has been shown to lead to higher levels of lust, excitability and arousal, and overall sexual satisfaction, according to researchers at an Italian university. Women who consumed at least one cube of chocolate a day experienced more active libidos and better sexual function as a whole than those who didn’t partake (who doesn’t love chocolate!?). Phenylethylamine, a compound found in chocolate, releases the same mood-altering endorphins that flood a person’s body during sex and intensify feelings of attraction between two people.


In case you didn’t know and were wondering, a verrine  is a small thick-glass container with no base, which is used to hold a solid or liquid dish (in this case a dessert), rather than a drink. By way of metonymy, a “verinne” is a dish served IN a verrine, in a vertical manner, which allows a different aesthetic and gustatory experience from a dish served on traditional plates.

Philippe Conticini was the first to conceptualize a dessert served in a verrine. In 1994, he introduced more than just a simple evolution of its form by debuting what would go on to be described as a notable evolution in taste experience.

It’s verticality and transparency allows the verrine to be immediately read by sight, allowing the diner to construct a taste profile on the dish they are about to enjoy. The completion of the gustatory balance in the mouth rather than in the verrine also allows for the strengthening and betterment of sensations, specifically those of intensity and finish, which is controlled by the diners.

According to the original concept, verrines are composed of three superimposed layers, each conveying specific characteristics in terms of taste:

  • The lower, thin layer is made of acidulous preparations to trigger salivation and prepare the taste buds to receive other tastes;
  • The intermediate, thicker layer consists of a preparation bringing the main taste structure ;
  • And the upper layer consists of a third, smooth and silky preparation aimed at coating the taste buds and providing a full-bodied, pleasant finish.

The French word verinne is usually left untranslated in English.


Milk, Dark and White Chocolate Verrines
Alright, now that I have delivered my spiel in promotion of chocolate and all of it’s wonders, here is a irresistible recipe that incorporates white, milk, and dark chocolate into it. Talk about hitting the trifecta! 

Decadent, delicious, and oh so sweet! It’s always difficult for me to serve this creamy dessert to any of my guests when I host gatherings of any kind. I find myself always torn between serving it or listening to that little voice in the back of my head that tells me to hoard it all to myself! lol. Try it for yourself  and you’ll understand why!


For the dark chocolate layer

  • 75 g. (2 3/4 oz.) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated

For the milk chocolate layer

  • 75 g. (2 3/4 oz.) milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ½ Tbsp. golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated

For the white chocolate layer

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp. cold water
  • 5 1/2 oz. (150 g.) white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 9 oz. (250 ml.) heavy whipping cream

  1. Start with the dark chocolate layer. Melt the chocolate and sugar together in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolks.
  3. In a clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks, then fold into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Divide the mixture evenly between glasses or shot glasses. Leave to set in the fridge.
  5. Next, make the milk chocolate layer as above. Carefully pour it over the set layer in the glasses and return to the fridge.
  6. For the white chocolate layer, mix the egg yolks, sugar and water in a heatproof bowl.
  7. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and creamy.
  8. Melt the white chocolate in separate heatproof bowl over the simmering water, then cool.
  9. Lightly whip the cream to soft peaks. Stir the chocolate into the egg mixture, then fold in the whipped cream.
  10. Carefully pour the mixture over the set layers in the glasses and chill for at least 6 hours until set.
  11. Serve decorated with grated chocolate.

French Onion Soup au Gratin


onion soup


French Onion Soup, when done properly, is one of my favorite soups to sit down to at mealtime.

Because I am a sucker for seemingly useless information, I decided to look into the soup’s history a little. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that had been born as far back in history as 509 BC, you may still get to enjoy  a hot bowl of French Onion Soup come cena (the name given to dinner, the main meal of the day, by the ancient Romans) . We can see that onion soups date as far back as the Ancient Romans, and just like lobster, oysters and foie gras, French Onion Soup was also once considered food for the less fortunate (because onions were so abundant and easy to grow). The more modernized version of this soup is reported to have emerged out of 18th century France, with a resurgence of popularity (especially within the U.S.) occurring sometime around the 1960’s as a result of growing interest in French cuisine.  Despite the dish’s many variations, you’ll find that it is almost always made using beef broth (unless you are a vegetarian) and caramelized onions. Though French Onion Soup is typically served as a starter, I have found that by serving it in a bread bowl, you can easily make a meal of it. 

Give this particular variation a try and you just might never need another ever again! Packed with depth and flavor, the red wine (or whichever wine you choose to use *see additional note beside red wine in the ingredients list below for substitutions) and seasonings create an exceptionally exquisite take on the classic dish. 


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4


onions onions

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 (48 fluid oz.) can chicken broth
  • 1 (14 oz.) can beef broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine (also try making with a champagne, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Gewürztraminer for delicious variations of this recipe!)
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 thick slices French or Italian bread
  • 8 slices Gruyère or Swiss cheese slices, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shredded Asiago or mozzarella cheese, room temperature
  • 4 pinches paprika

  1. sauteedonionsMelt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in salt, red onions and sweet onions. Cook 35 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized and almost syrupy.
  2. Mix chicken broth, beef broth, red wine and Worcestershire sauce into pot. Bundle the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf with twine and place in pot. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the herbs.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, mix in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep over low heat to stay hot while you prepare the bread.
  4. Preheat oven broiler. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet and broil 3 minutes, turning once, until well toasted on both sides. Remove from heat; do not turn off broiler.
  5. Arrange 4 large oven safe bowls or crocks on a rimmed baking sheet. Fill each bowl 2/3 full with hot soup. Top each bowl with 1 slice toasted bread, 2 slice Gruyère cheese and 1/4 of the Asiago or mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle a bit of paprika over the top of each one.
  6. Broil 5 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. As it softens, the cheese will cascade over the sides of the crock and form a beautifully melted crusty seal.
  7. Serve immediately!

Suggested Wine Pairings: This soup is traditionally served with a Beaujolais, but also pairs well with a nice glass of young Bordeaux, a medium-bodied Merlot, or a lightly oaked or creamy Chardonnay (served at about 10 degrees below room temperature for best taste). Alternatively, you may also try serving a Pinot Noir or a Chenin Blanc. 


Bon appétit!

Triple-Chocolate Cheesecake


ttcc


Chocolate graham crackers, intense cocoa powder, and decadent milk chocolate all come together to give this amazing cheesecake its well-rounded chocolate richness. 


Preparation time: 25 minutes

Total time: 14 hours

Serves: 14 (serving size 1 slice)


Ingredients

Crust

  • 2/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 8 chocolate graham cracker sheets
  • 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 large egg white
  • Baking spray with flour

Filling

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 Tbsp. cake flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 10 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 oz. milk chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups frozen light whipped topping, thawed and divided
  • 1 cup blackberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. To prepare crust, spread oats on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring after 5 minutes. Cool.
  3. Combine oats, crackers, brown sugar, and 1/8 tsp. salt in a food processor; process until finely ground. Add butter and egg white; process until moist. Press mixture into bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of a 9-inch springform pan coated with baking spray.
  4. Bake at 350°F for 22 minutes. Cool completely  on a wire wrack.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
  6. To prepare the filling, sift together granulated sugar, cocoa, flour, and 1/4 tsp. salt.mix
  7. Place cheeses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.
  8. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  9. Add vanilla and chocolate, beating at low speed just until combined. Fold 1 cup whipped topping into mixture.
  10. Pour mixture into prepared pan, smoothing top. Bake at 325°F for 1 hour or until cheesecake center barely moves when pan is touched.
  11. Remove cheesecake from oven; run a knife around outside edge. Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight. Slice cheesecake into 14 slices; top each serving with about 1 Tbsp. whipped topping. Divide berries among servings.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares


If you love peanut butter and chocolate, then you are in for a real treat with these No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares. Both easy to make and quite tasty, these sweet little morsels are sure to satisfy even the strongest sugar craving. 


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ready in: 1 hour 10 minutes

Servings: 24


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups NABISCO Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 12 (1 oz.) squares BAKER’S Semi -Sweet Baking Chocolate

  1. Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, with the ends of the foil extending over the sides. Set aside.

  2. Melt the butter in a large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 45 seconds until melted.
  3. Add sugar, graham cracker crumbs and peanut butter; mix well. Spread the mixture into a prepared pan.
  4. Microwave the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl on HIGH for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, or until melted, stirring after each minute.
  5. Cool slightly; pour over the peanut butter mixture in the pan. Cool.
  6. Cut partially through the dessert to mark 48 squares. Refrigerate 1 hour or until set.
  7. Lift from pan, using foil handles. Cut all the way through dessert into squares.

Pbutter bars