ginger-hazelnut cream icebox cake. how easy is that!

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The cream is a little shiny and droopy from the heat! I should have put it in the freezer to firm it up before serving.

Ina Garten’s Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake recipe inspired this creamy cake. It looks like I made a lot of fuss but I really didn’t! The only hard part about this cake is waiting overnight for it to chill and harden. Since IKEA opened in Bangkok, it’s become the go-to place for inexpensive well-designed furniture, cheap farang cafeteria food (frozen veg, urgh), and inexpensive cookies and chocolate. A one-pound box of Pepparkakor (Ginger Thins) cookies cost only Baht 165 (approximately $4.99) and the chocolate bar (slightly less than 1/4 pound)  was  Baht 39 (approximately $1.20). And I only used half the box of cookies to make this cake. I plan to make ice cream sandwiches with the leftovers. How easy is that!

Ginger-Hazelnut Cream Icebox Cake
Inspired by the Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? (2010)

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 12 hr 0 min
Cook Time: none
Level: Easy
Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients
2 cups (470g) cold heavy cream
12 ounces (340g) Italian mascarpone cheese (see Cake Baker’s Notes below)
1/2 cup (112.5g) superfine sugar
1/4 cup (79g) hazelnut syrup (can substitute Frangelico or hazelnut liqueur)
2 tablespoons (1 oz square or 30g) white chocolate, grated fine
1 teaspoon almond extract (can substitute hazelnut extract)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
24-36 thin and crisp ginger cookies (I used IKEA’s Pepparkakor thin ginger cookies)
Shaved semisweet white chocolate, for garnish (I used IKEA’s hazelnut chocolate bar)

Directions
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, liqueur or syrup, white chocolate, hazelnut extract, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks, about 3 minutes. Put the entire bowl in the refrigerator/freezer to chill while you make the first cookie layer in the next step.

Cake Baker’s Note: When the air temperature is hot and humid, as it often is in Bangkok, I find that it’s difficult to make whipped cream. Unless your kitchen is air conditioned, it’s best to chill the bowl and beaters beforehand, and to try and make the whipped topping in the cooler hours of the day or evening.

To assemble the cake, arrange cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. Break some cookies to fill in the spaces. Spread a fifth of the hazelnut whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut cake in wedges, and serve cold.

Cake Baker’s Notes:

  • Make your own Mascarpone Cheese – An Italian cream cheese, Mascarpone is expensive and difficult to find in Bangkok but it turns up in unexpected places, like Max Value, a mini-mart.  You can make this substitute from allrecipes.com:

o 1x8oz (250g) package cream cheese, room temperature
o 2 tablespoons (28.4g) unsalted butter, room temperature
o 1/4 cup cold heavy cream

Mix together all ingredients until well blended. Use instead of mascarpone cheese in recipes. Makes 337g of mascarpone cheese substitute.

  • Thin and Crisp Cookies – You can substitute vanilla or chocolate wafer cookies. Not Nilla Wafers, though.

cho-cho with scrambled egg, baby bokchoy, and crunchy baked pork chops

When I was growing up in Jamaica we had these green pear like vegetables we called cho-cho. It’s more commonly known as chayote in North America and choko in Australia. In Thailand it’s called fak miao which is really embarrassing to say as an English-speaker because it sounds like I’m swearing.  Cho-cho has a bland taste, and it cooks up soft, turning from a pale greenish white to a delicate jade green when fully cooked–which doesn’t take long at all.

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Cho-Cho with Scrambled Egg

1 cho-cho, peeled, seed scooped out,  and sliced thin crosswise
2 large eggs
1-2 teaspoons oyster sauce
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the oyster sauce. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, whisk the eggs one more time and pour all at once into the hot oil. Use a spatula to break up the curds. When the egg is cooked, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Using the same skillet, add the cho-cho slices and cook, stirring all the time until the vegetable starts to wilt and the slices turn jade green. Add the salt. Return the cooked eggs to the skillet and combine. Serve hot.

I had signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November so I wasn’t able to cook as often as I should have, especially when it got closer to the 30th and I was writing 3000 to 4000 words a day. Crunch time! I had bought baby bokchoy and winter melon (fak khiao or green melon in Thai) intending to cook them. Fortunately winter melon can keep in the fridge if it is uncut but the baby bokchoy’s outer leaves started to yellow after a week. So I plucked off the yellow leaves and washed the stems carefully. Dirt collects in the stems so I pulled the bunches apart to wash them. I had a sweet pepper too so I tossed that in too.

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Baby Bokchoy with Winter Melon and Sweet Pepper

1 pound baby bokchoy, stems washed and leaves separated from the bunch
1/2 winter melon, peeled, seeded, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/2 sweet bell pepper, seeded, thinly sliced and cut in half
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
salt and pepper
nampla (fish sauce)
1 tablespoon oil

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the sweet bell pepper and cook for thirty seconds. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the winter melon and cook 2-3 minutes or until softened but still firm. Season with a little salt and pepper, not too much to finish, but just enough to flavor the vegetables. Add the baby bokchoy and cook until the leaves turn bright green. The stems should be crunchy, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle fish sauce over all, about 1 teaspoon. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve at once.

I served these two veggie dishes and mashed cauliflower as sides for these pork chops. They are so crunchy and garlicky, tender and moist.

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Crunchy Baked Pork Chops (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
Serves 4

Table salt
4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (I used whole wheat bread)
1/2 onion, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (I used 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves (I used cilantro)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I substituted Coleman’s mustard)
Lemon wedges, optional

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 1 quart water in a medium bowl. Submerge chops, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse chops under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley. Set aside.

3. Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard until combined.

4. Increase oven temperature to 400˚F. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Don’t forge to do the edges, too. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.

5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 135˚F, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges, if desired. The temperature at resting should rise to 150˚F.

cauliflower tots

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Cauliflower is becoming my favorite vegetable. It is so versatile to cook with, and its health benefits are undeniable. It is low in fat and carbs. There are different ways to serve it. Puréed, it becomes a low-cal substitute for mashed potatoes. Grated, it takes on the texture of rice or couscous as a vegetable–and vegetarian–side dish. Here’s yet another way to serve it: cauliflower “tots.” When my kids were little, their favorite vegetable finger food was Tater Tots. These tots are so tasty it’s a surprise to realize that cauliflower is the main ingredient. I found that the addition of the Chinese celery, cilantro, and scallion added a wonderful herbal flavor to the tots. If you haven’t got Chinese celery, chop up some celery instead. It will add a nice crunch to the tots.

Cauliflower Tots

Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 18 minutes
Servings: 18-20 tots

2 cups grated cauliflower, florets only, discard stem
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup chopped Chinese celery, stems only, discard leaves
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped scallion
3 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup grated white cheese (e.g. Cheddar, Mozzarella)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs or 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Spray a baking tray with olive oil. Set aside.

Pulse the cauliflower florets 5-6 times in the food processor. Transfer to an oven-proof bowl and microwave on high power 2 1/2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat the egg. Add the cooked cauliflower, Chinese celery stems, cilantro, scallion, garlic, cheese, and panko. Add salt and pepper to taste. I added a teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper. Mix well.

Scoop a tablespoonful of the cauliflower mixture into your hands and shape it into a fat oval. Place on the prepared baking tray. Bake 16-18 minutes or until browned, turning once during baking.

Cook’s Note: I found that the cauliflower tots stuck to the baking tray. My solution is to add more oil to the tray, but I remember when I did this to the black bean veggie burgers, it didn’t solve the problem entirely. The next time I make these I am going to fry them on the stove top in a skillet sprayed with cooking oil over medium to medium-high heat. This way I can turn them more frequently thus preventing sticking, and control the heat better.

Cook’s Note(added December 2, 2013): The cauliflower mixture should hold together when shaped. If it is too dry, add one large egg white.

asian vegetable paella

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This recipe is based on the Catalan Vegetable Paella in the Essential New York Times Cookbook. I made some changes to it in my quest to substitute local ingredients wherever possible. Instead of zucchini, I used winter melon or wax gourd in the paella. Its flesh can stand up to steaming with the rice so that it still has a firmness to it even when it is cooked. Winter melon turns translucent when it is cooked, by the way, and like zucchini, it is bland and takes on the flavors of whatever it is cooked with. Using sushi rice, a short grain rice that is slightly sticky when cooked, is comparable to arborio, and a lot cheaper in this part of the world. This paella turned out to be quite delicious! I went back for seconds, and even my husband did not once complain about the absence of meat.

Asian Vegetable Paella

prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 55 minutes
servings: 4

1/4 cup rice bran oil
1 small green chile pepper, finely minced, optional
1 large Bermuda onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 medium orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, thinly sliced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium winter melon (wax gourd), peeled seeded, and cut into 1″ pieces
1 1/4 cups sushi rice
2 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I used 1/2 vegetable bouillon to 2 cups water)
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot with a tight fitting lid, such as a Dutch oven. Add the chile pepper, if using; onion, bell peppers, and reduce the heat to medium –low to cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the onion is lightly browned.

Add the garlic, paprika, thyme, and tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer 5 minutes.

Add the winter melon and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice and broth and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender.

Cook’s Note: Resist the temptation to check the rice during this period! Test the rice after 20 minutes. If some of the grains taste hard, stir the pot, then let the paella cook for 5 more minutes.

Taste and correct the seasoning. Garnish with minced cilantro. Serve hot directly from the pan.

fried cauliflower rice with chinese sausage and seasoned shiitake mushrooms

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Today I walked-jogged 18 laps around the jogging track; that’s 6k! So, not wanting to spoil the good feeling, I made a healthy fried rice for dinner. I used grated cauliflower instead of rice for a low carb option. Since I married an unreformed meat lover, I put slivers of Chinese sausage in it, but they can easily be left out to make this a vegetarian dish. The seasoned mushrooms are meaty and so full of flavor they really make this dish satisfying, I think.

Fried Cauliflower Rice with Chinese Sausage and Seasoned Shiitake Mushrooms

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish

1 small head cauliflower, florets only, discard stem (yield: 2 1/2 cups grated)
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into slices
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon dark thick soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 large Chinese sausage or 2 small, cut into 2” sticks
1/2 onion, sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
2 tablespoons oil

Cut all the florets into even pieces and put them in the workbowl of the food processor. Pulse 6-7 times until the cauliflower is the texture of couscous.  Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. When it is hot, add the sliced mushrooms, soy sauces, and sugar. Cook until the sauces are absorbed. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Clean out the skillet.

Heat another tablespoon oil in the skillet. Cook the Chinese sausage until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

To the oil remaining in the skillet, add the onion and cook until it is wilted, then add the garlic. Cook until just fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower rice. Cook until it softens and turns brown, about 5-6 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms and the Chinese sausage. Mix well.

yum khai dao, a thai fried egg salad

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I love the delicious irony that I live in Thailand but I find Thai recipes via the internet. This one is from Food 52. A yum (pronounced with the same vowel sound as in but) is a warm cooked salad, this one featuring two fried eggs. It is sour, salty, sweet and should have been spicy but I left out the chilies because I can’t eat anything spicy. I forgot the onion in this picture. This recipe calls for palm sugar, which is sold in small round cakes at Asian markets. If palm sugar is not available, substitute brown sugar.

You’ll need:
2 large eggs, room temperature
Oil
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Chinese celery, with stems and leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, with stems and leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons palm sugar syrup (recipe to follow)
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 medium onion cut on the grain
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 fresh Thai chilies, thinly sliced (remove seeds if less heat is desired), optional
4 leaves romaine lettuce (also called cos), chopped

1. Fry the eggs. In a medium saucepan, fill the bottom with vegetable oil to about 1/4 inch level. Heat the oil until it is smoking. While the oil is heating, crack each egg open into a small bowl. When the oil begins to smoke, turn the heat down to medium at once. Carefully pour the egg as close as possible to the oil. It will crackle and swell. Pour in the second egg. When the edges turn brown, in about 45 seconds, use a slotted spoon to flip the eggs. The eggs will cook quickly, about 45 seconds, but go by appearance as to how soft or hard you want the egg yolks. Drain them on paper toweling and pat the top dry with another sheet.

Cook’s Note: Make sure the bowl is absolutely dry before you crack the egg open in it, because you are going to pour the egg into the hot oil and any water in the bowl will boil up when it comes in contact with the hot oil.

2. Make the salad dressing. Drain off the oil. Heat the pan over medium heat. Add the syrup, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, onions, and chilies, if using. Heat just 15 seconds then remove from heat.

3. Assemble the salad. Slice the cooked eggs into quarters and return to the pot. If the egg yolks are runny, fine, if not, don’t worry. Add the cilantro and Chinese celery. Mix thoroughly.

4. Serve. On a plate, spread the chopped lettuce. Spoon the egg mixture on top and eat the yum khai dao with hot rice.

Palm Sugar Syrup
1 palm sugar cake (substitute 1/4 cup brown sugar)
5 tablespoons water

Coarsely chop the palm sugar cake. Put it in a small pot with the water. Heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and let it cool before using. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

grated cauliflower with lime and cilantro and roasted banana

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I saw this recipe on Skinnytaste and it reminded me of a rice dish I had made in New York. It was tart and had the lovely flavor of cilantro. It also had plantains on it. Plantains have such an evocative name in Thai: kluay ngah chang or elephant tusk banana. But I could not find any plantains. So what I used instead was roast banana. The Thais roast a banana called  kluay numwa, a  short stubby banana that is very firm and not very sweet. It was the perfect accompaniment for this dish, a cross between a salad and a veggie side dish. In texture grated cauliflower is like couscous; it is slightly sweet, tart, salty, and has the added flavor of cilantro and banana. A note about the roast banana: I bought 5 skewers at Seri Market for Baht 30 which is less than US$1.00. I used three skewers of banana, and snacked on two!

To make it you’ll need:

1 medium head of cauliflower
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
5 large cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 1/2 to 2 limes
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
1 cup roast banana

Remove the cauliflower florets from the stem. Put half the florets in a food processor and pulse 5-7 times until the cauliflower is the texture of couscous or rice. Remove and repeat with the remainder of the cauliflower.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. When it is hot add the garlic. When it becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds) add the grated cauliflower all at once. Cook stirring until the cauliflower begins to cook, about 5-6 minutes. It’s okay if it turns brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Add the juice of 1 1/2 limes and the cilantro and toss. Taste and add more lime juice if desired. Top with the roast banana and serve at once.

recipe redux: chinese barbecued spareribs and sesame noodles

Chinese barbecued spare ribs with string beans in ginger and garlic on a bed of sesame noodles

My sister-in-law requested this recipe for Patricia Yeo’s Sesame Noodles (from Food 52). We had it for dinner made with a home-made sesame dressing rather than with tahini sauce, and the taste was superior. For the Chinese barbecued spare rib recipe follow this link. So, Mimi, bon appétit.

Sesame Noodles (adapted from Patricia Yeo’s Sesame Noodles)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1-10 minutes depending on whether you are using fresh or dried noodles
Servings: 6 as a main dish, 8 to 10 as a side dish

For the sesame dressing:
3/4 cup white sesame seeds plus 1 tablespoon
7 tablespoons peanut oil (I used rice bran oil)
3 medium or 2 large shallots (I used one large onion)
1 large clove garlic, minced (I used 2 garlic cloves)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon hot chile paste
3/4 to 1 cup water (or less)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

For the noodles:
12 ounces dry spaghetti pasta (or fresh Chinese egg noodles, if available)
3 tablespoons peanut oil (I used rice bran oil)
1 cup blanched snow peas (I used asparagus in the photo. Green beans will do too)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced, optional
1 cup daikon radish, thinly sliced, optional
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (I used whole peanuts)
1 cup scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

Preparation

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the sesame seeds and toast, stirring,  until golden brown and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Put the toasted seeds in a blender. Save the skillet for the next step.

Cook’s Note: The original recipe says to toast the sesame seeds in a 350˚F oven for 10-15 minutes. I find the toasting them on the stove top is faster.

In the empty skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat. Sauté the shallots or onion and garlic until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add the shallots or onion, garlic, remaining 6 tablespoons peanut oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and chile paste to the sesame seeds in the blender. Blend on high speed just until a thick, rough paste forms, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop blending when most of the seeds have broken up and been puréed. After the paste forms, it will begin to get oily if you continue to purée it, as the seeds begin to give off their oil. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding more sugar, chile paste, and/or soy sauce.

Cook’s Note: The original recipe recommends putting up the puree in the refrigerator for a day, to give the flavors time to develop.  This is not necessary, however.

Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a rolling boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. If using fresh Chinese egg noodles, gently fluff the noodles and add them to the water, stirring. Return the water to a boil and cook the noodles for just 10 to 30 seconds. Drain the noodles immediately and cool them under cold running water. Drain well. Put the cold noodles in a bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons oil.

To dress the drained cooled noodles, drain off any oil that has gathered on the top of the purée. Whisk about 3/4 cup water into the purée to thin it and to reach a creamy consistency; the sauce will lighten in color and emulsify. Add more water as needed. Add the chopped cilantro to the dressing.

Cook’s Note: Adding the chopped cilantro is optional at this point because it will be added as a garnish on top of the noodles at the end.

In a large bowl, toss the noodles with about half the dressing. Add the snow peas or asparagus, red pepper, and daikon, if using, and gently toss to combine (using a pair of silicone tipped tongs is recommended). Taste and add more dressing if desired. Put the noodles in a large serving bowl or on individual plates. Garnish with the cilantro leaves, chopped peanuts, and sliced scallions, or pass little bowls of the garnishes at the table.

clear out the pantry! make butternut squash soup with coconut cream

butternut squash soup with coconut cream

Only four more days in New York! We’re going to Chicago for a week, then it’s off to Thailand. I’m trying to use up as much of the food I have in the pantry as I can. There was vegetable base, tomato paste, and the remainder of a can of coconut cream left over from last weekend’s Jamaican black bean soup. I noticed an orphan in the back of the pantry: a bottle of Guinness Stout. I ran out of time to try that new recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake. So, I guess we’ll just have to drink it before we leave New York!

Butternut squash soup with coconut cream is slightly sweet but not too salty, deliciously satisfying and smooth. This is a great soup for a light summer supper accompanying a salad or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Cream
Prep time: 20 minutes (includes pureeing the vegetables)
Cook time: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2-6 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1-2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
3 medium carrots, scraped and cut into inch pieces
4 teaspoons vegetable base
4 cups water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened coconut cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Scallion and cilantro, chopped, for garnish (optional)

In a large dutch pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, squash, potato and carrots to the oil. Cook until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add water and vegetable base to the pot. Stir. Add the tomato paste and stir. Cook 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables can be pierced easily with a fork. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut cream. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook’s Note: Be careful with the salt because there is salt in the vegetable base and the tomato paste, so it’s important to taste the soup first before adding additional salt.

Use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables in the pot. Alternatively, put the vegetables and soup in a blender to puree them. Do this in batches. Serve hot garnished with chopped scallion and cilantro, if desired, and a sprinkle of sea salt.

grilled mirin teriyaki salmon

grilled mirin teriyaki salmon

We’ve been exploring Chinatown in Flushing, New York. We take the 7 train from 42nd Street Times Square all the way to the end of the line, Main Street-Flushing, where we found a dimsum restaurant called Asian Jewels Seafood that serves it Hong Kong style, that is, from steam pushcarts. This is our second Sunday in Flushing, and what we’ve seen so far of this Chinatown includes blocks of restaurants, Chinese apothecaries, little snack shops, bakeries, cafes, and supermarkets. There are no souvenir shops selling I [heart] New York t-shirts or fake watches, purses, and pirated DVDs. It is not as touristy as Chinatown, Manhattan. Today we discovered the huge J-Mart on Roosevelt Avenue in the New World Mall. As you walk in, fresh fruit and vegetables line the aisles to welcome you,  and against the long wall, a row of fresh seafood to tempt you. We splurged on fresh fish, like this salmon @$6.99 a pound. We bought three pounds. I like to be around people who take their food seriously.

Grilled Mirin Teriyaki Salmon

Prep time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 2 hours
Grill time: 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon

Marinade:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
2-3 tablespoons garlic, pressed in a garlic press (about 4 large cloves)
1/2 -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets

Preparation

In a small bowl, mix all marinade ingredients. Set aside.

Prepare the salmon. Rinse and scrape the skin to be sure no scales remain. Cut into four equal portions and place in an 8-inch pan. Pour the marinade all over and turn the pieces several times. Leave it skin-side up in the marinade and refrigerate 2 hours.

Remove from the marinade and grill at once. If you wish,  reserve the marinade and heat it on the stove until it is simmering. Keep it hot for pouring over the grilled salmon. It is not too salty as some marinades tend to be. In fact, it is salty, sour, and sweet, not spicy at all, and I had added a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

I grilled these fillets in the George Foreman indoor grill. Depending on the thickness, it takes 3-5 minutes per piece or until each fillet reaches an internal temperature of 145˚F. The skin came out crisp and charred. Delicious. Pour a little bit of the hot sauce on the salmon.

Serving suggestions: mashed cauliflower, Tennessee-style mustard cole slaw, and sautéed spinach with pepper and sea salt.