Saturday, May 29, 2010

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake

The one problem I ever had with pound cake is its name. I used to think it was because the cake weighed a pound. Then I learned that the name came from how it is traditionally made from a pound each of eggs, butter, flour and sugar. So “four-pound cake” would be a more suitable name because of the total weight of the ingredients and because that’s how much weight I gain eating it. Nevertheless, as a food blogger, I have pushed past the pain and pounds to give you the following. I hope this recipe and my increased risk of a stroke brings a smile to your day.


1/2 pound(2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 extra large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease the bottom of an 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inch loaf pan.

3. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.

4. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until light.

5. Meanwhile, put the eggs, honey, vanilla and lemon zest in a glass measuring cup but do not combine.

6. With the mixer on medium low speed, add the egg mixture, one egg at a time, scraping down the bowl and allowing each egg to become incorporated before adding the next egg.

7. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.

8. With the mixer on low speed, add it slowly to the batter until just combined.

9. Finish mixing the batter with a rubber spatula and pour it into the prepared pan. Smooth the top.

10. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

11. Cool for 15 minutes, turn out onto a baking rack, and cool completely.

Source: Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pan-fried Pomphet with Lemongrass


I’m told that my first solid food was fried fish. Whether or not that’s true, fried fish has been a long time favorite of mine. Sure, frying fish will make the whole house smell like, well, fried fish. And though I understand that some may gag at the thought of fried fish infusing the furrows of their fine furniture, for me, that beloved aroma takes me to a time when life was fun and fancy-free. This recipe for a pan-fried whole fish is deliciously simple and is a go-to dish for when I have little time to cook for 4-6 other fish lovers. Here I used whole pomfret but feel free to use your favorite fish. Any small fish that is firm and oily would be great, e.g., mackerel, herring, etc.

1 whole fish about 3 pounds, cleaned
1 teaspoon salt
1 stalk of lemongrass
1 whole Thai chili pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Mince the lemongrass and chili pepper until nearly fine. Add the salt. Continue mincing until fine. A food processor saves time but I try to use a mezzaluna when possible. If using a food processor, make sure to chop the lemongrass into quarter-inch slices or smaller (like chopping green onions) before processing otherwise you’ll get unpleasantly long strands of lemongrass fibers.

2. Pat the fish dry. Cut 3 slits into each side of the fish. Thoroughly coat the fish with the lemongrass mixture making sure to work the seasoning into the newly made slits.

3. In your favorite fish-frying skillet, fry over medium heat about 10 minutes each side or until you can lift the meat at the slits and the bone underneath looks cooked through. Serve with rice and your favorite greens, which is ong choy for me.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stir-fried Ong Choy

Growing up, one of the few ways my mom got me to eat my veggies was by stir-frying them. Looking back, I’m glad it was this and not a broccoli milkshake.

As you can see, ong choy is a green leafy vegetable native to East and Southeast Asia. However, because it has grown like a weed since its introduction to the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated it as a “noxious weed.” Just to be clear, the USDA uses “noxious” in reference to the plant’s effect on the environment, not my stomach. Ong choy, like the potato, was historically a food source for the poor but is now a common offering on menus.


This is an extremely quick and easy recipe for those nights your short on time.

1 bunch of ong choy (approximately 6 cups uncooked)
6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup of vegetable oil

1. Thoroughly wash the ong choy of any dirt. Discard about 1 inch from the thick ends of the stalks. Cut into 2-inch sections. FYI, I was taught a much more involved process of breaking these long stalks down into shorter strips for frying but just cutting them is much more efficient and doesn’t degrade the taste of the dish.

2. In a large wok, heat the oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook for 15 seconds or until fragrant. Immediately add the ong choy (before the garlic burns) and toss until all the leaves are evenly wilted, about 2 minutes. Serve with your favorite Vietnamese savory dish (such as braised pork and eggs or catfish in caramel sauce)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Shrimp & Scallion Pancakes


For some reason, it seems that many things can be improved when made in pancake form. Maybe it has something to do with sizzling batter in a large pan of grease. Whatever the reason, you’re about to learn how to make some delicious discs full of shrimp and scallions. Whether you call them pancakes, omelets, or frittatas, I assure you this recipe will taste the same regardless of its name.

3 eggs
½ pound of medium shrimp, peeled (devein optional)
1 stalk of scallion, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt

1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, salt and scallions. Add shrimp and mix until even.

2. In a large, heavy-bottom skillet, heat a liberal amount of vegetable oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan). Test the heat of the oil by adding a few drops of the egg. The oil should sizzle immediately upon contact.

3. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, ladle in the batter similar if making pancakes. You should be able to make about 3 at a time. Make sure about 3 shrimps are in each ladle. Once added to the oil, flatten out the shrimp into a single layer immediately, before the egg mixture sets. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve with rice and soy sauce for dipping.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Vietnamese Banana Cake

If Vietnam were to have a national fruit, it would probably be the banana. With so many different varieties available, there’s a banana for practically every culinary need. Today we’ll make a cake with bananas.

The Vietnamese banana cake is similar to fruitcake in density and texture but is unlike fruitcake in that people would love to receive this banana cake as a gift…at least I would.

1-½ lbs extremely ripe bananas
1 large egg
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup coconut milk, the creamy white stuff, not the juice
1/3 cup sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of sugar in the raw

1. Preheat oven to 375. Oil an 8-inch round cake pan.

2. Choose the least ripe banana and set aside for decorating the top of the cake. Peel and slice the remaining bananas into ¼-inch slices and place into a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg and then add the sugar, coconut milk and butter. Mix until blended. Pour over bananas and fold with a rubber spatula until even.

4. Sift the flour directly onto the banana mixture and continue to fold with a rubber spatula until even. Pour the batter into the cake pan and shake or tap until the batter evens out.

5. Cut the remaining banana into 1/8-inch slices and decorate the top of the cake with all your creativity and none of you inhibitions. Sprinkle on the raw sugar.

6. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is a nice golden brown. I personally bake it for an extra 15 minutes so that the edges get extra crusty with the hardened caramel.