Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Easy and Tasty Candied Nuts

This recipe is easy and oh-so-tasty. I can't tell you how many candied nut recipes I tried before I settled on this adaptation a few years ago. I found it originally on an internet bulletin board.
What I discovered during a lengthy experimentation process is twofold: (1) a complicated recipe, and/or (2) many ingredients do NOT make a better candied nut. I've fried them, sauteed them, baked them. I've used recipes with as many as seven or eight spices. Some of the results were literally indedible, and I was forced to throw the whole batch of nuts out. An expensive experiment!

Candied Walnuts

People love these nuts, and often ask me for the recipe. So here it is, Easy and Tasty Candied Pecans!

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water
  • 1 pound pecan halves, or walnuts (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Grease rimmed baking sheet with butter (optional).

Place nuts in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly. In a small bowl, beat egg white with water until thick and foamy. Pour egg white mixture over nuts and toss them with your hands until they are thoroughly coated. Add sugar mixture and mix well.

Spread nuts on baking sheet and bake for one hour. Turn nuts once after about thirty minutes.

Notes: feel free to add another spice, such as cardamom or allspice, but keep it simple.

Related link: Sour Cream Streusel Coffee Cake

Monday, February 26, 2007

Furikake Mania!

Rowena is to blame for my current furikake binge. I look for mixtures that don't contain MSG. In Hawai'i, popcorn mixed with furikake and arare crackers is a popular snack at movie theatres. Yum!

To make this, I popped some popcorn, drizzled it with Bragg Liquid Aminos (an unfermented soy condiment that tastes like soy sauce), added a bit of King Arthur Flour's Vermont cheese powder, and then piled on the furikake (the little green flecks in the picture are dried seaweed in the furikake).

Cauliflower Curry

I'm trying to incorporate a greater diversity of fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc., in our diet. I do, however, get rather bored steaming broccoli and cauliflower all the time. I'm not bored by the taste, but I like to shake things up a bit once in a while, cooking-wise.

Anthony Bourdain would be appalled, but I developed this recipe by watching . . . Rachael Ray. I have made it using Thai red curry paste as well as Thai Green Curry Paste, with garbanzos instead of pine nuts, and with kaffir lime leaves. So far, the version below is the one I like the best, but feel free to experiment and change ingredients to suit your own tastes. The green curry paste provides a more mellow flavor, and I like the crunch of the pine nuts.
Cauliflower Curry
  • 2 medium heads of cauliflower, cleaned and broken into florets
  • 2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoons Thai green curry paste
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1-2 Tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2-3 stalks of lemon grass, white end only, crushed or sliced thinly in rings
  • 1, 1-inch piece of fresh turmeric, grated on a microplane grater (substitute 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of dried turmeric if fresh is unavailable)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated on a microplane grater
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (or water) This is an approximate amount - you want enough total liquid to come halfway up the cauliflower
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped for garnishing
  • salt and pepper to taste

    Heat olive oil over medium heat in a pan big enough to hold the cauliflower (I use a wok). Add the curry paste and saute for a couple minutes, but do not let it burn. Add the garam masala, cumin, garlic, lemon grass, turmeric, ginger, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and saute for about 1 minute. Stir constantly, and if mixture looks like it is browning, pull it off the heat for a moment.

    Add the cauliflower and stir to coat with the spice and oil mixture. Add coconut milk and vegetable broth. Stir in raisins. Cover pan and cook on low heat for about 8-10 minutes, until cauliflower is tender but not falling apart. Remove bay leaves and lemongrass stems (if you did not slice them into rings). Add pine nuts.

    To serve, sprinkle with cilantro. The sauce goes well with rice.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sour Cream Streusel Coffee Cake

What do you do when weather predictions don't pan out? You bake!

Master Chow and I were supposed to attend a local reunion of graduates from his Hawai'i high school. Weather reports said to expect some freezing rain, but they were just a teensy bit off. We are now looking at a snow storm that is expected to drop up to eight inches, followed by freezing rain. Needless to say, we are not going anywhere.

So, I decided to bake a coffee cake and roast a chicken (more on the chicken in a later post). I was reading Nic's blog, Baking Sheet, and came across a coffee cake recipe. I, too, had a container of sour cream that needed to be used up. Yes, that was my excuse to bake. Last year was very busy for me, and I did not bake nearly as much as I wanted to, something that I hope to remedy this year.

So, I pulled out my baking pan and mixer, and got to work. I left the nuts out of the batter, and just added them to the streusel topping. I used candied walnuts that I made myself, and will post the recipe soon.

This cake's primary flavor is . . . butter. Mmmmm. Master Chow asked me to put this on the repeat list, and observed that the candied walnuts added a lot to the cake. I, myself, would like a bit more vanilla flavor, so next time I will increase the amount called for. A quick and easy recipe for a snowy day. Master Chow ate three pieces. In his defense, he works out religiously and only indulges in treats one day per week!

Sour Cream Streusel Coffee Cake

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped candied/toasted nuts
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream (light is fine)
  • 1/3 cup chopped candied/toasted nuts

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a 9-in square pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together all topping ingredients until wet crumbs are formed. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light. Beat in vanilla, followed by the eggs, adding them one at a time until mixture is smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to sugar mixture, alternating with sour cream in two or three additions, until well mixed. Stir in nuts and scrape into prepared pan. Batter will be thick, so you will have to spread it out evenly with a spatula.

Top with streusel mixture, spreading it into as even a layer as possible. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Serves 9-12, depending on how big the slices are.

Related Post: Easy and Tasty Candied Nuts

Friday, February 23, 2007

Italian Plum Tart

Like all cooks, there are recipes that I try that are not a success. For example, last August I purchased a bunch of Italian plums, and time got away from me. So, after a week or so, I was faced with a bunch of plums that had to be used up, and little time to cook.
As is often the case, I turned to Ina Garten.
She has a simple Plum Tart recipe that can be put together quickly. It looked beautiful, but I have to say that for the first time, I was disappointed with one of her recipes. There was too much crumb topping, and the whole thing wasn't as flavorful as I'd hoped. If I make it again, I'm going to use different fruit, and less topping. I would also consider spreading a jam layer in the bottom of the crust, and adding some lemon juice. It could have been the plums, which weren't very tasty raw, but cooking fruit usually remedies that problem, bringing out previously hidden flavors.
You may have better plums at your disposal, and better luck than I did. So, I present you with . . .
Italian Plum Tart
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced
  • 1 egg yolk 2 pounds firm, ripe Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, walnuts, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and the egg yolk. Mix, either by hand or with an electric mixer, until crumbly. Press 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture in an even layer into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch springform or tart pan. Arrange the plums in the pan, skin side down, to form a flower pattern; begin at the outside and work your way in. Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture evenly over the plums.

Bake the tart for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it's lightly browned and the plum juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer the tart to a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Kung (or Gung) Hee Fat Choy!

Happy Year of the Pig (as of February 18)!
I am soooo excited - I just discovered a recipe for jien duy over at Dessert First. Go look! This is a sweet you always see at a dim sum restaurant. My grandmother-in-law, the Empress Chow, loves these and so do I. She is 88 years old, and in great shape. Of course, it is a mystery how my 6'2" husband descended from a woman who's about 5 feet tall and probably weighs 90 pounds soaking wet. But that's another story.
These puffy, chewy morsels of goodness are best served piping hot. They are usually stuffed with a red bean paste which, I must say, I probably would prefer to chocolate. Heresy, I know, but in some ways I have quite simple, traditional tastes.
Below is a picture of a Chinese New Year care package that we received from some good friends in Hawaii: A red Chinese banner, macadamia nut kisses (I had no idea those existed), and to my great excitement, a box of candied fruits and nuts from a Honolulu Chinese bakery, Shung Chong Yuein. Some days, I really, really miss Hawaii.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Indonesian Ginger Chicken

Master Chow declares that this is his favorite chicken dish. No contest. Another Ina Garten winner! And it is so easy to do. It will, of course, leave the entire house smelling of garlic and ginger for hours. Really.
I have altered the cooking time from the original recipe to what works best for me.

Indonesian Ginger Chicken
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten
  • 4-5 pounds of chicken (I usually make this with all breasts)
  • 1 cup soy sauce (preferably naturally brewed)
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic

Combine ingredients in a sauce pan, over low heat, until well mixed. Do not boil or overheat. Place chicken, breast (or skin) side down, in oven safe baking dish. Pour the cooled marinade over the chicken. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. I usually rotate the pieces after about four hours, but before it goes in the oven, I make sure the pieces are breast (or skin) side down again.

Remove chicken from refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to cook it. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place chicken in the oven, still covered with the foil, for 45 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven and flip the pieces over. Return the chicken to the oven, uncovered, for another 15-30 minutes. The additional cooking time will vary depending on the size of the chicken pieces.

Enjoy! Definitely to be served with rice!

Monday, February 19, 2007

This Is What Happens When Parmigiano Reggiano Goes on Sale at Whole Foods

I go bonkers and stock up. It was $8.99 instead of $13.99 per pound! What's a part Italian girl to do in the face of such temptation?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mussels with Garlic and Parsley

This is a dish my mother used to make when mussels were in season. Very simple, but very tasty.
Amounts are approximate. Change quanitities to suit your tastes! I would recommned mincing the parsley and garlic by hand, and not using a food processor. For some reason, processing those two ingredients really changes the flavor of this dish, and not for the better.
  • 4-5 pounds of fresh mussels
  • 5-7 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 cups loosely packed parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • splash of white wine

Clean and de-beard the mussels just before preparing. Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat, until the oil starts to shimmer slightly. Add the parsley and then the garlic to the pot, along with the butter, salt, and wine. Immediately add the mussels and put the lid on the pot. Cooking time will vary according to how deeply the mussels are stacked, and the quantity of mussels, about 8 to 15 minutes.

When all the mussels have opened, empty them into a serving bowl along with all the juices. Serve with a crusty bread and a green salad.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

By Special Request, Daisy and Gus

What's New in the Culinary Blogosphere

I've been out of the food blog loop for a while, so some of these posts may not be news to you, but they were to me!

While I was visiting my aunt in the frigid midwest, I indulged myself by purchasing an inordinate number of cookbooks (all were on sale!), including the mouthwatering The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle. I also picked up Artisan Baking, and The Bread Bible: 300 Favorite Recipes. You know you're hooked on baking when you buy a book like the Bread Bible, which has no pictures - not even line drawings!

Sour Cream Pound Cake

Julie's post on this cake inspired me to try it out. It's remarkably similar in texture to Elvis's Favorite Poundake - very dense, with a tight crumb, and not too sweet. Master Chow liked this one, too.

Sour Cream Pound Cake
(From Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri; Julie edited these instructions for simplicity's sake.)
Step 1
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ t. baking soda
  • ½ t. salt
  • Butter and flour 12-cup tube or Bundt pan. Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Step 2
  • ½ pound butter, softened
  • 2¾ cups sugar
  • Beat on medium speed until very light, about 5 minutes.
Step 3
  • ½ t. lemon extract
  • ½ t. orange extract
  • ½ t. vanilla extract
  • Beat the extracts into batter
Step 4
  • 6 large eggs
  • Beat into batter, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition.
Step 5
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • On low, alternately beat in flour mixture and sour cream, beginning and ending with flour.
Step 6

  • Scrape into greased and floured bundt pan and bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours or until cake tester comes out clean. Let sit in pan 10 minutes and then turn out on rack to cool completely.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Anthony Bourdain, Unleashed!

OUCH! I found this via Elise's wonderful blog, Simply Recipes. Chef Bourdain vents at the decline of the Food Network, via his friend Michael Ruhlman's blog. Here's a sample:

PAULA DEEN: I’m reluctant to bash what seems to be a nice old lady. Even if her supporting cast is beginning to look like the Hills Have Eyes--and her food a True Buffet of Horrors. A recent Hawaii show was indistinguishable from an early John Waters film. . . .
SANDRA LEE: Pure evil. This frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker seems on a mission to kill her fans, one meal at a time. She Must Be Stopped. Her death-dealing can-opening ways will cut a swath of destruction through the world if not contained. . . .

As they say, read the whole thing, but put down that cool, frosty Diet Coke before you do, or it may go up your nose!

Pecan Pie. Mmmmm.

This is the best pecan pie recipe I've come across, courtesy of the The Pie and Pastry Bible,by Rose Levy Beranbaum. The use of Lyles Golden Syrup makes it less cloyingly sweet. The egg yolks give the filling a thicker consistency, and the addition of bourbon makes it hard to resist.
Pecan Pie
Adapted from the "The Pie and Pastry Bible"

  • Crust for a 9 1/2-inch tart, prebaked. I used Rose's Favorite Tender and Flaky Piecrust
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves (5.25 ounces = 150 grams)
  • 4 large egg yolks (2 full fluid ounces = 2.6 ounces = 74 grams)
  • 1/3 liquid cup (lightly greased) Lyle's Golden Syrup (refiner's syrup)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed (3.75 ounces = 108 grams)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (2 ounces = 57 grams)
  • 1/4 liquid cup heavy cream
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons bourbon

    Preheat oven to 350°F.

    Chop about half the pecans, and leave the rest whole. Place in the bottom of the baked crust.

    On top of a double boiler, combine egg yolks, syrup, brown sugar, butter, cream, and salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula and without letting the mixture boil, until it is uniform in color and just begins to thicken slightly (160°F on candy thermometer), 7 to 10 minutes. Strain at once into small bowl and stir in vanilla and bourbon.

    Slowly pour filling over pecans, coating their upper surface.

    Place a foil ring on top of crust to prevent overbrowning; bake about 20 minutes or until filling is puffed and golden and just beginning to bubble around the edges. Filling will shimmy slightly when moved. Cool completely on a rack, about 45 minutes, before unmolding.

Happiness Is A Warm, Sleepy Puppy

Ebelskivers - Norwegian Pancakes

This ebelskiver did not survive long after this photo was taken.

I received and ebelskiver pan for Christmas, much to my delight! Williams-Sonoma had a luscious-looking recipe in its latest catalog, so I dusted off the pan and put it to the test.

Ebelskivers are little, round Norwegian pancakes made in a special pan. They are usually filled with fresh fruit or a jam. Here is another photo of the cooking process. Er, or should I say the overcooking process:

Surprisingly, these little briquets still tasted delicious, a testament to the rich batter!

Some thoughts: Ebelskivers are tricky to make, but boy-oh-boy are they tasty. Flipping them over, without making a mess, is not easy and, even on medium heat (as instructed), they overbrowned. For some reason (the excitement of trying a new recipe??), I was so distracted that I forgot to add the beaten egg whites to the batter until I made my second batch. Not much of a taste difference, but the egg whites do lighten the batter considerably, and allow the center to cook through.

If you use a jam filling, use a good one. I chose Bonne Maman cherry preserves. I also added extra lemon zest to my batter.

The entire cooking process is kind of messy and fast-paced . . . but did I mention these little gems are really tasty? Oh, yes, I see that I did. They're worth the effort, and I think worth the practice to get them right!


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 egg yolks plus 5 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese ( used part skim)
  • 5 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 7 Tbs. jam, as needed
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting

    Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, granulated sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside.

    In another bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks. Whisk in the buttermilk and ricotta. Whisk the yolk mixture into the flour mixture until well combined; the mixture will be lumpy. Set aside.

    In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the whites into the batter in two additions.

    Put 1/2 tsp. butter in each well of a filled-pancake pan. Place over medium heat and heat until the butter begins to bubble. Pour 1 Tbs. batter into each well, place 1/2 teaspoon jam in the center of the batter, and top with another 1 Tbs. of batter. Do NOT use more batter.

    Cook until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Using 2 wooden skewers, turn the pancakes over and cook until golden brown and crispy, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and jam. Dust the pancakes with confectioners sugar and serve warm. Makes about 30.