fish tacos with corn-guava-avocado salsa

DSC03876 We woke up this morning to discover one of the neighbors looking in through the window. It’s been pretty quiet in the condo complex because of the switch over in the school year at the university from June to March to August to June. This means that this year’s summer holiday is 5 months long. Not many uni students are back yet of course, and at the high school, we are just beginning our two month summer break. The students seemed quite bewildered, some of them, at suddenly having nothing to do after exams last Tuesday were over. Since some of their friends came back for ROTC on Wednesday afternoon, they decided to show solidarity and showed up at school for old times’ sake. I suppose this curious visitor was doing the same thing, wondering where everybody had gone. What should he do now that his time is his own?

DSC03881With grades in, I’ve been cooking with the electric pan. The lid can open out and double the cooking surface, so I have both a skillet and a griddle. Cooking on the balcony is somewhat challenging because there is no electrical outlet so I have to run an extra long extension cord outside. Plus, there is just a little two-foot square space right next to the sink. If I angle the pan just so I can open it out. Last night for supper I made grilled chicken thighs, but I had made them in Bangkok. We ate them with a mango-avocado salsa. If it seems that we are eating more avocado it is because we found them for Baht 20 apiece at the Suan Luang market yesterday.  We bought 6 and the vendor added 1 more for goodwill. I hope she will be there next weekend. I love avocado.

 

DSC03885Because I love to eat, I really should exercise more. To respect one’s body is to exercise, and then to eat good food that is fresh and homemade. Today, we rode our bikes around Phuttamonthon, the Buddhist park, and then we each swam 500 meters in the Sirimongkol Pool. We decided to eat in rather than eat out. For lunch today I prepared lightly sauteed pangasius fillets which we ate wrapped inside warm flour tortillas topped with corn-guava-avocado salsa and Greek-style yogurt.  It’s so good to be cooking again!

 

 

Fish Tacos with Corn-Guava-Avocado Salsa

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes (in a double electric pan heated to 180˚C)

2 white fish fillets (e.g. tilapia)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon rice bran oil
4 flour tortillas

Pat dry the fillets then sprinkle one side with salt and pepper. Lightly sauté in a little oil until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Meanwhile, warm the tortillas. Keep warm until ready to serve. Cut the fillets into large chunks just before eating.

Corn-Guava-Avocado Salsa
1 ear of fresh corn, niblets removed from the cob
1 small Thai guava, peeled, seeded, and chopped (can substitute jicama or mun kaew)
1 medium avocado, peeled, pit removed, and chopped
8 grape tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 of a large onion, thinly sliced
the juice of 3 small limes
salt to taste
1 tablespoon minced scallion for garnish
1-2 chopped fresh Thai chilies, optional

Lightly cook the corn in the microwave for 4 minutes, drain the niblets and cool them. In a medium bowl, put the niblets, the guava, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro and onion. Squeeze the lime juice all over. Add salt to taste. Garnish with scallion and chilies, if using, and spoon over fish chunks on top of a warm tortilla. Put a generous dollop of yogurt on top and eat–leave out that steaming side-dish of guilt and enjoy. It’s low in carbs and calories.

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hawaiian paradise cake, version 2.0

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For my birthday I’ve made a pavlova the last three years. This year I decided to revisit the Hawaiian Paradise Cake, a three-layer flavored cake that’s pink, green, and yellow or orange.  This time I made each layer without using any food coloring at all. I think I like the all-natural cake better, even though the colors aren’t as vibrant. To achieve the flavors for each layer, I used a farang or Thai green guava for the top layer, strawberry preserves for the middle pink layer, and an extra egg yolk for the orange layer. The cake was frosted with a whipped cream icing; slightly tangy and not too sweet. I served the cake with my own fresh passion fruit syrup, chilled fresh mango, and a scoop of white chocolate and almond ice cream.

Hawaiian Paradise Cake, Version 2.0

Have at room temperature:
Ingredients
2 1/4 (281g) cups flour
2/3 cups (150g) white superfine sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons lime juice, divided
1/4 cup strawberry preserves, thinned with 2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup (2 oz) fresh guava pulp and skin
1/4 cup (2 oz) fresh orange juice, plus zest (juice and zest of 1 medium orange)
5 egg yolks plus one more
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon each flavoring, optional
2 teaspoons grated lime zest (lemon in original)
8 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup white superfine sugar

Preparation
1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Get 6 mixing bowls together and 3 eight- inch spring form cake pans, preferably non-stick. Do not grease and flour the sides or the bottom. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, sift flour with 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a second bowl, beat together oil, water, 5 egg yolks, vanilla, 2 tablespoons lime juice and lime zest until just combined. Mix yolk mixture into flour mixture until smooth. The consistency will be thick. Divide the batter into thirds and place in separate bowls.

3. Make the following additions but do not mix until after the juice and flavoring are in: In one bowl of batter, add the strawberry jam. In another, add the guava pulp and zest. In the third, add the orange juice and zest, plus the egg yolk. Add flavoring, if using.

4. Using a clean bowl and beaters free of grease, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly add the 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide the whipped egg whites by thirds and add each third to the batters. Fold in gently. Pour each batter into a prepared cake pan.

Cake Baker’s Note: Wipe down the bowl and beaters with vinegar to be sure, or your whites won’t whip.

5. Put each pan in the oven. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove pans from the oven and place on wire racks to cool completely. Run a thin sharp blade around the edges to loosen the cake. Remove the sides. Invert the cake and remove the bottom using a sharp thin blade. Insert the blade between the cake and the pan bottom and press away from the pan. Once the cake is released from the pan bottom, re-invert the cake for filling and frosting.

6. Fill and frost with whipped cream icing and glaze with passion fruit syrup (recipes to follow).

Whipped Cream Icing

Ingredients
1 8-oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup white superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups heavy cream

Preparation
Combine cream cheese, sugar, and extracts in a mixing bowl. While the mixer is running on medium speed, add the cream. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fill and frost the cake then refrigerate it until ready to slice and serve.

Passion Fruit Syrup (optional, for serving)

Ingredients
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup white superfine sugar
2 tablespoons water or orange juice
1/2 cup fresh passion fruit pulp

Preparation
Mix the corn syrup, sugar, and juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add the passion fruit pulp. Let cool. You can also put this in the fridge for 45 minutes to speed up the process.

An alternative to the corn syrup is to make a simple syrup. To the pan add 1/2 cup sugar to 1/2 cup water to the saucepan and 2 tablespoons orange juice. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and, if desired, add a thickener. To 2 tablespoons corn starch add 1 1/2 tablespoons water. Mix well and stir into the syrup. Cool slightly. Add the passion fruit pulp. Stir to combine.

Chill the syrup until ready to serve.

To  serve, cut a slice of cake , spoon some fruit on the side, and pour some of the passion fruit syrup on top of the fruit, and if you like, on top of the cake too.  Delicious!

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vegetarian lasagna with thai spinach and chinese chives

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Well, this is the reason why I made my own ricotta cheese.

I adapted this recipe from Misty’s vegetarian lasagna recipe adding the zucchini and bell pepper and using fresh Thai vegetables instead of the frozen Western spinach. By fortunate happenstance, Tops supermarket had fresh lasagna sheets. I split the recipe into two 9-inch square dishes, otherwise use one 9×13 inch dish.

Lasagna with Thai Spinach and Chinese Chives

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients
2 large eggs
2 cups home-made ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon pesto Genovese
2 small zucchini, peeled and sliced into quarter inch rounds
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups skim milk
1 bunch fresh spinach or Pak Khom (about 6 cups), coarsely chopped, tender leaves & stems
1 bunch Chinese chives (no flowers), leaves only, chopped into 1-inch lengths
1 medium carrot, grated
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
8 fresh lasagna noodle sheets, trimmed to fit
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Edam)
1 cup marinara sauce (I used diced tomatoes processed fine and seasoned with 1 teaspoon pesto)

Preparation
Heat oven to 350˚F or 175˚C.

Beat the eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Fold in ricotta cheese and pesto.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and pepper. Add the milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, carrot,  chives, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and salt.

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish or two 9 inch baking dishes. Layer the zucchini rounds on the bottom. Slice some to fit.

Make layers in this way: spinach mixture; noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses; noodles. End with noodles.

Spread the marinara sauce on top to cover the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

home made ricotta cheese

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Ricotta cheese is creamy, a must-have ingredient in lasagna. Since it is so expensive here in Bangkok, I decided to make my own. This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten whose recipe calls for heavy cream or cream that is more than 36% milkfat. I cannot find heavy cream here in Bangkok, or if it’s labelled heavy cream it has other things in it besides cream. I used whipping cream instead which is less than 36% milkfat. It’s available in the refrigerated dairy section at supermarkets here.

Home-made Ricotta Cheese
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Resting time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups whole milk
2 cups fresh whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white vinegar

Preparation

Prepare a large sieve and set it over a tall bowl. Line it with a doubled cheesecloth that has been dampened with water. Set aside.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, pour the milk and the cream. Stir in the salt. Cook over medium heat until the milk and cream boil, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. If a skin forms on top, I just skim it off with a spatula. The milk mixture will boil over if not watched. When it boils, a dome of milk forms on top. Just skim this off. Underneath the dome, the milk mixture will be bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Let the milk rest about 1 minute. By then the milk mixture will solidify, and if pierced with a spatula, the whey, a yellowish liquid, is just beneath the surface. .

Pour the contents of the pot into the prepared sieve. It will begin to drain and separate into curds (in the cheesecloth) and whey. Occasionally drain off the whey and discard. This takes about 20 minutes or longer, depending on how thick you want the cheese. This yields about 2 cups cheese.

According to Ina Garten, the ricotta cheese can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days, so it can be made ahead. I used it all to make lasagna.