Sunday, March 29, 2009

Braised Cod with Plum Tomatoes

This was the first recipe that I used when I cooked my first cod. I found this recipe on a Martha Stewart magazine, and loved at how simple the recipe was. The flavor though, I thought was sophisticated. I haven't been able to find any cod steaks since I moved to Iowa almost three years ago, but for those of you who have access to fresh cod steaks, or even frozen-- this recipe is worth a try! Simple enough for a regular weeknight meal, but impressive enough for company. I love to serve mine with garlic mashed potatoes, in a shallow bowl. Enjoy!

(I will post pictures as soon as I can get my hands on cod steaks!)


Four 7-ounce cod steaks, skin and bones removed
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)


Sprinkle both sides of cod steaks with oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle the tomato slices with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat. When hot, add cod and tomato slices. Cook until cod steaks are golden on bottoms, about 41/2 minutes. Using a metal spatula, turn cod steaks and tomatoes. Add 1 cup water and the garlic; bring liquid to a simmer.

Simmer until cod begins to feel firm when you press it with your finger and it starts to flake, about 4 minutes. Divide cod, tomatoes, and broth among four soup plates. Garnish with parsley, and serve.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Easy Cheese Danish

Of all the danishes in the world, my fave has got to be Cheese Danish. I was very excited when I saw this recipe on my Ina's cookbooks because they look so easy! Oh my goodness --they tasted like I slaved all night making these delicious treats! The only warning is that this recipe makes A LOT of filling -- I want to say that it can easily make 16 pastries. I also love that the batter can be made the night before, so in the morning-- all you need to do is assemble and pop them in the oven! Enjoy!!


8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream them together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!

Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it's a 10 by 10-inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares.

Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold 2 opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash.

Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.

Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.

Yield: 8 servings (or more)

Shortbread Cookies

Red has been wanting to bake cookies for a while now. He loves cookies. He tells me that he prefers cookies over cakes. Or cakes. Yes, honey, I hear you! We thought about doing chocolate chip cookies, but chose this instead since I prefer non-chocolatey cookies. Yes, there you go, I admit it. I am probably one of the few women who don't have chocolate as weakness.

But I told Red that I'd eat shortbread cookies, or snickerdoodles--which I am sure that we will make in the future. So here we go! This Barefoot Contessa recipe hit our tummy in so many satisfying ways!

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. (Don't trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch.) Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted.

Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tom Cruise's Spaghetti Carbonara

I used to adore Tom Cruise, until his couch jumping stint on Oprah. Then I thought that he was too creepy for me. So creepy that I refused to watch the MI-3 until it went to DVD. However, I kept on hearing raves on his spaghetti carbonara --so I knew that I just had to try it. Plus, I thought that this was a simple enough recipe that if I ended up liking it, we can make this a staple at our house.

The recipe looked simple enough, we basically had everything it called for, except the thick pancetta, so used thick-sliced bacon, and it was wonderful!! This was the BEST spaghetti carbonara that I have ever had (I have never been to Italy before, so it may change this summer! But for now, this was IT). I was licking the plate like there was no tomorrow. Enjoy!
  • 1/2 inch olive oil (for frying pan)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 8 to 12 thick slices Italian bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 packages spaghetti
  • 2 cups grated parmesan cheese
In a frying pan, combine 1/2 inch of olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, one chopped onion and the Italian bacon cut into small squares. Let simmer for about a half-hour, being careful not to let the oil get to a boiling point.

In a bowl, beat 4 eggs with lots of salt and fresh ground pepper.

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Cook both packages of spaghetti until al dente, drain and immediately add egg mixture to pasta. The eggs are actually cooked by the pasta. (Make sure the eggs are thoroughly cooked before proceeding.) Stir the egg mixture until it is well mixed. Pour in the mixture from the frying pan and stir. Finish with the parmesan cheese and serve!

Yield: generous 6-8 servings

Good Vanilla

Many of you might have noticed by now how much I am obsessed with Ina Garten. I am an adventurous cook, but like to stick to the chefs whose recipes I already have had great success with in the past. One of the points that Ina made in her cook-books was quality ingredients. Pure vanilla extract was one of them. I looked these up online and was very torn whether I should pay that much for a little bottle of vanilla extract, plus the shipping and handling. We've looked around in some of the specialty food and kitchen stores and couldn't find it.

Well I'm proud to say that after about four months of looking, I finally got my hands on these little extract, "moderately" priced as well (I had found other stores that sell them for over $20/bottle!). So I quickly grabbed two bottles of the extract and one container of the vanilla beans. Mission accomplished!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Baby Bok Choy

Believe it or not, I had never cooked anything with bok-choy before! Red and I were walking in the vegetable area of our grocery store, when I voiced disappointment with the quality of the napa cabbage available, which is one of my fave vegetables.

Then, out of nowhere, Red pointed at these gorgeous baby bok choys on the rack. "What about those? Can you make something with those?" I was like, Eeek... ehm, I never made them before. But of course, I said, "Yes, you're right, I am sure I can whip something with these." And I quickly grabbed two big bundles of bok choy. Later on that evening, I wondered why it took me so long before I tried these delicate vegetables. Hmm... yum!

  • 2 bundles of baby bok choy, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 firm tofu, chopped into 1-inch cube
  • 1/2 cup of coarsely deveined shrimp
  • 1 tbsp of canola oil
  • 1 generous tbsp of chopped garlic
  • 3 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of ground white pepper
  • Chopped green onions
  • Fried shallot for garnish
  • Saute the chopped garlic in canola oil until soft and slightly browned in medium heat.
  • Add the sliced bok choy, and add 2 cups of chicken broth. Turn up the heat to HIGH. Leave covered for about 2 mins.
  • Flip vegetables to the other side. Keep covered for another 2 mins.
  • Turn heat to medium.
  • Add shrimp, tofu, fish sauce, salt, and white pepper. Let it sit for about 10 mins, covered. Turn down the heat.
  • Fold in the green onions.
  • Sprinkle fried shallots before serving.

Welcoming Summer. Turkey Burger!

With the weather warming up, we wanted to give our oven a little break from ... cooking dinners. Of course, I would still be using it to bake my fave baked goods, like... banana bread for example. But we really miss our grill from a long winter of rest! I used Rachael's Ray recipe for making the patties, but used regular buns instead of Portobello mushrooms. I think the the baby mushrooms really gave the normally bland ground turkey a lot of moisture and character. I couldn't find smoked mozzarella, so used regular type. Yum!!


1 1/3 pounds ground turkey breast, the average weight of 1 package
Salt and pepper
6 crimini mushrooms (baby portobellos) stems removed and finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, smashed away from skin and finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano, a couple of handfuls
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling


Combine meat with salt and pepper, chopped crimini mushrooms, chopped bell pepper, chopped onion, garlic, tomato paste, Worcestershire, crushed red pepper flakes, cheese and parsley.
Score and form meat into 4 large patties, 1 inch thick.
Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on top the patties, grill each side for about 3-4 min.
Place sliced mozzarella on top of the burger just before you remove from the heat.

Flour Bakery Famous Banana Bread

After my rather unsuccessful attempt of making a new and better version of banana bread, I convinced myself to try another recipe. This time, I landed on the Flour Bakery's famous Banana bread's recipe. The interesting part of the recipe was that it calls for oil and the use of sour cream --which I had never tried before in my quest to find a perfect banana bread recipe. I only had 3 very ripe bananas, so that's all I used. I also used sour cream instead of cream fraiche.

I was actually pretty satisfied with the recipe. It was very moist, full of flavor, and had just enough sweetness from the banana. It took a little bit longer than an hour to bake (to make sure the center baked completely and wasn't goey), probably about an hour and 20 min. I wonder that maybe Chef Joanne uses her industrial convection oven, which would bake slightly differently than my modest oven at home. And this recipe didn't call out for the size of the pan, so I used the regular 8x4 loaf pan.

Overall though, this was a winner in my book -- and will try again. Red was pretty happy with the flavor and we thought that next time, maybe we'll follow this slightly different version of the same recipe on Runner's World, where it calls for applesauce in replacement of oil, and uses 9x4 pan. Enjoy!!!


  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped


Set oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil. Add mashed bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients and nuts. Pour into a lined loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Kona Inn Banana Bread

I've have been obsessed with banana bread forever. While I have had some success in the past, I am always in the lookout for a new recipe to try. I ran into this one on from Kona Inn in Hawai-- and I thought this may be a good one to try . One thing that I noticed was that they're using six bananas instead of three or four that most recipes call for. It also uses shortening, instead of regular butter. So I figured that I would try this.

The recipe makes (2) loaves of breads, and I ended up making 1 loaf and using up the rest for mini muffins (it made 20). The bread had an excellent banana flavor, sweet and very moist. I put it in the oven for 1.5 hrs and it was still soft in the middle -- it was actually rather frustrating!

I put the mini muffins in the oven for 20 mins, and they were perfect! I think next time, I would definitely use (2) larger loaf pans and turn down the heat, and leave them in the oven longer.

Kona Inn Banana Bread


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups ripe mashed bananas (about 6 bananas)
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease and flour (2) 8x4x3-inch loaf pans.

Stir together the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. In another larger bowl, mix together the shortening, sugar, mashed bananas, eggs and walnuts. Add the combined dry ingredients and stir only until the batter is thoroughly blended.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer or straw inserted in the center of the loaves comes out clean, or with only a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out on a rack and let cool completely.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Carpet Picnic. Part 2.

If you have never tried a homemade caramel sauce.... RUN to the kitchen now, and try them! It was amazing how much better a freshly made sauce tasted! We used this on just regular plain vanilla ice-cream, OMG! Out of the world!

Caramel Sauce
Courtesy of Barefoot Contessa

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix the water and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer), about 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful – the mixture is extremely hot! Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and vanilla. Don't worry - the cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify.

Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits.