dinner

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.

Spicy Pepperoni Sauce with Penne

Coming from a traditionally Italian family, you can imagine how seriously we always took mealtime. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my beautiful mother cooking and baking away in the kitchen. To unwind at night, she would, and still does to this very day, sit in her comfy chair thumbing through various food and gossip magazines with her handy pen nearby in case she should happen across a dish that really catches her eye. She is always on the hunt for something new and exciting, a recipe that is really going to shake things up at dinnertime, and she has never been afraid of a challenge. She truly is an amazing women, to say the least.

Spicy Pepperoni Sauce with Penne

This recipe is proof of how the simplest things in life can be the best. As quick and easy as it may be, it quickly became a mutual favorite of ours (and has remained so for many years now). Its simplicity makes it a perfect weeknight meal, but its unbeatable flavor has always made it a huge success at gatherings. Of the many variations of this dish that are out there, none are quite like my mother’s, and none have ever tasted nearly as good (things always have a tendency of tasting better when she makes them). Let’s see what you think!


Preparation time: 1 minute

Total time: approximates 30 minutes

Yields: 4 servings


IngredientsPepperoni

  • 1 lb. (1 box) penne, rigatoni, or cavatelli Pasta (I personally love this sauce with fresh cavatelli)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 small red chili’s, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. pepperoni, sliced (I use Hormel or Margherita brand)
  • 1-2 4 oz. cans sliced mushrooms *you can determine the amount you want to use based on personal preference. If you’re not really a fungi fan, feel free to leave them out red-pepper-flakesaltogether; the sauce will still taste amazing regardless.
  • 2 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup (50 g.) Pearls’ Infusions brand jalapeno sliced California ripe olives (while optional, these make an exceptionally delicious addition to this sauce)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed *I’m a garlic lover, so feel free to add more based on your own personal tastes
  • ½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

  1. PearlsIn a medium nonstick sauté pan, heat the olive oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic over medium heat until garlic is golden (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add the pepperoni and mushrooms and sauté until pepperoni is crisp and the mushroom have softened.
  3. Next, add the tomato sauce and black olives and allow the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
  5. Add your pasta of choice and cook according to package directions, until al dente. *For dry cavatelli you will want to cook it for 8 minutes. If using fresh cavatelli, cook about 4-5 minutes or until al dente.
  6. Strain the pasta and return to the pot.
  7. Cover with sauce, garnish with chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese.
  8. ENJOY!

Pasta with Chicken and Mushrooms in Madeira Wine Sauce

If you love the Cheesecake Factory’s Da Vinci Pasta, then you’re going to really love this one.


Serves: 8


ingredientsIngredients

  • 1 large red onion; chopped
  • 1 lb. Morel or Shiitake mushrooms; slices (more or less, your preference)
  • 2-4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup Madeira wine; (can use Marsala) 
  • 1-2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream 
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 2 cloves garlic; crushed 
  • ground pepper
  • salt
  • 2-4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts; chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 lb. penne pasta; cooked and drained according to directions

  1. Cook the penne pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Over medium heat, caramelize the onion in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle the onion with a little salt, and cook the onions until they are a nice brown color and taste sweet. The onions will have a “gooey” texture and excess liquid will be evaporated.
  3. Add the chicken, mushrooms and garlic to the onions. Add a little more oil if necessary. Saute until chicken is cooked through and the mushrooms are soft. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. Add wine to the skillet. Bring to a slow boil and reduce by 2/3 until the alcohol smell has cooked out.
  5. Lower heat and once the mixture is no longer boiling, add the sour cream and heavy cream. Stir constantly until melted. Swirl in the butter. Add cooked chicken mixture and stir.
  6. Toss with the cooked and drained pasta. Good served with coarsely grated parmesan cheese.

pasta


Cremini Mushrooms in a Spicy White Wine Sauce

This Spanish dish is great as a side dish or served by  itself tapas style. If you’re a  mushroom lover, then you’re really going to enjoy this!


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 Servings


Ingredients:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3-4 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • 12-15 slices baguette
  • olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 ¾ lb (800 gr) cremini mushrooms
  • 1 medium yellow onion

  1. Clean the mushrooms of any dirt and debris, and cut off the stems.cremini Set the mushroom caps aside and allow them to drain. Finely chop the onion, garlic, and the parsley.
  2. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large frying pan and heat on medium. Sauté onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms, flour, red
    pepper flakes, parsley, and white wine. Simmer on low for approximately 30 minutes.PJs Sauteed Mushrooms
  3. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large frying pan and heat on medium. Fry the slices of bread in the pan on both sides. Remove and drain on a paper towel.
  4. Serve by placing a couple of mushrooms atop each piece of fried bread. Spoon the wine sauce over the top and serve warm.

Calorie Tip: To lower the calories, toast slices of bread instead of frying them.


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!

Individual Sized White Lasagnas

Baking each individual sized lasagna in ramekins is the secret to keeping their cheesy, mouth-watering layers in place. 


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Serves: 8


Ingredients: 

  • 8 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 oz. prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 (12 oz.) package pre-sliced mushrooms
  • 1 (9 oz.) package fresh spinach
  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese 
  • 2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 oz. fontina cheese, shredded
  • Cooking spray 
  • 2 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions until al dente, omitting salt and fat; drain. Cut each noodle crosswise into 4 pieces, forming 32 squares.
  3. Cook prosciutto in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove prosciutto from pan; crumble.
  4. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallot; sauté 2 minutes, Add mushrooms; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in spinach; cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Remove from heat. Drain.
  5. Combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan, 1 1/2 Tbsp. thyme, and next 3 ingredients (salt, pepper, fontina) in a large bowl.
  6. Add spinach mixture and prosciutto, stirring well to combine.

    ramekins

    Ramekins

  7. Coat 8 (6-oz.) ramekins with cooking spray. Place ramekins on ajelly-roll pan. Arrange 1 pasta square in bottom of each ramekin. Spoon one-third of filling evenly over pasta squares; top filling with 1 pasta square. Repeat layers twice, ending with pasta.

    jellyrollpan

    Jelly-roll pan

  8. Combine remaining 1 1/2 tsp. thyme and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle evening over lasagna.
  9. Cover pan loosely with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

    white lasagna